Buying and Selling Condominiums
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Buying or selling a condominium can be a stressful experience. However, if you have the right information and know what questions to ask and what information to look for it can be a painless purchase or sale.
Rafal Dyrda: Welcome to the Condo Web Show, the place where industry experts share their tips, advice, and help answer your questions. On today's episode, we will be interviewing Christian Gannon, where he will be discussing real estate and purchasing in a condominium. Christian has had an extremely diverse career over the last 30 years, often switching between being a successful entrepreneur, and working with large, international corporations in business development and marketing. He has now established himself in what he considers to be a hybrid of all three.
Most recently, he has started in what he feels to be a good combination of business ownership, marketing, and sales, all focused on his clients. Real estate with RE/MAX, the love for his hometown, and 30 years of experience as a condo board director allows him to focus his career, common goal of helping his clients to achieve what they want while providing an utmost in service.
I would like to introduce to you Christian Gannon. I've met Christian about 11 years ago when I was starting in the industry, and he was kind enough to share his industry knowledge to help me grow over the years. I'm very happy to have you on the show today.
Christian Gannon: It's a pleasure.
RD: We're going to be talking about real estate. Christian, for those that don't know you, would you be kind enough to introduce yourself to our audience?
CG: You bet. My name's Christian Gannon. I am a realtor with RE/MAX here in the Edmonton metropolitan region. I am passionate about this career because it allows me a ton of opportunity to show my clients the excitement that has evolved in this area over the last several years. The city itself is a passion, real estate is a passion, and it sort of all combines together to not make my job really a job, but just a lot of fun. It's a real pleasure, and it's a pleasure to be here as well.
RD: Thank you. Christian, I've seen many real estate professionals come and go. They get on, they're in the industry for a year, they don't have as much experience, and then they go because they can't handle it. What drives you in this way? Why do you keep on doing it?
CG: Well, honestly, Rafal, I've been in business for 30 years. I've been a career entrepreneur. I have worked for the big corporations. You name it, I've done it. Finally, when I decided to become a real estate professional, it was because it was such a great combination of those two things that I've done in my career. But it also allowed me to tie into my greatest passion, which I mentioned previously, and that is the capital region. I love this place. I'm deeply involved in all sorts of activities that don't have anything to do with real estate, but really just about promoting the city and showing people around the region what a beautiful place it is to live. So real estate, it combines all of those things, and it's just been a blast.
RD: And, you know what? Since I've known you I've seen you challenge yourself in many roles, and I've finally found ... I see that you're so passionate in this current role that you're in. I see your feeds on a daily basis, and you just have this energy and this excitement with what you do, and basically as a realtor. If you could tell me one thing, when somebody wants to find a good realtor, and I know you're great because I see you're passion in this, what should they be looking for?
What to look for when hiring a real estate broker?
CG: You have to look for the experience that the agent has had, what is the organization that the agent works for? You've got to be honest. You've got to get the exposure, and you've got to work with the agency that has the greatest exposure. You want to look at if they specialize in a specific area, whether it's condominiums or rural properties, or if they specialize in a certain area of the city. For example, St. Albert or Sherwood Park. I think one of the most important things, I mention this last, but it's probably the least common thing that people look for, and that is the ability to establish a true relationship with your realtor. You're going to be making the biggest investment of your life. So whether it's your first home, or your fifth home, or investment properties, whatever it happens to be, you need to know that that individual, that realtor is there for you and is backing you up, and you have that relationship with them. That's what I would suggest.
RD: I'm happy you brought up the relationship aspect, because people tend to buy more than once, and some more than once. And it's great to find somebody you can connect with, that you can trust, and you can build that relationship, and somebody who will advise you if you're making the right decision or not, or maybe advise, you, "Hey, you know what? The market is changing. Maybe you should start investing if you're able to." And it's great to build that relationship.
CG: I agree.
RD: Very much like a friendship, right?
CG: It is. It's a long-term relationship. It's really one of those things where I have clients that ... Even myself personally, before I was a realtor I dealt with the same individual for my entire home-buying career. And that's something that I pride myself on. My clients, when they walk away from the relationship, they don't walk away from the relationship per se, they walk away from the deal, for lack of a better word. But the relationship remains, and we stay in touch. They reach out to me, whether it's a question about, they're looking for a carpet cleaner. They know that I'm the one-stop shop; that I'm the guy that they can turn to to help them with their home.
