Monday, December 13, 2010

Montreal Police Issue Warrant for Alleged Mortgage Fraudster

Stephane Giroux of CTV News has an excellent report tonight about a man suspected of obtaining mortgages for at least five Montreal properties he didn't own.
One Westmount homeowner was tipped off to the scam when a bank evaluator showed up at her door to do a evaluation for the person seeking the mortgage.
An eagle-eyed clerk at Westmount city hall also noticed that welcome tax bills were being sent to the same individual for several residential properties within a few blocks of each other.
Mortgage fraud reached epidemic levels in Ontario during the hot real estate market of the early 2000s. It seemed that scammers were able to easily obtain identification documents that allowed them to obtain false mortgages on properties and then either disappear with the cash, or, in the case of the truly bold and brazen, resell the property and disappear with the cash.
This kind of scam has never been a huge problem in Quebec, which is why this story is so noteworthy. Here, unlike Ontario or the rest of Canada, notaries play a key role in assuring an orderly and meticulously researched and documented property transfer.
Notaries have an obligation to read all the ownership documents attached to a property, sometimes going back a hundred years or more to ensure that the vendor has the legal right to sell. They verify that there are no mortgages or other liens on the property when it passes from vendor to buyer.  They meet with both parties, and though it usually seems rote and a little insulting, they ask to see two pieces of ID from each party, to be sure the buyer is who he says he is and the vendor is who he says he is.
In this case, the scamster appears to have bypassed the notary and gone to a lawyer. The police investigation will reveal whether the lawyer preformed his or her job dilligently.
The good news is that the homeowners did not lose their properties and are not out of pocket. Looks like the banks who left the fake mortgages might not have been so lucky. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Montreal Rental Market Stable

 Good news for rental property owners from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. today.
CMHC reports that on-island rental market remains stable with an overall vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent. That compares to 2.6 per cent a year ago.
Economic and demographic factors helped propel more people into home ownership over the  course of the year but that didn't mean a loosening of the rental market. A relatively healthy job-creation picture for workers in the 15-24 age bracket meant more new households were formed in the Montreal area this year. That trend smacked up against a slowdown in  rental construction. There were only 2,721 rental starts (foundations poured) in 2010. That compared to 3,672 last year.
According to Bertrand Recher, the CMHC economist who wrote the report, the rental market was tightest in central Montreal neighborhoods like the Plateau, Rosemont, Villeray, Verdun and central Ville Marie. In those areas, the real vacancy rate was closer to 2 per cent.
The vacancy rate is lowest in apartments with three or more bedrooms, 2.1 per cent.  The rate for apartments with 2 bedrooms is 2.3 per cent. For bachelor apartments and one-bedrooms, the vacancy rate is 3.8 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.
CMHC promises to send out a zone-by-zone breakdown of vacancy rates and average rents later in the day.

Verdun Loosening the Rules on Alcohol Sales

Fantastic news out of the latest Verdun borough council meeting. Mayor Claude Trudel is talking about loosening zoning rules with an eye to making it possible to open watering holes on the Wellington St., Verdun's main commercial drag.
 This is a very big deal. For years, Verdun and St. Lambert shared the distinction of being Quebec's only officially dry towns. Despite a steady influx of good, even great, eateries, there isn't a single bar, tavern, brasserie, night club or cabaret in Verdun. For decades, mayors used temperance laws to keep them out. Things got a little easier in 1996, when the rules were loosened to allow establishments to serve strong drink if a patron also ordered food.
Mayor Trudel thinks Verdun needs to get with the times. La Presse quotes him as saying that a microbrewery would be a  welcome addition to Wellington St. The borough is experiencing a big influx of young first-time home buyers, entrepreneurs and immigrants looking for neighborhood amenities that reflect their lifestyles.
"A microbrewery is modern and it responds to a demand," Trudel said. "Beer brewed on the premises served with food. The atmosphere is modern and young. To me, that corresponds with what the clientele of Wellington St. is becoming."
Amen, Mayor Trudel!
None of this will happen overnight, of course. The borough is in the process of revising its urban master plan and will consult the citizenry before making any changes. That will be sent to city hall for approval in the new year.It has already been given an enthusiastic thumbs up by the head of the local merchants' association.
Other big changes may be coming to Wellington St. The borough is also looking at turning at least part of the shopping drag into a pedestrian mall or one-way street with an integrated bike path.
I'm not sure how either of those plans will fly locally, but I have to give the mayor props for being willing to think outside the box.
Stay tuned.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Londono Hearing Under Publication Ban

We're going to have to wait to find out the details of celebrity real estate broker Tatiana Londono's disciplinary hearing before the OACIQ. The regulatory agency has imposed a publication ban on the proceedings. I guess they are sticking to the ol' "innocent 'til proven guilty" thang.
There's the latest from The Gazette's Open House blog.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Were They Thinking?

File this one under "Fronds in all the right places".  The MLS listing for an upscale condo in Old Montreal has13 photos, 5 of which feature the greenery pictured at left. Yup, that's the main listing photo.

There's also stunning a shot of the open, minimally stocked fridge, the open cutlery drawer and of the bathrobes hanging on the bathroom door.

Is it me, or this not enough salient detail to help me decide whether to visit or not?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Londono Faces Disciplinary Hearing.

This post on The Gazette's new real estate blog has been getting a lot of attention, with readers leaving some vicious comments.  We'll see what comes of it. No one ever wants to find herself in front of the OACIQ's disciplinary committee.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Little House in Little Portugal

4255 Hôtel-de-Ville. Asking price $439,000

I've just hammered the sign in front of this sweet little cottage on Hôtel-de-Ville Ave. north of Rachel St in the heart of Little Portugal.

There's so much to like about life in this part of the Plateau. Location, for one.The bright lights of St. Laurent are four blocks west. The brighter, possibly more elegant lights of St. Denis are four blocks east. Duluth St. with its BYOB restos is a block south and Mont Royal Ave in all its hemp-covered, tam-tam jamming glory, is two blocks north.

You can stand at the corner of HdeV and Rachel and gaze upon the mountain. It's prime dog-walking, bike-riding, cross-country skiing and jogging territory. Skating on the serpentine lake at Parc Lafontaine is another option in winter.

