Backyard Birding

Birding season is upon us and by just spending a relaxing lunch in the backyard, it becomes quickly evident why so many people from around the world flock to Leamington and Point Pelee this time of year.  Here’s a quick example of some of the birds you might encounter … if you’re quiet enough.

A cardinal perched in a maple tree.

An Oriel sitting on a fence.  Wonder if he’s headed to Baltimore…..


A Red-Winged Blackbird enjoying a snack.

For more information about birding in the Leamington area, please visit .

April Real Estate Market Data

Market data for the month of April from the Windsor Essex County Real Estate Board was released on Tuesday.   It shows a continued momentum from the gains made in the first quarter of 2012.  Total inventory remains relatively flat with YTD listings down only 0.50%.  As of the end of April, there were 3195 listings compared to 3211 in 2011.  YTD sales tho ugh are up 12.38% and YTD average price is up 8.26% at $170,839.  In sum, we see a slightly declining inventory coupled with increased sales and higher average price.  This is a positive indicator for those considering placing thier home on the market.

Delving a little deeper into the figures, it is worth noting what type of home buyers have been looking for.   YTD, the highest number of homes have sold between $140,000-$179,999.  In the month of April, more buyers looked to ranches and raised ranches than other design types.  However, the sale of 2 storey homes increased 76% from April of last year.  This type of home also brought with it the highest average sale price in  April 2012 at $254,411 which is a 24% increase over the same period in 2011.

To view the interactive data provided by the Windsor Essex County Real Estate Board please click the link provided.  To view some of the more detailed data the board provides us or to discuss what this data means for your propery, please fill out the contact us form provided or call our office at 519-326-6154.


New Listing! 38 Erie Street Kingsville

Located close to Lake Erie and Lakeside Park this house is perfect for a growing family.  With an inground pool and generous backyard deck, you might not want leave!  Call today for your personal viewing.


Mortgage Wars Follow-up

Here’s a good article reflecting on the benefits of the current mortgage market to consumers.


Mortgage war means good news for homeowners
By Gordon Pape | Moneyville – Sun, 18 Mar, 2012 7:00 PM EDT.. .

Good news! The mortgage wars are back. Bad news! The mortgage wars are back. It all depends on your perspective.

If you’re an aspiring homeowner or you want to refinance to pay off back-breaking credit card debt, the latest battle of the banks for market share is a terrific opportunity.

If you’re Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, it’s a slap in the face. You’re the most influential financial person in the country and you’ve been spending a lot of time during the past two years warning Canadians about the dangers of their ever-increasing debt levels. And what is the banking oligarchy doing in response? Thumbing their collective noses at you by encouraging people to take on even more debt!

The latest cat fight for mortgage market share couldn’t have come at a better time for prospective borrowers. The spring housing season is just starting to heat up and prices stubbornly continue at record highs despite alarm bells that the bubble could burst any time soon. In this climate, any break on mortgage rates that makes your dream home more affordable is welcome.

The mortgage market is a Wild West show right now. The banks are aggressively undercutting one another to build their business before the low-interest window closes. Bank of Montreal kicked off the latest round of rate-cutting by offering a five-year closed mortgage at 2.99 per cent and an even more eye-popping 10-year rate of 3.99 per cent.

Royal Bank has countered with an “all the frills” four-year fixed rate of 2.99 per cent with amortizations up to 30 years. That translates into a monthly payment of $1,260 on a $300,000 loan. By comparison, at 5 per cent the monthly carrying cost would be just over $1,600. Royal even offers to pay the switching costs if you move your business from another financial institution. Talk about dog-eat-dog!

Most other banks are offering similar deals just to stay in the game. For the moment, this is a true buyer’s market for borrowers but it may not last long. Some of the deals have fixed termination dates (e.g. March 28 for BMO’s 10-year 3.99 per cent rate). Others could be pulled at any time.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Carney must be seething. The last thing he wants to see is Canadians jacking up their household debt to income ratios even more. But short of intervening directly in the private sector, which he would be reluctant to do except under extreme circumstances, his hands are pretty much tied.

He’d love to raise the key overnight target rate from its current level of 1 per cent but for the moment he’s a prisoner of the domestic economy and international forces. The recovery is still fragile and the high loonie continues to hurt our export markets. Still, you can bet he’ll make a move at the first possible opportunity.

Do you remember in high school when your English teacher would make you parse lines from Shakespeare? That’s what economists do when the Bank of Canada issues its interest rate statements. They dissect every line, looking for clues that indicate any subtle shifts in position that might suggest a move up or down in the near future. They found several such clues in the March 8 announcement that the overnight rate would remain unchanged for now.

“The heightened uncertainty around the global economic outlook has decreased in the weeks since the Bank released its January Monetary Policy Report (MPR),” the statement said. “With tentative signs of stabilization in European bank funding and sovereign debt markets, conditions in global financial markets have improved and risk aversion has decreased.”

Reduced global uncertainty. Signs of stability in Europe. Global financial markets looking better. Less risk aversion. Hmm.