Is it a good idea to sell your own condo without a professional?
RD: You know what? Some people to go on their own, sellers, they'll post their property by themselves, you know, sale by owner. Those owners list their properties, and they try to avoid a realtor: a professional that deals with this specific industry. You and I have heard of horror stories of what can happen, right?
CG: You bet.
RD: So what are the drawbacks of somebody thinking, "You know what? I can do this. It sounds simple. All I have to do is go talk to the owner, if the price is right, sign a piece of paper, transfer the funds over, go talk to a lawyer, I get my keys, and off we go." What are the drawbacks of not hiring a professional that deals with the sale and with this industry?
CG: The biggest drawbacks are that you're really going in blind. You can be the best pharmaceutical sales representative, or you can be the best lawyer there is on the face of the planet. The reality is, that even if you've sold five houses in your life, that I've sold five houses in the last couple of weeks. So the experience that we gain as professional real estate people is second to none. Beyond that, we have access to information that the average individual or the average consumer doesn't have, whether it's about the actual property that you're thinking of investing in, looking at the history of that property, finding out as much information as we can that the regular consumer doesn't have access to. Or, making sure that you're paying a fair price.
I negotiate dozens of deals over a period of months. You may be a super good negotiator when it comes to buying that new car, but again, even on the outside you may have bought five cars in your life, and I did five deals this week. It's one of those things that you really have to consider. It's about experience. I think, Rafal, before we were chatting I said, "Would you go to a surgeon that has done five surgeries that are specialist surgeries, or would you go to one that's done 500?" That's really what it comes down to.
RD: Yeah, well, pretty simple math to me. Right?
Is marketing your condominium important during a sale?
RD: Another thing is marketing, right? If somebody's putting up their property themselves, they're not doing the proper marketing. So how do you market? How would you market my property? If I was to come to you tomorrow and be like, "Christian, I want to sell my property. How can you market it?"
CG: Well, I think the aspect of marketing, it's a little convoluted, because in real estate there's so many different ways that you can market. There's the old-school ways of doing newspaper ads and back of magazines and that sort of thing, which still works to a certain extent. There's websites, so RE/MAX.ca, quite frankly, RE/MAX.ca, over 60% of Canadians use RE/MAX.ca when they're doing their home search now.
We were talking a little bit about brands and looking at which organization that they work with. That's pretty significant. When I market a home, not only does it go on my website, it goes on every website of every realtor in my office. Then, it goes on RE/MAX.ca. Then, it goes on MLS. We have literally tens of thousands of clients that are viewing your property at any given time. Where I really specialize is in social media, and you've seen that.
RD: Yeah. You're doing a fantastic, phenomenal job. I don't think you posted a video today.
CG: I did not. I have it actually on my phone waiting to be posted.
RD: I didn't get my daily dose of Christian this morning.
CG: The social media is, shockingly, coming together so fast and changing so quickly that it's sometimes hard to adapt. I had a conversation with one of the top realtors in Edmonton today at lunchtime, and one of the things that we talked about was how amazingly Instagram is working. Who would have thought six months ago that posting an image or a video of something on Instagram would lead to getting more calls on that listing than any Facebook ad I have ever done, any Twitter profile that I've ever used. And I have tons of followers, folks. The fact of the matter is, it's always a learning experience. You've got to be on top of technology, and you've got to be on top of social media. You've got to be familiar with not only those aspects of it, but the property as well as the market. That's how I differentiate myself in that regard.
How much time do you need to market your condominium effectively?
RD: If you're selling a property by yourself, you probably have a full-time job, so I don't think you have the time or the energy to do everything that you're doing, right?
CG: You bet. You know as well as I do that social media is a job in itself. On any given day, I'm spending two hours to make sure that all of my bases are covered in social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, you name it. Then, there's of course LinkedIn, and there's of course this, and there's that. As these programs are working, they're also deciding to not work together. As much as you can plug your social media in together into a Hootsuite application, for example, Facebook is pulling away from that. Facebook is saying, "We won't promote these kinds of ads any longer." So you have to be on top of it. As an individual with your family's Facebook account, or as an individual with your Instagram of your vacation trips, you're not super familiar with how things work. And again, that's where I specialize.
RD: It's great that you're actually taking that over so me as a seller, I don't even have to worry about it.