All this, and more can be yours for the price of $439,000. What does that get you? It gets you a house lovingly renovated from roof-top to foundation. The current owner bought a wreck in 2006 and spent the next few years making things right.

People go nuts for decor, but let me tell you, there's nothing more exciting than a Plateau house with a waterproof membrane and functioning  French drain. I kid you not. He also did the roof and installed  energy-efficient windows and doors.  He had the place energy audited after the renos were complete and got a clean bill of health. This house is as energy efficient as a new Novoclimat certified home. Not too shabby, considering it was built in 1885.

This is a two-bedroom house with a bright living room, as well as a roomy and functional kitchen with new Shaker style cabinets. There's bedroom or office off the kitchen, plus a powder room with washer/dryer hook-up. Access to the large fenced yard is through the kitchen.

The upstairs is essentially loft style, with the large master bedroom at the front and a second open room that could be closed to create another bedroom. There's a balcony off the back. The upstairs bathroom is large and fully renovated.

The seller installed new plumbing and wiring. He's a sound engineer who used the downstairs for recording and basically lived upstairs. He insulated and soundproofed the building to a fare-theee-well so that the neighbors would never be bothered by the strains of late-night thrash metal.
In all, there's 1,050 square feet of living space. It would be the perfect size for a couple or single person working at home.  Do you know anyone looking for a Plateau pied à terre? Have them give me a call.

This one won't last long. Here's the listing.

Living room

Master bedroom

Saturday, November 13, 2010

And It's Name Shall Be Mile Ex, Because Philtrum is Already Taken

Photo of Le Pick Up, shamelessly stolen from La Presse.
The space between the nose and the lip is called a philtrum. The space between Mile End and Park Ex is called Mile Ex, according to La Presse.
Wasn't so long ago that we didn't call it anything. It was a no-man's land of not quite Mile End and not quite Park Extension.
That was before people began buying up the working-class duplexes and triplexes tucked among the area's factories and warehouses. Now it is a happening part of the city with lots of artists, architects and young families setting down roots in the 'hood. Those cheap lofts and industrial spaces afford the luxury of space, if you're looking for a place to live and work.
It makes perfect sense. The location is quite central - not far from Jean Talon market, the bright lights of Park Ave. and the de Castelnau metro station not to mention the 80 bus rocketing  straight downtown. There are neighborhood playgrounds, easy access to Jarry Park and very little through traffic.

One of the buzziest of Montreal's little neighborhood eateries in located smack-dab in the heart of Mile Ex. Check out Depanneur Le Pick-Up next time you're looking for a quick and quality nosh. It's an art space/dep and neighborhood joint where meatpackers (that's not a euphemism) and scenesters rub elbows over fair-trade coffee an big ol' sangwiches.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just Listed - Mile End Condo. Charm + Space + Location

 Are you looking for a condo that exemplifies everything people love about charming, funky Mile End? Look no further. This gorgeous two-bedroom corner unit has more than 1,100-square feet of living space, a large private deck, basement storage and shared use of the back yard. Asking price is $385,000.

It's the ground floor of a red brick triplex located on Clark just south of Laurier Ave. There's a bike path outside the front door, a Bixi bike stand on the corner as well as all the shops, restos and services your heart could ever desire.

Inside, you'll find all the charm typical of a 1910 building: high ceilings, elaborate wedding-cake plasterwork, cast-iron radiators, vintage suspended light fiixtures,  high wooden kitchen cabinetry and beautifully weathered wood floors.

Charm will take you so far in life. This condo has benefitted from quality upgrades, including all new plumbing and electrical (2004), new argon-gas filled windows and the installation of a high-efficiency Veissman gas furnace that keep those radiators toasty warm in winter.

Unlike many of the apartments offered in Mile End, this is a divided condo, meaning that the down payment required is a minimum five per cent, not 20 per cent.

There's lots more to love about this place. It currently has one closed bedroom but also has two double rooms, one of which could easily be converted into two more bedrooms.  Or you can enjoy the open, airy layout as is.

The recently renovated bathroom has an exposed brick wall, white subway tile accented by a strip of red and brown floral tile in the tub and dark brown wooden cabinets. Very zen!

The kitchen has a door leading to the private deck and shared yard where a sour cherry tree produces huge quantities of ruby red fruit each summer.

Living room

Dining Room
Would you like to know more? Drop by our open house at 5048 Clark, Sunday, November 14, 2010 between 2- 4 p.m.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'm only Telling the Truth.

I've been invited to be part of a regular Gazette panel of experts answering reader questions pertaining to real estate.
The first question was not a softball lobbed gently over the plate but more of breaking fastball. I hit it squarely, but something tells me the answer won't win me many fans. Oy.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

1,600 Housing Units Slated for the Foot of Guy St. on the Lachine Canal

 Two of Montreal's better known residential developers have got the nod to build as many as 1,600 housing units on the Lachine Canal in the Sud-Ouest borough.
Canada Lands Co., a federal agency that sells off unneeded government land, has tapped Prével and Conceptions Rachel-Julien to be part of the redevelopment of the area called Les Bassins du Nouveau Havre.
They will build in area between William St. and the canal just west of the foot of Guy St.
The press release issued yesterday doesn't give too many details, but specifies that the first phase of construction will start late next year and will involve "various residential lots".  That implies smalleer projects, rather a mega-development of the kind Devimco is proposing a little further east.
What caught my eye about this project, for which no drawings or plans have yet been made public, is the fact that Prével and Rachel-Julien have committed to incorporating 400 units of social and community housing. They will work with Batir son Quartier, which coordinates the construction of housing cooperatives. They will also partner with RESO, Regroupement économique et social du Sud-Ouest, a community organization that looks out for the socio-economic interests of the people of southwest Montreal.
But then, Prével, at least has a track record for this kind of development. When it purchased the old Imperial Tobacco plant on St. Antoine St. several years ago, it committed to making social and community housing part of the project, as well.
The redevelopment of the industrial land around the canal is big project. You can read up on it and see computer models of the site's master plan by visiting this web site. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Agreement with the Competition Bureau Ratified by CREA

Members of the Canadian Real Estate Association have aceepted the agreement negotiated by CREA and the federal Competition Bureau with regards to access to the Multiple Listing Service.
I haven't seen the whole agreement yet but the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board has just issued a press release highlighting what it considers the main points.