The statement went on: “Canadian household spending is expected to remain high relative to GDP as households add to their debt burden, which remains the biggest domestic risk.”

It doesn’t take an economist to read between the lines here. With the global economy improving and household debt “the biggest domestic risk” interest rate increases are on the way sooner rather than later.

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s pledge to hold its rates at record lows until 2014 is a problem because it means a Canadian rate increase will probably push the loonie even higher. But Carney may be prepared to live with that to try to shake the country out of its debt spiral.

So if you are thinking about borrowing money, my advice is to act now. The window may be closing faster than you think. And here’s another tip. Take the longest low-rate option you can find. You may not see anything like it again in your lifetime.

Gordon Pape is editor and publisher of the Internet Wealth Builder newsletter. His website is
Image: Keith Beaty/Toronto Star file photo.

New Listing! 81 Wakefield Avenue Leamington

We’re pleased to introduce this new property to our portfolio of listings.  Super clean and tastefully decorated, this home features 2 1/2 baths, a fully finnished basement and a fenced yard.  Call today to see the tastefully decorated 8 year old  home.

Money Sense Magazine – Canada’s Best Places to Live 2012

Money Sense Magazine has just released it’s annual list of what it thinks are Canada’s best places to live. To determine their rankings, the publication “weighs and ranks 190 cities and towns in Canada by 22 separate categories, for a comprehensive data-driven snapshot of the benefits and drawbacks of our urban communities in Canada”.

In 2006, Leamington gained a bit of notoriety by being ranked number 1 on this list. The methodology used has changed over the years though. More communities have been added to the list and the criteria for determining the ranking has been altered. This year, Leamington ranks 111th while Windsor ranks 84th. Areas Leamington scored lower on were doctors/1,000 residents and culture.

There were several categories in which Leamington scored very highly on however. In terms of being a safe community to live in, Leamington was ranked 15th overall. Also, in terms of weather, Leamington was ranked 13th overall. It also landed in the top 50 for housing affordability and the ability to walk/bike to work.

At the end of the day, this list is an interesting exercise designed to compare and contrast a number of municipalities across Canada based on what Money Sense Magazine feels are a broad range of empirical variables. These numbers though should be taken with a large grain of salt. Have things changed that much in Leamington relative to other municipalities that our ranking should fall to 111th? Probably not. Does it show that there are areas we can improve upon?  For sure.  We’d all like to see more doctors in the area. We can though take solace in the fact that it’s March 20th and it might hit 24 degrees today. We really do have great weather!


OPEN HOUSE – 45 Wakefield Avenue Leamington

We will be holding an open house at 45 Wakefield Ave in Leamington Saturday March 17th between 1-3pm.  This is a great home on a good street, finished on both levels and includes a fenced yard.  We hope to see you there!

Property Assessment Reconsideration Deadline Approaching

Are you paying too much property tax?

The deadline to challenge your 2012 assessment with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is quickly approaching.  To do so, a property owner can request what is called a Request for Reconsideration any time until March 31st.  Why should you consider filing a Request for Reconsideration?  Your property taxes are based on the assessed value MPAC attributes to your property.  If MPAC has inaccurate data about your property, your property tax bill might be based on an incorrect value.  In it’s 2010 report, the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario found that as many as 1 in 8 properties  has assessed values that differed from their sale price by more than 20%.  This means, you may be paying more than your proportional share in property tax.

In 2006, the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman published a report entitled “Getting it Right” in which it challenged the openness and fairness of the assessment review process.  To their credit, MPAC took many of the recommendations and adopted them as part of their review process.  The average property owner though is still at a disadvantage given the weight of information MPAC is able to use to defend their values.  At R.A. Critchlow Realty Inc. we not only have the market experience, we also possess substantial knowledge of the assessment process to help you determine whether a Request for Reconsideration might warranted and if so negotiate on your behalf.  Contact us to review your situation and determine what steps can be taken to potentially lessen your tax burden.

Future blog posts will look at what information MPAC uses when determining the assessed value for your property.  We’ll also take a look what the future holds given that 2013 will see the first general reassessment in 4 years in the province of Ontario.

Windsor-Essex Real Estate Market Strong to Start 2012

Each month, the Windsor-Essex County Real Estate Board publishes statistics related to market activity. If the first two months are any indication, 2012 might be a strong year for the Windsor-Essex real estate market.

Year-to-date, sales are up 22.46% from 2011. Year-to-date, average sale price was also up 9.91% from 2011. The majority of the sales came from sales under $160,000. Listings however remained relatively flat with accumulative year-to-date listings up 1.33% from 2011 A copy of this report is available via the link at the bottom of this page.

With interest rates still at near historic lows and a relatively flat inventory of homes available, it might be a good time to re-examine the position of your home in this changing environment. Please contact us to discuss these trends further or to have us provide you with an analysis of what your home might be worth.

(Disclaimer: The Windsor-Essex County Real Estate Board does not warrant in any way the information contained herein as to the accuracy or completeness. This is the sole responsibility of those businesses and individuals that have submitted the information contained herein.)