RD: I can sleep like a baby, and I know that you're going to take care of that.
How To Make Your Condo Attractive For a Buyer
RD: Moving into that, me as a seller, before coming to a realtor is there any way that I could prepare? Should I get any information, material ready for you so you can basically just start and go?
CG: You bet. In fact, I'll provide you with a link that has a list of items that people can do in order to prepare to sell their home. There are several things that you can do ranging from decluttering to reducing odors in your home, making sure that, if you are a pet owner, that you're pet-smart. All of those sorts of little things really count. If you are looking not market your home, here in the city we refer to it as a beauty contest and a pricing contest, and, unfortunately, if your home doesn't show as one of the top homes, you're not going to get that offer as quickly as you'd like.
RD: Yep. And I've seen some interesting photos on the website you mentioned. Because me and my wife are always looking at potentially purchasing a property. It's just amazing on websites like Commfree, some of the photos that people post, I'm like, "Oh my goodness. How do you expect to sell your property? You're putting a roadblock to yourself."
CG: You got it. And in this market, Rafal, it's not an easy market. Realtors, generally speaking, are hiring professional photographers, they're getting that coverage on the internet, and they're covering the bases with you, which, as an individual, you may not be familiar with.
How To Make The Buying and Selling Process Painless
RD: So let me ask you this. When you're starting with a new client, is there a specific process you follow to make this as quick, as painless, and as successful as possible?
CG: Yeah, you bet. It depends upon whether they are a buyer or a seller. Those things vary-
RD: Let's touch on the buyer aspect first.
CG: The thing with a buyer is that you always want to make sure that you're establishing a rapport with them to understand truly what it is that they're looking for. We've all seen television shows where everybody wants to buy the $1 million listing, but their budget is $250,000. Right? And that's a pretty common thing. Believe it or not, here in the city there's lots of times where we have clients and they have big dreams, but not big budgets.
Part of our responsibility, and part of our role is to educate buyers; is to really get to know them and not offend them. I don't want to take someone into a really prestigious neighborhood and make them feel silly because their budget is so low. I want to get to know them, and I want them to get to know me; that what I'm showing them is not necessarily a downgrade as much as it is, it may be a better value. With a buyer, really, it's understanding what it is that they're looking for, helping them to understand the market, and then going from there.
RD: A lot of times buyers don't really know what they can expect, right?
CG: You're right.
RD: And they have huge expectations, but they don't really know what's available and what they can actually get for the money that they have. Because at the end, we have to look at the investment they're willing to put in, right?
CG: That's correct. I actually think right now we have a huge influx of people into Edmonton. Edmonton is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. Lots of folks are coming from different communities where real estate prices are a little bit lower. They're getting a little bigger bang for their buck, because they can get into a single-family home for under $300,000, and it's a nicely renovated home, and so on and so forth. Then, they move to Edmonton, or the big city, as we like to call it, and the reality is that that's not as easy to do here. Again, we just want to make sure that they're as comfortable as possible, that we are understanding their requirements, and not deterring them from making their investment.
RD: Then, sometimes when people move to a bigger city they don't understand that different neighborhoods have different pricing. Right? If you're in the core, you're going to pay more than if you're on the outskirts, right? That's where a real estate professional can actually educate you as a buyer of what's available, what to look for, and things like that.
CG: You got it.
RD: Okay, so we got the buyer out. What about the seller? Any specific processes or systems that you have?
CG: Yeah, I think from my perspective, the way that I see it when you're dealing with a seller is that your home is your home, you look at it, and you're very proud of it. I don't know a single person who, when we go and have a chat about listing their home, they're not proud of it. And that's great. Being home-proud and house-proud is a really fantastic thing, because it makes you happy. At that point, you know that if they're making the decision to leave, that, wow, it's a big decision for them.
On the flip side where, as a realtor that comes to help them, is to understand the market values. I may think my home is worth $1 million because I love it. It makes me feel great. I walk in at the end of the day, and it's everything that I've ever needed for the last 12 years. But the reality is that sometimes in the market that's not the case. And that's our jobs to help to educate them and help them to understand that what you may believe about your home as being a $1 million castle, it's just really not applicable to the market today. That's a tough job sometimes. You don't ever in any way want to insult someone, or make them feel silly about the fact that they value and have such great pride in their home. Again, that comes down to the idea of building the relationship with your realtor, and making sure that you can trust them, and you have a rapport with them to have those kinds of conversations.