As the GMREB has already indicated, this agreement will not have a significant impact on the way that real estate brokerage is practiced in Québec, for the following reasons: 
·         It does not give the public direct access to the MLS ® system or to the and websites; the MLS ® system remains a service that is reserved for members of a real estate board;
·         It does not require real estate brokerage agencies to change their business models;
·         It  does not change the fact that the listing broker is responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in a real estate listing and in the MLS ® system ; your obligation to comply with the Québec Real Estate Brokerage Act remains unchanged;
·         It does not preclude the Boards or CREA from having rules for the efficient operation of an MLS ® system, provided that these rules are not contrary to the agreement;
·         It does not impact compensation.
The fundamental point is that CREA and real estate boards/associations cannot prevent or discriminate against "mere postings" or against real estate broker members who offer mere postings. 
The GMREB has never restricted this type of business model and has never discriminated against others in this regard. We can assure you, however, that the GMREB will continue to make every effort to ensure the accuracy of information published in the MLS ® system so that consumers are well served and the professional image of real estate brokers is enhanced. The quality of the information found in the MLS ® system is what sets us apart from "for sale by owner" websites. 
Finally, the agreement stipulates that seller contact information is limited to the member-to-member portion of an MLS ® system and recognizes seller contact information will not be published on and 
As a real estate broker, you are still responsible for providing advice to your clients, and you still have the obligation to share compensation with the selling broker as well as inform sellers that they need to pay compensation to selling brokers. 
This agreement reached with the Competition Bureau concludes the litigation between CREA and the Competition Bureau, and ensures that the Bureau waives further legal action against CREA for "anti-competitive practices". The agreement will be in force for 10 years.

Here's what jumps out at me. The GMREB is making a point about the role and responsibility of agents in the real estate transaction. It looks like vendors will be able to post their properties on MLS, but they will still have to go through an agent to do it.
Some agents may choose to offer this service at a discounted rate but A) they still won't be paid until after the deal is concluded. No cash up front. B) Agents will still be responsible for the accuracy of the information on the MLS listing. Agents will still have to provide accurate tax and evaluation information, cadastral numbers and other pertinent listing details.
 In conclusion, the board reminds its agents that they/we are bound by the terms of the Brokerage Act, Quebec legislation ratified by the National Assembly. The act says that agents have an obligation to honestly and faithfully represent the interests of their clients. That obligation means that I can't just list your property and then leave the rest to you, the client. I can't waive my responsibility to you, even if all I've agreed to do is let you list your house under my name.


I'm not feeling the love. Here's a pithy comment from some disgruntled - is there any other kind? - Internet commentator on the Globe and Mail's site.

Realturds have replaced lawyers as the least respected vocation, for very good reasons. The sooner this group of clowns go the way of the dodo bird, the better.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fair's Fair, Except When It Ain't

The Financial Post had a recent story speculating on what kind of deal the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Real Estate Association have worked out regarding access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Not much, according the lawyer type guy who led the charge to force CREA to open access to the MLS to consumers.
Again, I have no idea. CREA's membership, in the form of the big brokerage firms, will vote on October 24, during a regularly scheduled meeting in St. John's, Nfld.. I'll wait until the dust settles before commenting further on that.
Here's what caught my eye in the Financial Post story. Look who's making a fuss about the danger of opening the MLS up to civilians.

The other major ramification of the agreement could be a gradually squeezing of for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) sites, which could find themselves competing more and more as discount models on the MLS. That was one of the fears of National FSBO Network, whose vice-president of operations, Stephen Skelly, had argued in a letter to the Competition Tribunal that if agents list property on the MLS for a one-time fee and provide no additional service, his members would not be able to compete.

So, the guys who offer bare-bones, some might say nonexistent support to homeowners who want to sell their properties themselves,  are now worried that opening the MLS to homeowners could put them out of business. My heart bleeds. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Settlement Between the Competition Bureau and CREA is at Hand

It looks like the Canadian Real Estate Association and the Competition Bureau have reached a settlement that will make it possible for vendors to choose from an à la carte menu of services - and pay by the service - when they hire an agent.
That's what the newspapers say, anyway. If any of you hear news, send it my way. We agents seem to be last in the loop, informationwise.
Who knows, maybe CREA, which represents the country's 100,000 agents through their local boards, will open up the MLS system so that anybody can list a property for sale. I don't see it happening, though. People ought to be able to sell their own homes, but I fail to see why they should be allowed to list them on the MLS for a trifling fee. Agents pay dearly for the MLS through annual membership fees to their local boards, monthly fees to their brokers, monthly fees to Centris, the local MLS portal and through our quite expensive errors and omissions insurance. Let's not forget the money we pay for membership in the Organisme d'autoréglementation  du courtage immobilier du Québec (and was there ever a less catchy name for a professional governing body?).
You want to advertise your house on the MLS? OK, how about you pay the same fees I do?
As one astute observer pointed out in a comment to one of the news sites (CBC, maybe?), imagine if the Competition Bureau ruled that car owners had a right to fix their own cars and then, as an extension of that rulling, ordered mechanics to let car owners use their garages, winches, lifts and tools to fix their own cars. Would anyone think that reasonable?
I. Don't. Think. So.
One thing that tends to get lost in this debate is the fact that no agent gets paid until after a property is sold. That's the law here in Quebec. The Brokerage Act, the provincial law that governs the practice of real estate sales in la belle province explicitly forbids it. 
As the law stands, an agent can't take money up front for services to be provided, so I don't see how agents will be permitted to accept payment for listing a property on the MLS.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Habitat for Humanity Montreal Unveils First "Green" Home

Front view of 5096-5098 Ste. Clotilde/ 
UPDATE   I forgot to mention that this is the ninth home Habitat Montreal has built since the chapter was formed in 1998. All the houses have been built in either Hochelaga-Maisonneuve or the Sud-Ouest borough (St. Henri, Point St. Charles and Ville Émard-Côte St. Paul). The new homeowners, include a mom, a dad and two kids, ages 8 and 5. They've lived in a small apartment in St. Henri for 8 years.

