Real estate is an exciting and complicated field, and often times home buyers and sellers don’t have a good grasp of what a professional real estate agent really does for them. We’ve reached out to Kari Calder, one of the top agents in Saskatoon, to shed some light on the reasons why people should always hire an agent for real estate purchases. Her answers not only clear up any doubts, but also offer insight on the latest trends on the Saskatoon real estate market.
Tell us a few words about Century21 Fusion and the role you play in it.
Century 21 Fusion is, in my opinion, the best brokerage in the city. Our office is very professional in appearance and the support staff are amazing. We have access to top technology and some of the best systems out there, and we are part of a global team.
I am a real estate professional here, but also a mentor. I like to think that I am a good role model for all agents, but especially female agents and, as of 2 years ago, agents who have families as well.
What does your job as a real estate professional entail? What do you love most about your job?
The job of a real estate professional is multi-faceted. We are everything – from counselor, to advisor, to salesperson. The job is much more than sales, though, as it is more about relationship building and maintenance, while helping consumers buy and sell in an organized and safe way.
The hours are long, and there can be a lot of work with zero pay. We are the only profession that I am aware of who pays to work every day, in the HOPE of getting paid in the near future. I can’t say there is anything that I love most, except that I know this is my calling and that doing what you love is the best thing ever.
What is the single most difficult part of a real estate professional’s job?
There are many difficult parts to being a real estate professional, but balance comes to mind as the most difficult thing. Balancing work with family and friends is likely the hardest part. You have to be on almost all of the time, and that gets exhausting for both you as an individual, but also the people in your life.
I can’t go to a 2-hour movie without missing calls, emails and texts, and my phone is pretty much an extension of my right hand. Most people don’t understand the non-stop nature of real estate and how much sacrifice goes into building a business where you ARE the business.
In a few words, how would you describe the profile of the Saskatoon home-buyer?
Every buyer is different, so this question is tough to answer. Generally, our buyers are already somewhat educated concerning the process, by doing their homework online. Based on that, I would say informed and well researched.
Is there a trend that you have spotted in the Saskatoon home-buyers preferences? Maybe interest in a particular city or neighborhood rising over the last months?
Infill properties are quite popular, as buyers get a new home in an older neighbourhood, and that is a win-win. However, finding one in their budget range is the challenge, as they are not cheap.
How should first-time home buyers choose their realtor? What criteria should they consider?
A first time buyer should find a trusted Saskatoon REALTOR® who either comes highly recommended by friends and family, or find someone who speaks to them by doing their research online.
It is good to set up a buyer consultation, to ensure the agent you think is a good fit, really IS a good fit. There are times when the connection just isn’t there, and that is okay. There are many agents out there, so find one who you enjoy working with. Maybe me!
Is there a particular aspect of the home buying process that clients struggle with or complain about?
It is overwhelming. This is the biggest expense people usually have in their lives, and a very important decision, which is why it is important to have not only an experienced, but also a patient and understanding agent working on their behalf. The whole process can be exhausting, but if you are working with an agent who can walk you through every step and explain all the processes along the way, that is of utmost importance.
What is the main challenge for the real estate industry at this time?
REALTORS® are always having to prove their value and educate the public about how we get paid. I think justifying where the commission goes has always been a challenge to the industry, but a good agent will be able to explain how the commission works and help consumers understand that we are running businesses, and that is not cheap.
There are plenty of sites out there that try to undermine what value we bring. Thankfully, most of the public understands that it is best to trust a professional instead of DIYing some of the biggest transactions in your life. In the end, we actually likely save money for you, by doing the research on prices, negotiating on your behalf and ensuring contracts are well written and that you are protected.
Is taking out a mortgage an option also used for buying luxury properties in Saskatoon?
Yes, most luxury properties are partially mortgaged. I don’t know many buyers who can spend in the $1M-and-up range who are buying for cash, so generally it is a combination of cash and mortgage.
Our 2016 Home Buyer Profile shows that residents of Saskatoon are searching for homes between $300,000 and $400,000. What can we expect in terms of prices and inventory in the last quarter of 2016 in SK?
The price range of $300,000-$400,000 has been one of the most popular and busiest ranges in the past 10 years or so. We do have a good choice of inventory in this price range, and with an average sale price hovering close to $350,000, it is not a big surprise that this is such a busy price point.
Nearly one third of the current listings are actually between $300,000 and $400,000, so there is no shortage of inventory available for these buyers.
That is great news for buyers, but not as great for sellers, as there is a lot of competition. We may see some pressure on the list prices on some of these homes. There always seems to be a good turnaround in this price range.
Have you spotted any trends concerning the attitudes Millennials have towards home ownership?
We are finding more who prefer to buy condos, as it is easy living. They then have more time to do what they enjoy, and don’t have to worry about mowing lawns etc. I also see more buyers who are purchasing with a friend, or with the intent of renting out rooms to others, as they know it is a smart investment but they don’t necessarily want to become ‘house poor’.
Did you notice a preference for buying in the suburbs, and if so, what are the reasons for that?
No preference, as each buyer is unique and has unique wants and needs. Ideally I think most people would prefer to be closer to the core, however this is not always affordable, and you can usually get better features in a home, for a better price, when you buy in the suburbs. The difference between the style of home and features (such as walk-in closets, ensuites, big attached garages etc.) really changes from the older core areas to suburbs.
What’s the most important piece of advice for first-time home-buyers?
Make sure you are using a REALTOR®, and not trying to go it alone. Some websites will tell you that you are saving money by buying privately, but why would anyone trust a seller to look after their best interests, when they can have a professional taking care of them throughout the process and at no extra cost, on most MLS listed properties?
Often private sellers are fishing for an unrealistic price, but your real estate professional will do the research and show you what the price should be.
Also, don’t necessarily commit to the first agent you meet. Make sure your agent knows what they are doing and has your best interests in mind. Find someone who you trust and whom you are confident in. Enjoy working with that person, because home buying should be a good experience.
How should buyers prepare for the home buying process? Any tips you’d like to share?
ALWAYS get pre-qualified or pre-approved before you begin the process, and do this with a qualified mortgage professional. Most experienced REALTORS® have good ones they can recommend. Do not rely on online applications, as most people forget about debts they have, and the actual number from a professional vs. the online application can vary widely.
I once had buyers who told me they were approved for $300,000 from an online application, but when when I sent them to one of my mortgage contacts, they were actually only approved for $50,000. So don’t put the cart before the horse, and do not go out and buy a new vehicle or make any other major purchases before you get the keys to your new house, as this can derail your entire home purchase.
Any other insights you’d like to share?
Now is a great time to buy in the Saskatoon real estate market. The interest rates are still low and there is good product on the market. We are seeing some slow down on new builds, and this always ends up tightening the market, so it is good to get in while you can, at the rate you can afford.
Kari Calder has been a REALTOR® with Century 21 Fusion for almost 10 years. She is one of the top agents in Saskatoon and was awarded the Salesperson of the Year in 2014 for Century 21 Canada. She has a 2 year old son as well as a wonderful husband and 2 fur babies. Real estate is not only her profession but her passion. Follow Kari on Facebook, and send her your comments on Twitter at @karicalder.
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