RD: I agree with you. It's like, even the interior décor. Somebody might think this is the best thing on the planet, and then you'll have a buyer come in and they'll be like, "Eh, it's not my style," right?
CG: You bet.
RD: And you have to know how to manage those conversations, and those expectations as well, right?
CG: You got it, yep.
RD: Yeah, but, if I was doing it by myself as a seller and a buyer, I come in, it's like, "Yeah, I've got a bad feeling." And I leave, and that's it. That's where the conversation ends. Whereas, when you have a realtor, you can kind of discuss it and see what your options are. And a realtor can actually give a potential buyer options, right? Something they might not even see. You probably sell so many properties, you see so many properties that, you know, simple taking down the wall and doing some renos and putting in $15,000, $20,000 could totally change the interior, could change the design, and the value of the property as well.
CG: You got it. I think one aspect that I pride myself in is the interconnections that we have with people like renovators, with kitchen designers, with carpet cleaners, with painters, so that if one of my clients walks in and they're kind of not feeling, but it is the house, to be able to reach out to the connections that I have just based on my experience and working with these individuals on a daily basis, that it's a heck of a lot easier to phone my traders person and get him to come out and give a quote to remove that wall, or to check to see how easy it would be to install this, that, or the other thing. Whereas the average individual really doesn't always have those kinds of connections. Again, that's my job. If you were to ask me today, "Who could I use for painting? Who could I use for carpet cleaning? Who's a mover?" They're right here in my pocket.
RD: It's not what you know, but who you know, right?
RD: That gets things moving way smoother and quicker with that as well.
CG: You got it.
How Are You Different From Other Realtors in Edmonton?
RD: Christian, what sets you apart from other realtors in the Edmonton metro region?
CG: I think the biggest thing is that I always use, in my videos, and in my social media interaction, I always use the term born and raised. I was born and raised in the Edmonton metropolitan region. I've lived here for most of my life, and I've chosen to have this as my home. Beyond traveling all around North America in one of my corporate jobs and experiencing some of the most amazing cities in North America, I've always had Edmonton as my home. What that's led me to realize, and sort of respect is the fact that I have a huge passion for not only the city, so I'm not just born and raised here, but the passion that I have revolves around all of the amazing things that take place, whether it's the ice castle, whether it's the Pride festival in the summertime, or anything, any single thing.
I always try and have my finger on the pulse of the city, and it's because I love it. I love to pass those experiences on, and that excitement to my clients, which, it's shocking the number of people who live in the region that have never been in the river valley. It's shocking the number of people who've never been on the Edmonton Queen. And you have a chat with them, and you talk about those assets that we have, and they start to put it together, and the realize, "Yeah, gosh, we have a pretty metropolitan city, and it's pretty cool."
In my perspective, those are the big things. I have access to all of the information. I have tons of marketing experience. I've sold tons of houses. I've got a great team that I work with. But the biggest thing is just that passion and excitement.
RD: Yeah, and it's good to have somebody in your back pocket that knows the city so well. And I'm one of those people. I've been living here for about 30 years, and I haven't been on the Edmonton Queen yet.
CG: There you go. You've got to go.
The Most Challenging Condominium Sale
RD: One day I have to go. Tell me about one of the most challenging sales or purchases that you've experienced thus far.
CG: When we were talking previously, we were also talking about some of the easiest sales. It's ironic that sometimes the easiest sales also become the most challenging. What'll often happen as a real estate agent is that sometimes I'll have a friend of mine phone and say, "Christian, I saw just down the street my dream home was finally listed. Can you show me this? Because I want to buy it." As an agent you're like-
CG: "Bingo! This'll be a five-minute sale." But then you take those folks who are, clearly if they're looking they're interested in moving, clearly if they're looking at homes, they're interested in making a change. So you'll take them to their perceived dream home, and they just don't like it. It's not their dream home, and they're really discouraged, and they become what refer to, or what I refer to as, is the one that got away. So that home is the home that forever taints them against any other home that they look at. And again, that actually happens quit often. It's unfortunate, and one of my jobs is to try and rebuild that excitement; to say, "That one looked like the picture perfect home from the outside, but the reality was that you've got four kids, and it only had three bedrooms. So it didn't work for you. There are other beautiful homes in the region that will, so you've got to just keep going."