Habitat for Humanity is putting the finishing touches on its latest Montreal venture, a St. Henri duplex featuring two three-bedroom units. The address is 5096-5098 Ste. Clotilde St.
The build is a milestone for the local Habitat chapter because the property was built according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.
To celebrate, H4H will be hosting a community party in Gadbois Park on Saturday, Sept. 25th,  between noon and 3 p.m. There will be food and drink, games for the kids, a DJ and special musical guests. (I'm not allowed to say who, but trust me, if you like good music, you won't be disappointed.)
Visitors will also have a chance to tour the new building and get an idea of what makes it "green". You might be surprised by how doable many of the elements are.
The team behind the St. Henri project is hoping to win LEED Silver certification, meaning they hope to collect at least 60 points out of a possible 136 on an environmental scorecard. They won't know the score until the building undergoes a third-party audit once the house has been up and running for a few months.
Rob Miners, an architect and co-founder of the architecture firm Studio MMA, was the brains behind the design. Instead of fighting nature, he worked with what he had.
The day rooms and kids bedrooms are located at the back of the building to make the most of natural light from the south and southeast. Big old trees in the back lane will help shade and cool the building in summer. In winter, their leafless branches will let the sun in, providing passive solar heat.
The building has high-efficiency windows and doors that will reduce heat loss by 12 per cent. The building was built according to Novoclimat standards, which means that superior insulation will reduce energy consumption by 25 to 30 per cent.
Low-flow toilets will use 4.9 litres of water per flush, compared to the 10 to 14 litres a standard toilet uses. Water-saving showerheads will use 6.6 litres per minute, versus 14.

Rear view of 5096-5098 Ste. Clotilde. 
 The membrane roof has a reflective coating that will bounce sunlight in an effort to reduce the so-called "heat island effect" found in urban areas with a lot of black tar roofs and asphalt paving. There are other cool elements. Why not drop by and check them out for yourself?
Architect Rob Miners said his goal was to show that it is possible to build green while also building affordably. His is the firm behind Montreal's innovative Mountain Equipment Co-op store in Marché Central as well as Abondance Montréal, a "green" condo project in Verdun.
All this to say that the official unveling will be a proud day in local H4H history. We'll all be very happy to hand over the keys to the Aabid-Ezzerouali family. They've put a ton of sweat equity into helping to build their new home. They are over moon about their H4H experience and with the knowledge that they will soon be the owners of a decent, well built house that they could never have dreamed of buying without Habitat's help.
So, come on down to the party and have a hot dog with me and the rest of the Habitat crew. The organization is always looking for volunteers. You don't even have to know how to use a hammer. Trust me. I've never lifted a hammer for Habitat, though I have laid down a coat of paint or two.

Habitat for Humanity Family Day in Gadbois Park
5845 Chemin de la Côte St. Paul
Buses 36 and 37.
Saturday, September 25,
Noon to 3 p.m.
Rain or Shine.
(If it rains, we're heading into the community centre.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What Were They Thinking? #7 in a Series

Main photo for the listing of a $500,000 Montreal  house. I guess a half-milly doesn't buy what it used to.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Le Seville, Standing Room Only

Artist's rendering of Le Seville. Courtesy of Prével.
You could be forgiven for thinking there was a hot double-feature at the  former Seville Theatre on Friday.
A couple of dozen people were queued up outside the old repertory palace as though they were waiting for the midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show on Hallow'een.
(There I go dating myself again.)
Turns out those lined up were getting a night-before jump on the official opening of the sales office of Le Seville, a condo project that will rise on the site.
CBC Radio reported that Montreal police put a stop to the overnight line-up by asking developer Prèvel to hand out numbered tickets so that people could come back on Saturday and still have a guaranteed spot in line.
 Prèvel began inviting people last year to get advance word on the project by signing up on its web site.
More than a thousand of them did and that gave Prèvel a chance to ask questions of the potential buyers and fine tune the project. The initial 99 units will be priced between $144,000 and $350,000 and aimed at young singles or couples. This is in the area that city is trying to rebrand as Cité Concordia. Right now, it's skid row, a neighborhood that had its heart broken with first the closing of the Seville in 1986 and then with the shuttering of the beloved Forum. Rubbies and papered-over windows line the three blocks between Closse St. and  Fort. St. Le Seville will be built smack dab in the middle, at the corner Chomedey.
Locals are delighted by the project, which is expected to be built in three phases over three years. A second building with 120 units is on tap, followed by a third featuring 230 more.
These won't be huge condos, ranging in size from a microscopic 450 square feet to a comfortable 950. Prèvel has gone down this road before. It's Lowney and Imperial loft projects both feature small open-concept units with barely enough room to swing a cat (Meeow!) To make up for it, the buildings feature roof-top "lounges" with panoramic views, barbecues, pool tables, pools and the like, so that owners can socialize in style.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just Listed - Verdun Duplex

Amy Barratt and I have just listed this solidly built duplex at 1146-1148 Egan St. in Verdun.
The property was built in 1945 and features two two-bedroom units accessible by a common front door. The unfinished basement has a six-foot ceiling and part of it could be made into a family room with laundry.
Both units have front and back balconies, newer windows.
There is a back yard and parking space off a city-maintained lane.
The property has been inhabited by the same family for 50 years or so. It requires substantial renovation.
At $269,000, the price can't be beat.
There is a cute children's playground with jungle gym and sprinkler pad on the block. Buses 37, 108 and 350 are all about a block away at the corner of Woodland and Banantyne.
We're having an open house on Sunday, August 29, 2-4 p.m.
You can check out the complete MLS listing at Punch in MLS #8401901

Remembering the Veterans in Veteran's Cottage

I've been following my friend Connie's massive overhaul of her little one-and-a-half storey veteran's cottage in East York through the miracle of Facebook. She's been pretty good about posting photos - including more than a few of her buff and often shirtless contractors! - as the work progresses.
Yesterday she put up photos of specially designed stained glass windows she is adding to the home.

Pretty, right?

Here's her explanation for the design of the stained glass:
The houses in this neighborhood were built for returning veterans of the Second Word War. The poppy is a symbol for soldiers who have died in the line of duty. The window, and 2 others just like it, are a tribute to the original owners of the house.

