There have been a couple of great articles in the Hamilton Spectator the last few days talking about some great things happening in Hamilton!


To begin with there was the story about a project they are calling Barton Rises. A group of young professionals are trying to convince property owners to allow local entrepreneurs to use the abandoned store fronts rent free. Some people call these “pop-up shops”.This initiative also includes garbage clean up, refreshing store fronts, business workshops etc.


There was also the article about starting a Community Land Trust to acquire vacant properties that are surplus city properties or those in tax arrears. These properties could become community gardens, parkland, or maybe a community center. Community Land Trusts are more common in the U.S. but there are a few successful ones in Canada, such as Vancouver and Toronto.


There was another article about a small hair salon on Barton Street East. The owner was celebrating her 10th anniversary in business. In fact the article went on to say her salon has become a hub for the neighbourhood.


Stories like these along with all the other goings on, such as a new brownfield development on Victoria St.N., the new Go Station, the new condo projects underway, new shops and restaurants on James St. N. and now along Cannon St., you can’t help but think our city is on the move.


Downtown Hamilton is not the same as it was 5 short years ago. There seems to be more activity downtown than ever before. All these new business and restaurants are creating jobs as well as increasing the tax base. This is all positive. I encourage everyone to take the time to explore downtown Hamilton for the first time, you may be pleasantly surprised!!

What makes a good neighbourhood?

There’s an old saying that ‘the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. But what makes one community more desirable than another? Often, it’s the visible aspects of the neighbourhood such as pride of ownership in well maintained houses and clean, tree-lined streets. Sometimes it’s the intangibles: a look or feeling you get while driving down a street. When you’re house hunting, it’s important to remember that when you buy a home you’re also buying the neighbourhood.

Your home is probably the single largest investment you’ll ever make. So, it’s wise to buy in an area that is stable and has a good reputation. A community’s reputation is based on many factors, including close proximity to a thriving economic centre. Look for good schools and easy access to public facilities such as libraries, parks and recreation centres. Also consider commute time: how long will it take you to get to work? Remember not to make that decision based on how long it takes to make the drive to view the house, but actually during rush hour. Are you the type of person who doesn’t mind an hour’s drive each way to work? Or do you prefer to take public transit?

Before you purchase a home, it’s a good idea to check with the planning and zoning departments at city hall for proposed developments in the area. If you’re looking for a quiet area away from the hustle and bustle, you’ll want to know if there’s a proposed shopping mall going in at the corner. Or could there be an office tower slated to back up against your backyard?

The resale potential of the neighbourhood is important too. Your Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate sales representative can create a report for you, showing the properties listed and sold in the area, and discuss the potential for appreciation in property values.

Try to get a sense of the community before you move in. Make several trips to the area you’re considering. Visit on different days of the week at different times of the day and night. Do you like what you see? Do you feel comfortable? Talk to residents—they are a wealth of knowledge about the area amenities and the community spirit. Read a few issues of the local newspaper to get up to date on current initiatives and developments. You might even want to visit the local library or community center to get an overview of what’s going on in the area.

You can rely on your Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate sales representative to be a fountain of information too. Then, when it comes time to buy your first house, you’ll choose a community where you’ll feel right at home.

Be my guest…

Like Ann said last week, we have invited some of our Sales Representatives to be guest bloggers. I have asked Paul McDowell to be my first guest blogger this month. Paul is going to give you his take on the local real estate market.

Sales Representative
Paul McDowell Sales Representative

One question I get asked frequently is: ‘How’s the current Real Estate market?’ I think that’s a typical question REALTORS® are asked on a daily basis. Lately, I haven’t been too sure how to even answer that simple question.

The current Real Estate market seems to be in an unusual place right now. Yes, of course the industry is and always will be a rollercoaster for most. Full of constant highs and lows, but something is happening, some type of shift or change in the industry. Even though I haven’t been in the business for a significant length of time, I can still easily notice that the inventory is down in most parts of the region. BUT that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of buyers.

My Open Houses are definitely not short of visitors as they seem to be rolling in at a steady pace. Especially at a recent Open House I had at a 2 year old home on Divinci Boulevard on the West Mountain. I had 16 or 17 sets of people through that Sunday afternoon which really doesn’t surprise me at all. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of buyers- just a shortage of listings. One factor that probably helped attract buyers to that area was the new home site on the same street. Their sales office was open that afternoon and I clearly noticed that many, if not all of the people that came through my open house, also went to the new home sales office. New home sites have been busy as well, in some cases, lining up at the doors.