RD: What other examples could you give us where somebody thought from the outside that this was their dream home, and then they see the inside and it's totally the opposite? What do people usually look for, and then, they get a little bit disappointed when they see it?
How Important Is Street Curb Appeal?
CG: Street appeal or curb appeal is one of the biggest things that draws someone to your home. If your home is not properly maintained, maybe your landscape is a little ratty, or it looks rough from the outside, maybe the shingles need to be replaced, or it needs a paint job. That definitely deters people from wanting to invest in that property.
Sometimes what you'll see, especially in Edmonton right now in some of the more mature neighborhoods, but they're also becoming some of the most desirable neighborhoods, is a picture perfect, white picket fence, got a beautiful veranda, shutters on the windows, nicely red-painted door. It's perfectly done. And they walk into the home and it's still that 1940s bungalow that's 500 square feet that, it just doesn't work for them.
It's quite a common occurrence, but again, it's one of the things that, you have to coach them to help them understand that this is the market. A home in Westmount is worth X number of dollars. You could invest that somewhere a little bit further out, and get a little bit more bang for your dollar, but you're not central Edmonton.
RD: I think that's one of the biggest benefits of working with a realtor: when you invite them to look at your property. They can actually suggest certain improvements, upgrades, or changes to bring up the value of your property. Whereas, if you're selling by yourself, you can only depend on yourself, and that's it. Right?
CG: You bet. I mean, I'm a dog person, for example, and I love my dog, and I think everybody loves my dog. But the reality is, is that when someone walks into a home with a pet, quite often they're deterred from buying that home, whether it's allergies, or whether it's a concern that that pet may have made a mess in the house somewhere. It is a deterrent.
The same thing goes for, you know, I love photographs. I used to be involved in the photographic industry, so I love to see photographs in people's homes. The reality is, that most consumers, or most buyers want to walk into a home and feel as though it's their own. They don't want to walk into Rafal's house. They want to walk into their house. Those are the things that, I respect people who love their knickknacks, and love their décor. But again, it's one of the things that I coach them on; is the idea that not everybody does, and we've got to declutter, and we've got to depersonalize. That's just how it is. That's the market.
RD: Yeah, they need to know how to stage it, right?
CG: You bet.
RD: You sound, honestly, like you're giving some great tips, some great advice, and you're honest about it. So if I was to call for references, I'm like, "I want to work with you. I'm going to call your references. What are they going to say?"
CG: That I'm fantastic. Honestly, I don't have a negative experience in my career in any way, shape, or form. I think that there's been hiccups once in a while, but I can guarantee you that ... When I was in the corporate world, I used to use this as an interview question, where I would say to my candidates, "If I was to phone your former colleagues, what would they say about you?" And that's kind of ... I always keep that in mind, whether it's a client that I've dealt with, or one that I'm currently dealing with, is that I want them to have the best possible experience. I truly believe in that partnership approach, and if we don't establish that, and if we can't establish that, then I don't have a problem talking with them and saying, "Is there something that we can do to overcome this?" And there always is. There's always something that we can do. So, to answer your question, long story short, I'd be very confident that they would sing the praises of Christian Gannon.
RD: Next time, I'm going to call them and say, "Hey, I'm thinking of working with Mr. Fantastic."
CG: Exactly, and they'll say, "He's a little arrogant, but-"
Is Having Condominium Experience an Advantage When Selling Property?
RD: But, you know what? I believe you have a huge, huge advantage over other realtors in the city, especially when it comes to condos, because you've been a board director for about 30 years. You're currently a board director on two condos. And you consult, too. So you have the professional industry expertise, and you have the inside scoop. Do you believe that gives you an advantage? If so, how?
CG: Definitely. It definitely gives me an advantage. I think that one of the things that people are looking for quite often is, even if they're not always interested in a condo, that they're seeing the current market prices, and we referenced this earlier, where they come to the city and they're like, "Wow, I realized I can't afford a single family home. I should maybe start looking at duplexes, and multi-family homes and condos." And so the first question that they ask is, "What about condo fees? What about the condo boards trying to control me?" And going on about the negative aspects of it. The reality is that it's very easy to sort of flip their mindset about that; to help them to understand that condominium living is actually quite beneficial to many people, depending upon what it is that you're looking for.