Connie's parents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands, a country that was liberated by Canadian soldiers in World War II.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Verdun Eco Condos Plaguued By Delays

Phase I is completed, Phase II, hoarding and a patch of dirt.
  Gazette real estate reporter Alison Lampert has dug into the story of Eco Cité' Development's award-winning but oft-delayed Abondance Montréal eco condos in Verdun.
I blogged about the development after taking a tour of Phase I of the project this summer.  The three-unit building, dubbed Le Soleil, has innovative features like solar panels, geothermal heating and gray-water recuperation systems.
For now, there are few signs of life  on the site of Phase II,  right next door on La Salle Blvd. The day that I toured Le Soleil, EcoCité's principal, Christopher Sweetnam-Holmes said the second phase of the project, La Terre, would be ready in January, 2011.
Lampert delves into some of the delays here. She also has a sidebar outlining financial difficulties that  scuppered Eco Cité projects on the Plateau and in Ottawa and may have cost buyers some of their deposits.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Verdun Restaurants Rated by Local Foodies, the online Bible for obsessive foodies, has been hosting an ongoing discussion about great places to eat in Verdun. The conversation started in 2006 but people continue to weigh in. Restaurants come and go - Naked Lunch, how I miss you! - but the momentum is definitely towards a broader range of gastronomical choices.
It is still easier to find a big, cheap breakfast, cut-rate pizza or hot dog steamé than it is genuinely gourmet fare, but times they are a-changing  in blue-collar Verdun. Tea shops and cheese mongers are creeping into the 'hood.
Take, for example, Hecho en Mexico (photo), a fantastic eatery on Wellington St. near 4th Ave. HdeM occupies premises once inhabited by the late, lamented Naked Lunch and showcases traditional Mexican eats prepared with market fresh ingredients.
MAS, is a cozy little boite specializing in bistro fare. Chef/co-owner Michel Ross used to be one of principals at Brunoise, a Plateau eatery known for its great food and affordable wine list.
I recently tried to dine at Su, a Turkish resto run by a gifted female chef, but it was closed for the construction hols.
Catch up on what you've been missing by reading the post.
Here's a map pinpointing some of those restos.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Never Know What You'll See on a Property Visit

The New York Times asked readers to send in their best open-house anecdotes, the oddest and most hilarious of which can be found here.
It's true, you never know what you'll find when you step through the doors of a building for sale.
Earlier this year, I was working with a client who was in the market for a bargain-priced fixer upper in southwest Montreal.  Our search took us to some pretty odd places.
The very first place we saw together was a duplex, where the top floor was vacant and the bottom floor was rented. It smelled a bit like cats as I fiddled with the key in the front door lock. That was nothing compared to the smell that hit us like a freight train once the door swung open.
The apartment was completely empty, except for a thick spackle of cat poop that seemed to cover the floor from front to back. All the windows were closed.
Another buyer would have taken a sniff and fled. To her credit, my client examined the whole place, taking photos in each room before deciding the litter box stench was a deal breaker.
That same buyer and I visited another duplex where we started upstairs, where the tenant had to lock his two pitbulls in the bathroom so that we could get in the door. The bedroom had no ceiling. That was odd. Odder still was the downstairs unit, where a guy with a hoodie obscuring his face let us in and then slouched back to the darkened living room. A thick cloud of hashish smoke enveloped the room and his roomamate, flopped on the sofa with his mouth agape, was so stoned he didn't even know we were there.
"Are those bullet holes in the ceiling?" I asked my client.
Our third odd visit togeher was yet another duplex, where the downstairs apartment had been divided into a rooming-house. There were cheap plywood doors everywhere, with multiple pairs of plastic flip-flops outside each room.  The listing agent had warned us to knock before entering any of the rooms becuase there might be people sleeping.
"How many people live here?" I asked.
She wasn't sure, 15 maybe 18.
We spent as little time as possible in the house. Just long enough to decide it wasn't what she had in mind.
We were careful not to slam the door as we beat a hasty retreat.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What You Should Know About Getting a Mortgage

Making an offer to purchase a home includes successfully negotiating three key points: price, inspection and financing.
Financing can be the trickiest of the three and the one element over which the buyer has little control. Buyers wait for banks. Banks seldom hurry for buyers.
I recently had a client purchasing his first condo. He had a 20 per cent down payment. The inspection went quite well. The deal nearly fell apart as his bank dithered over whether or not to give him a mortgage.
As it turns out, the mortgage department was hung up on his credit report, which showed that he owed $700 to a cell phone company.  Their attitude was "Why should we take a chance on a guy who doesn't pay his bills?"
My buyer had paid his phone bill and had the monthly statements to prove it. As it turns out, he was the victim of identity theft. Someone used his name to take out a phone contract, ran up $700 in long-distance charges in one month and then disappeared.
It took some fast talking to persuade the bank that he wasn't a deadbeat. They wanted all kinds of  paperwork proving it, paperwork that would have taken him weeks, if not months, to sort out. He didn't have that much time. In most cases, buyers have 10 to 15 days to get their financing approved. If the time runs out before the bank given its approval, the vendor can back out of the deal. My guy had 15 days to get his mortgage approved. We were now 18 days into the process, with no answer in sight.
In this case, the vendors gave him a little extra time and he persuaded the bank that the phone bill was not his.
It was a needlessly nerve-wracking mess.
Here's the point. It's a good idea to have a look at your credit report periodically, just to make sure that everything is in order. You can correct errors that might be dragging your credit score down. It's always better to do this before you are in the process of seeking credit.
The higher your credit score, the better mortgage rate you'll be offered. 
Industry Canada walks you through the ins and outs of obtaining a copy of your credit report here
If you are buying a property and need a mortgage there are a few standard documents that any mortgage lender will want to examine. It's your job to collect and deliver them, electronically, by fax or in person, in a timely fashion.
Here's what your bank will ask to see:
*A letter of employment from your Human Resources department, stating how long you've worked for your employer.
*A recent pay slip.
*If you are self-employed, the bank will instead ask to see your Notice of Assessment from the federal government for the previous income-reporting year. Sometimes the bank will ask to see the last two NOAs.
*The last three monthly bank statements.
*A list of your assets, including investments.
*A copy of the property listing.

With these documents in hand, the bank will then determine your credit worthiness.  It all boils down to a few basic questions.

*How much of your gross income is used to service your debt each month?
*How much do you have for a down payment? How long has that money been in your account?
*How stable is your employment?
*How good are you at paying your bills on time?

