She's seen the worst of times. She's seen the best of times.
And as Marilyn Jones prepares to take the helm of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB), she's confident the year ahead looks pretty darn good - even if sales won't hit the frenetic pace of records set in recent years.
Press for details on what's apt to happen in the Calgary real estate market over the next year, however, and you'll get little more than a smile. Those details, says the incoming CREB president, are the reason close to 800 local realtors will pack a hotel ballroom on Jan. 19 at the Coast Plaza Hotel in northeast Calgary for CREB's Forecast Breakfast 2005. It's an event she's looking forward to and she won't spoil it by leaking forecast details.
This year's breakfast has been expanded to an entire day of events. In addition to a real estate forecast based on CREB data, the morning includes an address by David Bond, an economist known for his informative - and provocative - opinions on the Canadian economy.
|Mike Sturk, Business Edge|
|Incoming Calgary Real Estate Board president Marilyn Jones has been in the business for 30 years, weathering the ups and downs of an often-volatile industry.|
This year's forecast breakfast capitalizes on the enthusiasm of past breakfasts, but also features a trade show, a luncheon panel discussion with five of the industry's top realtors and a motivational speaker. Held for more than 30 years, the breakfast "has always been an event that realtors look forward to," says realtor Ed Jensen, event chair. It's too early to say if CREB will stick with the new format, but Jensen predicts this year's attendees will enjoy the expanded version of the annual event.
Marilyn Jones assumes the lead position with CREB in the same year that she begins her 30th year in the real estate business. Looking back on a career she began as a secretary, Jones admits she's seen the industry through some of its darkest - and brightest - times.
Today, CREB's membership rolls list some 4,500 licensed realtors. There is some debate over whether that's too many, but it's a debate Jones won't enter. She remembers the late 1970s and early 1980s, when CREB rolls included about 5,000 realtors. Things changed when the National Energy Plan decimated the local economy. But then, as now, the number of realtors signalled market strength, says Jones, a realtor with Century 21 Bamber Realty Ltd., head- quartered on 17 Avenue S.W.
She agrees a small percentage of realtors probably do the vast majority of their business in Calgary and credits success in the business to two things. First, "I think they work hard . . . You can't sit at your desk and wait for the business to come to you.”
And second, "if you do a good job, your name gets passed on."
Speaking in general terms, Jones expects 2005 to be similar to 2004. "I think, overall, Canada is strong and Calgary, certainly, is strong," she says.
With low interest rates and a positive employment picture, Jones says, the market is attracting more investors, too. Although appreciation is not hitting the double digits of past highs, it remains positive. "Even the median price has gone up $10,000 since last year."
Jensen agrees. "All the economic indicators that I see for the Calgary market are very strong," he says.
Their comments mirror a Royal LePage market survey forecast for 2005. Released in late December, it predicts Alberta will experience the highest unit sales increase in Canada, with Calgary leading housing market activity. That report forecasts the average property price in Calgary to rise by 6.2 per cent in 2005 to $239,000. (The average price for December was about $230,400.)
Issues To Watch
Technology and issues related to privacy top the list of issues the Calgary real estate market will deal with in 2005, adds Jones. Internet access to photographs of homes on the market is a good thing, but the extra exposure has a dark side because "you don't know who is looking."
Privacy legislation has already changed some aspects of service. Realtors are no longer able, for example, to call utility companies and ask that utilities be connected on their client's behalf, says Jones.
Issues related to the disclosure of a home's history as a marijuana grow-op are also linked to privacy. "That's a big issue and certainly the real estate industry is doing everything they can to co-operate with the city and the police," says Jones.
By the end of 2004, some 2,300 Calgary realtors had taken a grow-operation identification course sponsored by CREB. The organization also sponsored a pamphlet distributed with Enmax bills, and is part of a city-led group working on a new bylaw that could require people selling a home to tell potential buyers if the property ever housed a marijuana grow-op.
Issues like these, combined with an overall increase in client expectations regarding residential real estate services, indicate the industry's willingness to tackle the tough issues of the day while paying close attention to emerging issues, too, says Jones.
(Joy Gregory can be reached at email@example.com)