I can confidently say that there's probably ... There's very few realtors that are in the city today that can say that they've had 30 years of condominium director experience, that are currently dealing with two of the most successful condominium, and most functional condominium associations in the city, and love it. I love it. I don't ever want to not be a director on my board.
RD: I remember I met you 11 years ago, thereabout, and you were as passionate then as you are now when you talk about converts and condominiums. Not many people can stay in the condo industry for that long, right? People get burned out. They don't see the value. They don't see the benefits. And it really does depend on your lifestyle, what you're looking for. However, you are the right person to advise somebody if a condo is the right fit for them or not, right?
CG: Yep, you bet. I've lived in condos. I've lived in single family homes. I've lived in different neighborhoods throughout the capital region. To get to your point, it's really a lifestyle choice, depending upon what your priorities are and what you want to do. I see value in both single-family as well as condominium living.
RD: I love living in my condo, for the time being.
CG: Me too.
RD: Downtown, great river valley down the road. However, I visit it like twice, three times a year. It's embarrassing, because we do have a beautiful river valley. That's for sure. So, because you have the overview from both ends, from a condo board director, and a realtor, when somebody's planning on purchasing a condo, what should they be looking for?
CG: They really want to look at, beyond the aspect of whether or not they actually like the home and the location and the amenities, it's very important to look at how the building is run. You want to make sure that you're having access to the documentation from the condominium association. You want to make sure that the building is a solid building. By having access to that documentation, and having them reviewed professionally, then you're actually in, quite often, a better situation than you are when you buy a single-family home.
Condominium Sale Documents
RD: And you know what? That's one thing you've touched on, is having the condominium documents reviewed by a professional, because many times people purchase, and if you're thinking of purchasing a condo, that's the first thing I would start doing: get a professional, review the minutes, review the bylaws, policies, because you're buying into a community. It's not a house where you're the kind of the house. You're the kind of your unit, however, there's the queen of the building, right?
CG: That's correct.
RD: So you have to abide by those laws. Like we were discussing before we started the interview, if you're a dog lover, you can actually have a dog at the condo.
CG: You've got it.
RD: So there's different things. Age restriction in Alberta was a big issue, right?
CG: You got it.
RD: So you have to know what you're buying into, because certain realtors will sell you just to make a sale. The proper realtors will educate you when you're making the sale.
CG: That's correct, yeah.
RD: And I've heard some horror stories from people who've purchased, and then things were changing, but they couldn't have kids. They have to move out because they didn't know that they were buying into a building that didn't allow residents under the age of 18. So there are some horror stories. That's why you have to educate yourself. You have to talk to a professional who's going to educate you if that's the proper building for you, just like with a house: the curb appeal, the white fence, the beautiful red [inaudible 00:32:24] door. It looks great on the outside, but as soon as you pass the door, different story.
CG: You got it.
Mistakes People Make When Buying a Condo
RD: From a condo board director's perspective, tell me about a story when somebody purchased or bought into your condo, and made a huge mistake. Do you have anything to share with us?
CG: Yeah, you bet. Honestly, unfortunately, I could tell you a couple of different stories from the director's point of view, where I remember one AGM a couple of years ago that one of the buildings that I am on the board of directors for, we were faced with a special assessment. We had been discussing the special assessment for at least eight months prior to the AGM. These young folks had purchased in the building unaware of the fact that they were going to be having a fairly significant special assessment in order to do some of the infrastructure work that was required. And it hit them. It broadsided them.
That being said, unfortunately, they had clearly not done any review of the documentation: none. Because in the minutes, this problem had been discussed. In the budget, this problem had been addressed. In the reserve fund study, this problem had been addressed. So, unfortunately, God forbid that they had been dealing with a realtor who didn't give them that kind of advice, but that was one example. I've had several, unfortunately, where people just kind of blindly went in.
But, that being say, Rafal, I don't mind adding the fact that I also know people who've bought single-family homes without doing an inspection. They think, "It's fine. I can turn the switch on and off. It looks good." And they buy the home, and unfortunately, at a later point, they make an unfortunate discovery.
RD: It's very easy to cover up certain things, right?
CG: It is.