All lenders have their own criteria for evaluating the information. You don't necessarily have to be perfect. Sometimes meeting three of the four criteria is good enough. Depends on the bank. Depends on the circumstances. It is not a bad idea to think about cleaning up your credit before you decide to start house hunting.
If you can't do that, why not consider working with a mortgage broker.  Brokers know the quirks of all the banks and they know how to push a file through the system. For example, if you have a bankruptcy in your past, a broker can steer you to a lender that won't automatically refuse you because of it.
I wish my first-time buyer had been working with a mortgage broker. It would have saved us all a lot of time and worry.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Gazette's Green Life blog has a story about a couple of gardeners in St. Henri who turned what had been a garbage-strewn lot in their neighborhood into a vibrant and verdant urban oasis.
You can read it here.
These green-thumbed activists are part of a growing guerrilla gardening movement taking rootaround the world. The idea is to make blighted corners of the cityscape whole again by sowing seeds, planting flowers, herbs and the like.
The St. Henri lot had been abandoned for many years when locals decided to clean it up. The owner seemed to be okay with this, right up until they posted a sign inscribed Parc Jardin Communautaire Delinelle. As we used to say in my feminist student group back in the day, to name it is to claim it. He doesn't mind them messing in his vacant lot, as long as everyone is clear on who owns it.
A similar guerrilla garden was started in a tucked away corner of Point St. Charles about 15 years ago. Residents of Sebastopol and Congregation Sts. adopted a weedy little patchy at the end of their block and planted flowers under the shade of the weedy Manitoba maples. All was well, until the city decided to sell the lot for development.
The folks got together and raised a fuss, managing to catch the ear of Mayor Pierre Bourque. Bourque, as you may recall, used to run Montreal's Botanical Garden and has a big soft spot for things horticultural. The garden was saved. The city ceded the plot of land to the good people of the Point. The garden is still there, the black-eyed susans, sedum and echinacea more lush and lovely than ever. In fact, I took the picture above there today.

You can find out more by visiting the Guerrilla Gardening website. Check out their recipe for making seed bombs.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Time Waster of the Day

 Sooner or later, someone was bound to come up with this.
Does it make me a bad person that I kinda want clothes hangers that look like dogs?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What's next for Canada's Housing Market?

The Globe and Mail hosted a frank and lively web panel with TD Bank economist Pascal Gauthier about the Canadian real estate market this week. This after the latest Canadian Real Estate Association statistics showed a decline in sales in June offset by a year-over-year increase in prices. The two markets where the sales decline were most notable were Toronto and Calgary.
 The report prompted radio newscasts to conclude that "the air is coming out of Canada's housing bubble" and other such trite, go-to formulations.
Read Gauthier's web chat for yourself, and see if he thinks there's a bubble in the Canadian housing market.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Divided Versus Undivided Co-Ownership, What's the Difference?

I'm working with a new client ready to buy his first property.  He said he was looking for a condo, but I've come to realize that buyers throw that term around without knowing what it means.
In Quebec, there are two kinds of shared ownership properties: undivided co-ownerships and divided co-ownerships. People tend to use the word condo to mean both but they are distinct and there are things a buyer should understand about each before purchasing.
When buying into an undivided co-ownership property, you are, in fact, buying a share in a property as a whole. In a triplex, that typically means that you are buying about 33 per cent of the roof, foundation, walls and yard. You are given exclusive use of a portion of the property but you are essentially a shareholder in the whole.  The property has one tax account, divided among the owners according to their share of the property. One of the big advantages to this kind of ownership is that property and school taxes are substantially lower.
Undivided co-ownerships have their own particularities. 
As a rule of thumb, asking prices for undivided properties are lower than those for divided properties of similar size and with similar features. That's because buyers are obliged to provide a larger down payment when buying into an undivided property, 20 per cent down, versus the usual minimum 5 per cent.
Only two lenders will mortgage them: The National Bank and the Caisse Populaire. You can't choose, the lender will already be in place when you make an offer to purchase.
The third thing about undivided properties is that you have no automatic right to occupy the premises. Whaaaa?  It's true. If you lease your "apartment" in an undivided co-ownership building, Quebec law says that you cannot then reclaim it unless the tenant agrees to go.  It is equally true that if a rental building is turned into a undivided co-ownership property, the tenants cannot be turfed out, regardless of how many months notice they are given, or how much money you offer them as an inducement to leave.
For this reason, many undivided properties have clauses in their co-ownership agreements that forbid owners from leasing their properties.
Life is much more straightforward with a divided co-ownership property. Properly, this is what people mean when they talk about condos.  You own your unit, its walls, floors and ceilings. Your tax bill will be higher, because it will more closely reflect the market value of your individual unit. This kind of ownership is relatively new in Quebec. It only became possible to divide a property after the Quebec Civil Code was revised by the National Assembly in 1969.
Unlike an undivided, the down payment can be as low as 5 per cent and you can seek a mortgage with any lender you like.
Which is the better option? There is no easy answer. For some people, substantially lower tax bills trump all other considerations.  For others, there is a clean, simple logic to owning a unit, versus a share in a property.
The main thing is to consider what you're buying into. Read the co-ownership agreement. It will be so very booooooooooooring, but you'd be a fool not. A good agent will read it too, and advise you on potential problems. Are dogs allowed or not? Are carpets mandatory, or can you have hardwood floors? Are window boxes okay? Who has use of the yard or the basement? How much is each owner required to contribute to the reserve fund. All will be spelled out in a well-written co-ownership agreement.
Also read the minutes to the last two or three annual meetings of the co-owners. These will give you an idea of the issues and possible conflicts in the building. Examine the financial statements so that you know what big bills may be coming due and how much money is in the reserve fund.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bun Fight at the GMREB Corral Yields its First Crumb

