August 12, 2008

Looking to buy? Sell? Blogs can help

Article from today’s Globle and Mail by Rob Carrick

There’s disturbing news for people trying to sell homes in a Canadian real estate market where buyers may be getting the upper hand. A nascent trend in the U.S. market has buyers not only tromping and gawking their way through homes for sale, but also sleeping over or at least hanging out for extended periods to get the feel of the place. One shudders to think of the next concession that sellers will make to buyers. Whatever it is, the place to find out about it is on a growing number of real estate and housing blogs.

Blogs, on the off chance you haven’t heard, are an online platform where people with an interest in a topic post their musings on a regular basis. Financial topics are big in the blogosphere and, as money matters go, there’s nothing bigger for most people than buying and selling a home.

Most housing blogs are written by people in the industry, such as agents or mortgage brokers, which makes sense because real estate matters are not a day-to-day concern for most individuals. One issue that does come up repeatedly is mortgages, which happens to be the subject of one of the most essential blogs in the real estate area.

It’s called Canadian Mortgage Trends and it’s produced by mortgage planners Melanie and Robert McLister. In a clear, to-the-point manner, this site dissects the latest interest rate tends, new developments at banks and other lenders and anything else of relevance.

If you’re trying to make sense of the federal government’s move to eliminate 40-year and zero-down payment mortgages for home buyers requiring federally-backed mortgage insurance, this website is a great resource. A recent posting showed how it may still be possible to buy a house without a down payment even after the new rules take effect Oct. 15.

A good blog generates lots of comments from readers, and Canadian Mortgage Trends excels here. Many readers are mortgage professionals, so their comments may seem somewhat technical. But there’s great material here for people who are willing to do some research to find the right mortgage.

Another blog, Real Estate Intelligence, is focused to a large extent on the Toronto market, but it’s also a place to look for nuggets of information on the broader housing market. In fact, this is where I learned about people sleeping over at homes they were thinking of buying. If you’re thinking of exploiting the plunge in the U.S. market to buy a house in Florida, check out the July 13 posting titled “Take my house – please.”

Real estate blogs covering the market in a particular city are pretty common and you can find them by doing a Google search along the lines of “real estate blog Saskatoon.” No snickering – that’s a hot market they have there.

You’ll find if you do one of these searches that lots of real estate agents and mortgage brokers are using blogs to pull in clients. Most of these blogs can be skipped. If they’re not spreading the message that everything’s A-OK in the housing market, they’re reprinting articles published already in newspapers and on other websites.

One exception is a blog that covers the Vancouver market, which has the honour of being the country’s most expensive. YatterMatters, maintained by real estate agent Larry Yatkowsky, has a candid tone that adds credibility to his take on the local market. Right now, Mr. Yatkowsky sees things slowing down, despite what the real estate industry might say (see his recent posts for more details).

For outright skepticism about the housing market, try the blog written by Liberal MP Garth Turner. Mr. Turner recently wrote a book called Greater Fool, which argues that a real estate mania has affected not only the U.S. market, but parts of Canada as well. As a way of promoting his work, Mr. Turner has set up a Greater Fool blog that catalogues all signs of trouble in the housing market. A good blog is an opinionated one, and Mr. Turner delivers. Check out his July 16 posting for a vintage performance.

If you want to know what happens when a real estate bubble pops, check out The Housing Bubble, a U.S. blog that blends housing factoids and quotes into a commentary on a housing market in crisis. Read closely and you’ll find references to the odd Canadian city here.

Most real estate blogs focus on the buying and selling of homes, and not the many financial issues that are raised when you already own a home. For that kind of commentary, try a good general purpose personal finance blog like Canadian Capitalist, Million Dollar Journey or Quest for Four Pillars. Many of these blogs have subject indexes or archives that you can use to jump right to posts on mortgages or housing.

Comments

We'd love to hear from you!

You must be logged in to post a comment.