RD: It's very interesting that you brought up the special assessment, because that is a huge issue in condos sometimes. We have a friend as well that when she purchased a condo, the board didn't do its due diligence and they didn't minute the special assessment. So she bought the condo, and then three, four months later, she was slapped with a $30,000 assessment. So, imagine moving in, you've finally finished decorating, putting up the last art piece, and then all of a sudden you get this beautiful letter, "$30,000 or move out," pretty much, right? So it's very unfortunate.
Condos aside, in general, what are the biggest mistakes first-time home buyers make?
Biggest Mistake First Time Home Buyers Make
CG: I would say that right now the biggest challenge that we are faced with is the fact that a lot of first-time home buyers are wanting to jump into what the average individual would consider their second or third home. So there's a lot of folks right now who are wanting to go out and invest in a McMansion, and they just don't have the budget for it, but that's all they want. Whether it's a condo, they want to live in the most beautiful, prestigious building downtown, but they just don't have that budget. Or, they want to live in Windermere in the most beautiful prestigious home, but they just don't have that budget. So, unfortunately, it deters them from making that investment.
I think that that's one of the reasons why I love real estate, is being able to educate them, and being able to show them the value of the different areas that they live in, being able to show them the different assets that the city has to offer in that area, as well as the building. Like, having the familiarity with the city that I do, that it's easy to say, "Well, here's what you have when you move to Windermere, but if you move two blocks this way, you could probably get into that house that you're looking for."
RD: And because you love the city, you've been here for so long, you can actually advise people on that. Right?
CG: You bet.
RD: Which is a tremendous, tremendous benefit, because as you said, we have people trying to buy downtown, and they can't afford it. However, there might be two blocks off where they want to really buy it, prices drop a little bit, especially certain streets. You have a street going through downtown, and then it's like, if you're in the east, or in the west, the prices will vary. Not dramatically, but it could be enough to let you actually purchase a new property.
CG: They really do. And to that point, I won't name the neighborhoods unless we wanted to name them, but there are a couple of neighborhoods just west of downtown: one that's extremely high-end, and extremely desirable, but the prices are out of reach. Just north of that neighborhood is another one that it's been, over the last 10 to 12 years been really the up-and-coming neighborhood. It's getting to the point now where people cannot afford to live there. They're buying a knockdown for $500,000. One more block north, they can get into a neighborhood that the City of Edmonton has actually rated as the most ... They've seen the most infill in that neighborhood this year because of that fact.
That's the information that I ... I go to these seminars. I talk to the City of Edmonton. We deal with the analysts who are looking at the real estate market, and if a client comes to me and says, "Well, I've been looking for years," well, I can maybe show you one house that's over one block further that is within your budget.
RD: We're going to have to talk about that neighborhood. But we're going to do it off air. We're going to take a little break, and after the break we're going to do some Q&A that your clients as you on a regular basis. Stay tuned.
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RD: Welcome back. We're going to go into our Q&A session right now, based on the questions that your clients ask you on a regular basis, and some questions that people might assume the answer to, or make assumptions. One of those, especially when you buy into a condo, people have this belief about the condominium board, that they're these overlords that control everything, and tell you what you can do and you can't do, and people hate the board. They think they're this secret society, this secret group meeting behind closed doors. However, there's a need for the board, and the board has a responsibility.
Christian, you've been a director for 30 years. Can you please tell us, what is a condo board for?
What Is a Condo Board?
CG: You bet. It is one of the most common questions that my clients have when it comes to investing in a condo. Really, to your point Rafal, there's a lot of sort of negative assumptions that are out there that the board is out to get you. When push comes to shove, really what the condominium board does, is to run the building, is to run the business that is the building. They collect fees in order to do the maintenance that's required to keep that investment in top dollar. They collect the fees to pay the heating bill. To pay the electricity bill. And those things fluctuate when you look at a condominium complex where those fees are covering those things. We all know gas prices have gone up and down. We all known electricity prices have gone up and down, and the condo boards have to deal with that on an annual basis.
One of the biggest questions that is often asked is about the reserve fund. "Why is there this big chunk of money sitting there? Why do they just hold onto that money? Why can't they be investing it?" And so on. I often use the analogy of, "Whether you're a single-family homeowner, or you're a condominium owner, that you should always have a rainy day fund." I often refer to the reserve fund as that complex's rainy day fund. At any given time, there's the opportunity for something to go awry. Or, something could be planned where, for example, in a condominium, where you know in five years the roof needs to be replaced.