Stop the presses! Michel Beauséjour has tendered his resignation as chief executive officer of the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board.
It looks like Beausejour is falling on his sword after making some rather ill-considered remarks to La Presse last month about the impact Quebec's new brokerage act will have on the industry. Among other, things, he said the new laws governing the business will help "professionalize" the industry and put and end to the "époque des peddlers".
You can imagine how well this sat with many of  the 10,500 members of the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board. The GMREB is a business group whose only purpose in life is to promote the practice of real estate in the metropolitan area and to operate the MLS system for local agents.
The Beauséjour interview went on to make good and valid points about changes to the brokerage act that were five years in the making and why the public should care, but the use of the word "peddler" was an insult too far for some. Was it too much to hope that Beauséjour, whose salary is paid by agents, would advocate for agents without besmirching them?
A petition demanding Beausejour's resignation circulated on the Internet and was followed by a letter delivered by bailiff demanding the same.
The board of the GMREB didn't much like that and sicced lawyers, again paid for by the members,  on the petition writers. The board then sent out a communiqué to the membership:

"Your Board of Directors reviewed this issue and while also disappointed with the tone of the article, realized that one cannot control content in a newspaper article. Also, given that the CEO has given over 1,000 excellent interviews over the course of 11 years, the Board of Directors has unanimously decided to stand in support of the CEO who has always had the industry’s best interests at heart.  This viewpoint and support are also openly shared by the Board of Directors of the Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards.  Each and everyone of these people, on both Boards and who are my colleagues volunteering on your behalf, are 100 per cent in support of the CEO. We publicly stand behind him and will not allow him to resign, nor does he have any intention of doing so.
As a matter of fact, we are all, to say the least, dismayed and frankly appalled at the tactics being used by some people to undermine an individual who is held in the highest regard by our industry.
According to our lawyers, there are potential severe legal consequences to these latest tactics.  Therefore, our solicitors have sent a warning letter to the petition website, to request that the petition be retired because it is potentially  defamatory . . . " 

That was on June 4th. Beausejour's departure was announced today in a terse three-sentence communiqué signed by Patrick Juanéda, president of the GMREB's board of directors.
In his leter (available in French only, ahem!) Beauséjour  noted the radical changes afoot in the real estate sector, the entry of new players and the insecurity that is causing some agents. Having taken the GMREB as far as he can in the last 10 years, it has become apparent that it is time for a new leader to lead the organization forward, he said.
Maybe that's all there is to it, but I suspect Mr. Beauséjour was feeling the heat from the rank and file. As the old saying goes, we wish him well in all his future endeavors.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Montreal Eco Condos Make it Easy to Be Green

I finally got a chance to tour the Abondance Montréal condo development yesterday. The newly built triplex is a prize-winning example of sustainable housing, concieved by EcoCité Developments and located in my favorite neighborhood, Verdun. The first phase of development is known as Le Soleil, a nod to the building's solar energy features.
I've been following the Abondance Montréal story for years now, dating back to my days as The Gazette's real estate reporter.
The project is one of the winning entries in a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. competition to build highly energy-efficient homes that have a low impact on the environment. The big idea behind the program was to find ways to build homes that create as much energy as they consume, so-called Net Zero homes.
Phase I of Abondance Montréal meets that goal beautifully. The three-unit building is topped by a very large solar panel array that serves as a sun shade on the shared roof terrace. The panels not only supply all the energy needed for the three units but also sends surplus energy back into the Hydro-Québec grid. At the end of the year, the condo project creates as much energy as it uses. Even better, the condo owners never have to worry about paying for electricity or hot water. They get it for free.

Christopher Holmes, the dynamic young entrepreneur behind Abondance Montréal, led the hour-long tour of the building yesterday. He explained that as amazing as the solar power system on the roof is, it is merely the crowning element to a carefully considered project.  The building consumes only 24 per cent of the energy a typical Canadian home would, largely because of the choices that were made during the design and construction phases.
The biggest energy savings come because of the highly efficient building envelope, which has an R-45 rating, nearly three times better than the usual stud, fiberglass and vapour barrier plus brick confection. The sprayed on urethane insulation is made from soy-bean oil and recycled plastic bottles. It requires less labour to get the job done.
The windows are triple glazed. The windows and transoms were installed to take advantage of natural light and passive solar energy. A geothermal pump uses the Earth's own heat to keep each unit comfortable. Recovery systems grab the heat out of hot water as it circles down the drain and from exhaust air before it is expelled through the ventilation system.
Water from the roof drain and from the French drain that keeps the foundation dry is redirected not into the municipal sewage system but into a holding tank, where the water is filtered and used to flush the toilets. Other elements like low-flow toilets and energy efficient appliances, a master control that allow you to cut the power when you leave home in the morning, all help make it much easier to be green. Holmes took pains to explain that all the green components used in the project are readily available through local or regional suppliers.                                                                                                                                                                                                       Rob Miners of Studio MMA was lead architect on the project. His firm has gained a solid reputation for its work in sustainable architecture. Their best known project is the Mountain Equipment Co-op store in Marché Central. Abondance Montréal is making just as much of a splash.
Holmes was asked by one of the people on the tour why his firm had chosen to build in Verdun. I beamed with pleasure as he talked about the area's many advantages, including proximity to the Métro (LaSalle station is about two blocks away) the nearness to downtown and the ease with which one can find services on nearby Wellington St.
"It's an up and coming neighborhood and one we believe in," Holmes said.
Two of the three eco condos have already been sold. The third will remain open to visitors for another few months but it is for sale  though, sadly, not by me. Asking price is $299,000 for 1,040 square feet of living space.
EcoCité has broken ground for a second phase of development, to be called La Terre. It will be a four-storey project with many of the same features, with one important difference. While it will be built to be be solar-panel ready, it will not initially feature solar energy. That's because Phase I Abondance was built as a demonstration project and benefitted from grants and subsidies from partners like Hydro-Québec. That aid won't be available for the second phase, putting the cost of a big solar package out of bounds, for now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thanks Sleazebag For Making Us All Look Bad