Typically, this time of year slows down a tad as we get closer to the holiday season. So I am not too concerned at this point. 2013 is forecasted to be a positive year in the Real Estate industry which helps me stay optimistic about the things to come.

So let’s get back to the original question: How’s the current Real Estate market? My answer:  It’s always up and down, but overall- cruising along nicely.

If you would like to contact Paul, either leave a comment below, call him at 905-388-1110 or email him at paul-mcdowell@coldwellbanker.ca



Thinking about Buying a Cottage or Vacation Home?

Buying a cottage or vacation home for you and your family can be one of the best decisions you make, but it could also cause you the most headaches if you don’t give it lots of thought first.

When you are considering buying a cottage, your first decision must be whether you intend to buy this only for your personal use, or if you intend to possibly use it as an investment, renting it out when you and your family are not using it. This initial decision will help you decide where you want to buy. If you intend to rent it, you will want one near popular areas, with close proximity to amenities. If you intend it for your sole use, you are free to locate exactly where you want to be, even if that if the middle of nowhere.
Also, when buying for your own use, consider your lifestyle, will you be having lots of visitors? Will you entertain frequently? Do you have certain activities you want to be close to? These are just a few of the things to consider before you jump into buying.

When you start to look at properties, don’t get carried away by all that is available. Make sure you set a budget, and stick to it. Just because you have the down payment doesn’t mean you want to pay the mortgage costs. You want to enjoy this vacation property, not worry about what it’s costing you. You might even consider a family property. Maybe you have brothers/sisters or friends who would like to pool resources and buy a vacation home. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that the amenities you are looking for will change if you are all at the cottage at the same time.

Another consideration is where do you want to buy. Consider how far and how long you want to travel to reach your property. Consider how long you will be staying at your property, and is it worth the time to get there if it’s just for weekends.

When you have decided where you want to locate, decide if you are looking for a house or if a condo would better meet your needs. If you are looking to get away from it all and have no maintenance to worry about, a condo might be your best choice. If you are buying this property for investment purposes, be sure if you chose a condo that you are permitted to rent the unit. (you should check the rules for any other restrictions that might affect your enjoyment or that of your tenants).

Before you buy, be sure you are buying a vacation property for the right reasons. Don’t buy on impulse. Just because you are enjoying a vacation at someone else’s cottage does not mean it is the right decision for you. Think it through carefully. This could be a large investment, and the real estate market can be fickle, especially with vacation homes. The market is not the same year round, or even year to year.

When you decide a vacation home is the right purchase for you, talk to your banker, and your real estate professional. Get some good advice on what is available, and also on how to finance your purchase to your best advantage.

If you have any experiences you would like to share, please add your comments below!


Over the years many people have asked me if owning an income property was a good investment. My response, “Of course it is a good investment, provided the buyer does there due diligence and they are the right person for the job.”

Let me explain what I mean. There are many different types of investment properties, from single family homes to multiple units or even a mixed use situation (commercial and residential combined in one building.) Some investors prefer the single family home like a townhouse condominium because the exterior maintenance of the property such as landscaping and snow removal is taken care of by the condominium corporation. Plus they have only one tenant to deal with.

First time home buyers often consider purchasing a two family home because the income from the second unit will help supplement the mortgage payment.

Other investors may prefer a multi-residential building with several units. These are usually more involved as you have several tenants to deal with, all with their different issues. These investors may hire a property management firm to look after the tenants and maintenance issues but remember, this expense reduces the amount of return on your investment.

Some investors think they can just purchase any property and turn it into an income property. This is not the case. Investors should always be aware of all municipal zoning and by-laws affecting income properties such as how many units are allowed in a building, required amount of parking available for tenants, fire retro-fit requirements, and this list goes on. It is not just a matter of adding extra kitchens and bathrooms to increase the number of rental units.

Another consideration for real estate investors is the financing requirements. The amount of down payment varies depending on the property and whether it is owner occupied. I always recommend the investor should work closely with a good mortgage broker who specializes in financing for investment properties.

To sum it all up, investing in residential income properties can be very financially rewarding over the long haul, but you need to do your homework and have a good understanding of the requirements and level of commitment required to be a landlord. Most of all, be sure to use the services of a professional REALTOR® who has experience in in selling income properties.