Those funds are put aside to ensure that those items, those, in particular, infrastructure items, can be deal with appropriately when the time comes. It is the complex's rainy day fund, and that's the best way to put it. With a single-family home, I suggest to all of my buyers that they should have that rainy day fund. You never know when your furnace is going to drop out. You never know when you might have to get some windows replaced.
RD: Yeah, exactly. Condo fees cover a little bit more than that. They cover the maintenance. They cover the insurance. They cover people coming in and repairing things, landscaping. There's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the doors that the board does and is responsible for, and plans, and organizes, that the average owner isn't aware of.
CG: You bet. All of those things, and what I will add is that these generally are volunteer positions, and these people are there because they're trying to represent you and maintain the value in your biggest investment. They're not the enemy. They're actually your friend. And they're all on the same page. They're working towards the same goal.
Are Realtors Always Too Busy To Get Back To You?
RD: The next question we have is: buyers and sellers assume that a realtor is always busy, and they won't follow up, they won't contact them, they won't email them: nothing. They think you guys are unreachable. Can you talk a little bit about that?
CG: Yeah, you bet. I can't speak for every realtor, but I can say that when it comes to helping you out when you have questions: you want to look at a house, or you want information about a home, you want to chat about the market, whatever it happens to be, reach out. Send me a text. Send me an email. Connect with me on Facebook. It doesn't matter how you reach out, but I'm never too busy to help you out. It's my pleasure to educate you as much as I can and, ideally, help you to make that big decision. I want to partner with my clients, and I want to build new clients, and I want to make sure that they're as comfortable with me, and my skills, and my knowledge as possible. Whether it's learning more about, "How often does Rogers Place have a concert?" To, "What's the closest bus route?" To, "What are the average home prices in a certain neighborhood?" It's my pleasure to help you out with that.
RD: Perfect. Schools, amenities, everything, right?
CG: Yeah, exactly.
RD: You know your stuff. Give Christian a call.
Last question, and everybody probably has this question at the back of their mind. How is the market? Should I buy? Should I sell? What should I do?
CG: The average response to that question is, it depends on whether you're a buyer or a seller. In the Edmonton metropolitan region right now, if you're a buyer, it's an excellent time to buy. Mortgage rates are still low. There is a lot of inventory on the market, and people are willing to work with you when it comes to negotiating a price.
If you are a seller, again, there's a lot of inventory on the market. So that means the average sale time is taking a little bit longer than it did a few years back. When push comes to shove, it is a beauty contest and a pricing contest. If you've got a beautiful home, and it's well-maintained, and it's well-priced, it's going to sell. To answer your question in a real general way, the market's doing well. It's getting better. Real estate is a huge indication as to the economy. The real estate market is getting better and better.
RD: Fantastic. And if you want to sell and you want to sell quick, call you so you can give them an opinion of how they can spruce it up, and beautify your property so that it sells at a higher value, and a little bit quicker.
CG: You got it, exactly. People make their decisions based on their ability to identify with that home as being theirs.
RD: Fantastic. Christian, I have a lot of notes right here that I'm going to review. I think that's pretty much it for the questions. How can people reach you? How can they get in touch with you?
CG: I mean, multiple ways. The best way to reach me is by giving me a shout. Give me a call, or send me a text message. And will we put that number online?
RD: Yep, definitely. We'll put all of your information underneath the video, so if you want to give him a shout right now, make it happen. Don't wait too long, or you're going to lose out on an opportunity.
CG: Yeah. Give me a call. Send me a text message. If you're on Facebook, just check me out at Christian Gannon. I'm on Instagram. You name it. I'm on every aspect of social media. Never hesitate to reach out and ask me anything you want to know.
RD: Fantastic. And you know what? I follow your Facebook feed. I love those morning videos. They're awesome. They're entertaining. It's like when you wake up in the morning, first thing, it's like, "All right. What is he up to today?"
CG: They're meant to be fun and educational.
RD: And educational, right. So fantastic. Christian, it's been a pleasure speaking with you today. I hope our audience has taken a lot of notes, learned something, got some ideas, got some tips on how to purchase or how to sell their property. They know how to contact you. We're going to include your checklist underneath this video as well, and we're going to be able to share that with you.
Ladies and gentleman, thank you for joining us on today's interview. I hope you had a great time with us, and I hope to see you on the next episode. Talk to you soon.