I get a little touchy when people make gross generalizations about the sleaziness of real estate agents. I pride myself on working hard, telling the truth and going that extra mile for my clients, whether it's helping pack or declutter their homes, driving them around or babysitting their kids, if need be. Whatever it takes to make the deal go smoothly. I like to think my clients appreciate the added service.
Every once in a while I cross paths with the kinds of agents who give the rest of us a bad name. It happened this week, in fact.
I tried to make an appointment to visit a new listing with buyer clients. I texted the listing agent once, which is the usual practice. No response.  I called three hours later. Voice mail. The next morning, I called again and got the listing agent's associate, who promised to call right back . .  . . . . . . . . . Six hours later, she called. They had received an offer. What a surprise!!
I insisted on my clients' interest in seeing the property. Unfortunately, the vendor accepted the offer to purchase before I could get them in.
 The listing agent, who had promised to call and tell me if the deal was done, did not call. I had to call her. Again. Jerk. Here's where the story gets interesting. She told me the buyers' offer was conditional on them being able to sell their property. OK, that's not unusual. How much time do they have? Two weeks, three weeks? Maybe there's still a chance my clients will be able to make an offer if that deal falls through.
The buyers have until August 30th to sell their property, she said. August 30th!!!! Today is June 20th. That means the vendor's house is tied up for the next two months and ten days. If the buyers back out, the vendor will have lost almost three months waiting.
Why the hell would any real estate agent advise their client to accept such an iffy offer, especially as her house had been on the market for less than a week? I'll tell you my theory. I bet the listing agent is working both ends of the deal and stands a chance to collect a double commission.
If it had been my vendor client, I would have called everyone who had visited the property and told them an offer was coming in. I would have tried to draw a second offer, just to be sure that the vendor was getting the best price possible. The listing agent sure as shooting did not do that. In fact, she made sure my clients could not get in. Sleazy.
I visited the house this weekend, even though I knew my clients were basically frozen out. The property was being sold without legal warranty as to quality, which made me wonder if the vendor was an elderly person, as if often the case with sales without legal warranty.
I was greeted at the door by a woman in her 50s. She had the peach fuzz hair of someone who had recently undergone cancer treatment. Her eyes were hollow. It was 28 degrees out, but she had a blanket over her shoulders. She had a hospital bed, grab bars by the toilet. She was obviously not well.
Her house was in pretty good shape, with a nice yard. I told her I was sorry that my clients had not had a chance to see her property and make an offer. "Your agent did not return my calls," I said.
She shrugged. "It all happened so fast," she said.
I wished her a good afternoon and good luck with the sale, though I added that a part of me still hoped my clients might get a second chance. She stayed in her armchair as I let myself out.
A final thought crossed my mind as I walked to my car.
What kind of real estate agent makes a vendor so obviously unwell do her own showings? The kind who gives all of us a bad name.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bursting the Myth of the Real Estate Bubble

If I had a nickel for every time someone has said they were waiting for Montreal's real estate "bubble" to burst, I'd have enough money to buy one of those fancy lattés instead of a Timmy's double-double.
The myth of the bubble is the single biggest misconception I battle as an agent. I can talk until I'm blue in the face about fundamentals like interest rates, job creation and demographic shifts and the impact they have on the local housing market but I guess I have all the credibility of a used-car sales person. "Trust me! I'm a real estate agent."
OK, so don't believe me. But take a peek at this column by Gazette business scribe Jay Bryan. He puts his boots (more like LL Bean mocs, actually) to the myth of the housing bubble

Here's an interesting point to note about the Montreal real estate scene. The number of properties for sale in May, the last month for which there are statistics, fell by 16 per cent compared to a year earlier. That might have to do with nervousness. It's also true that if people don't list, other people don't list and next thing you know, there's a shortage of listings. A classic Catch 22.
That shortage of listings translated into an 8-per-cent drop in sales. Still, despite the inventory squeeze, the volume or total dollar value of sales rose by 1 per cent compared to May, 2009. Prices for houses, condos and plexes were up 8 per cent, 7 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, according to the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board
Not too shabby

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cruising Season on the Lachine Canal

I accidentally deleted the previous post of this photo, taken by my friend Karin, on one of the first fine spring Sunday afternoons of 2010. It absolutely bears reposting. I'm only sorry I lost the reader comment at the same time.
The photo was taken while she was out for a stroll with her mother along  the Lachine Canal.

Dozens of cars, refrigerators, bikes and more than a few guns were hauled out of the canal in the 1990s as the old industrial waterway underwent a massive clean up.  There is a thick layer of toxic sludge at the bottom of the canal, a reminder of the days when the canal banks were lined with tanneries and other heavy industry.

The Lachine Canal National Historic site reopened to kayakers and boaters in 2002. The bike path is hugely popular with weekend pedallers, bladers and strollers. Now I've seen it all.

The Luxury of Time

Hi! You might remember me? I'm the real-estate agent who had all that time on her hands over the long, quiet fall and winter to blog.
Funny how the insanity of a highly concentrated buying season has eaten up every spare bit of time since February, not to mention pretty much all the brains cells I had. (Okay, I spared a few for American Idol and the NBA playoffs, but only a few.)

This was the last property Amy Barratt and I listed, a really well maintained duplex on Valiquette St. in western Verdun. It has two two-bedroom apartments, with the unfinished but high, dry and clean basement accessible from the ground floor. It also has a nice fenced yard.

I had meant to feature it on my blog, but never got the chance. We signed the contract with the vendor on a Tuesday, spent Wednesday taking photos and measurements and entering the information on the Montreal Real Estate Board's computerized MLS. (A loooooong process). We started getting calls on Thursday. By Saturday we had an accepted offer. The whole thing was wrapped up - inspection and financing included - within 12 days.

The vendors are pleased. We got them just about 97 per cent of their asking price without any unpleasantness, hostility or anxiety. The buyers are a nice couple expecting their first baby. They plan to finish the basement and to use the rent from the upstairs unit to offset their mortgage.

I wish I had ten more of these duplexes to sell.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What Were They Thinking? #6 in a series

Spotted this feathered friend while searching listings in Ahuntsic for a client this morning. The photo was tucked among 21 generic interior photos for a bungalow on Jean-Massé St.
What do you suppose the agent was getting at with this pic? Believe me, the process for loading photos onto the GMREB's Matrix system is laborious and multi-stepped with any number of opportunities to make sure that stray canary (and nude) photos aren't accidentally posted on the Web.
Not that I haven't been known to play little jokes for my own amusement. Last year, when photographing a new listing, I made a point of positioning the public speaking trophy my best friend won in high school in nearly every room photo when I listed her parents' house for sale. I sent her the listing and challenged her to play "Where's Waldo?" with the trophy. We both a had a laugh.
I did not, however, take a photo of her trophy and include it among the pictures showcasing the house.
I might be a wiseacre, but I'm not an idiot.