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The coastal highway takes drivers across the Golden Gate bridge
Highway 101 over the Golden Gate

Our time at the 2013 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) conference in San Francisco was an enjoyable blend of participating in real estate market forums, attending seminars, growing our referral network throughout North America, and sharing information and insights with those who for various reasons have a growing interest as to what's happening in Toronto(!)

The conference's keynote speaker was former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who addressed nearly 10,000 of the 22,000+ attendees at Moscone Center West.

We also had some time to play tourist on warm San Franciscan nights!

The following represent highlights of our conference objectives ...


Investigating market / sociological trends

All cable cars run on these cables, which run 20 hours a day at 9.5 mphe
Streetcars run on these cable loops

In forum after forum, it's clear the most influential trend affecting real estate throughout North America continues to be historically low interest rates.

Despite personal income remaining relatively flat over the past 20 years, current interest rates make ownership more affordable today than anytime since the 1950's.

Presuming personal income remains steady over the short-to-medium term, rates would have to climb to 7% before the average income earner would be unable to afford an average priced home.

Though identified risks reflected local concerns, there was widespread agreement of the biggest risk to real estate being the number and power of climate-based events.

While some argue the sources of climate change, government agencies such as the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are demonstrating a lack of patience for perfect agreement.

Instead, they're busy conducting wide-ranging research, collating and sharing results, and revisiting decades-old assumptions.

Though sea level rise may not affect Toronto, the epic rainstorm experienced throughout the Greater Toronto Area on July 8th provided a pretext for a broader discussion amongst government, the insurance industry, and their underwriters.

Identifying problem areas as varied as hard landscaping trends, basement flooding, storm water, and both natural & man-made waterways represent first steps toward necessary changes in consumer attitudes and building codes moving forward.

By proactively researching issues that affect properties, assessing their causes and effects, and reviewing ongoing studies performed by third parties, we are better able to inform and serve the best interests of our clients.



Tadich Grill - the third oldest restaurant in North America, with tasty fare to match

Maintaining currency on industry tools

In Ontario, the Real Estate Business and Brokers Act states that real estate agreements must be written, executed by the identified parties.

If the parties aren't in the same physical location simultaneously, the Act has been interpreted to indicate that agreements may be communicated electronically, if using a means by which the sender and receipient can be reasonably assumed without further verification, and if sending and receiving communication facilities are physically identifiable.

The only form of communication which met these tests was facsimile (fax).

No legal precedent exists in Ontario for the use of email.

However - if you've been involved in a real estate transaction over the past ten years, you'll have noticed increasing REALTOR® use of alternative methods to "sign, scan, and forward" documents, most notably that scanned documents are frequently packaged into a Adobe Acrobat 'Portable Document Format' (PDF) file, and emailed, for the convenience of all parties involved.

While boilerplate agreement documentation has been modified to attest to this practice, the law has yet to be formally updated.

What's especially interesting to note, is the growth of alternative methods to execute documents available to realtors.

Which leads us to ask this question:

If you were buying or selling a property today, would you be comfortable with the idea of both yourself and the other party "digitally signing" an Agreement of Purchase and Sale document on a tablet?

Or would you prefer that both yourself and the other party use a pen to put ink on paper?

Pen or tab?

any additional comments?

first name:



The view from the top of the Coit Tower is amazing; as are these depression-era murals

Evaluating new methods and services

Like many businesses, real estate communication has been moving toward social media, with inherent upsides, challenges, and risks.

There is widespread agreement of the primary upside - rather than depend on a realtor's own website, or what their friends might say about them on Facebook, the public may now access a growing number of third-party sites which offer third-party assessments of a realtor's performance.

Unfortunately, relying on content found at these sites can pose significant risk, in that the vast majority of these sites attract and permit anonymous posters of content, without providing means of validating content, or verifying the relationship between poster and service provider.

Moreover, industry players may choose one third-party review site over all others, without the public's knowledge.

For example, Siri, the voice of Apple's iPhones, chooses market winners and losers - from dentists to taxidermists - based on whatever might be found at Yelp.

Given our preferences for quality service performed in-person, in-confidence, and with the objective of building long-term relationships as opposed to achieving a quantity of transactions, we have kept our discussions with clients private.

This won't change.

However, we do see the value of third-party reviews, and will be asking our client base to provide non-arbitrated input for the future benefit of prospective buyers and sellers.


Hillary Rodham Clinton

Attending Hillary Rodham Clinton's keynote speech

In this excerpt, former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shares a real estate tale about her and husband Bill's first home.

Play MP3 version (works in most web browsers) or play OGG version.


The Pacific coast at the entrance to San Francisco Bay is preserved as a series of National Parks

Seeing some of San Francisco's super scenery

Going to the conference daily meant we also had to leave the conference daily!

Whether you're into boat cruises, military history, prisons, infamous gangsters, native rights movements, or ornithology, you'll find the National Parks tour of Alcatraz Island an interesting way to spend a morning or afternoon.

An enlightened San Francisco boasts not one but two people-moving highlights - its vintage 1935-era streetcars, which run along Market and Fisherman's Wharf routes, and its unique-in-the-world cable cars, a 19th century model of which was recently in service for a Municipal Heritage event.

Is it any wonder that, being this close to Silicon Valley and its Internet-adherents, a visit to the Cable Car Museum is free?

Our decision to reside at accommodations on Powell gave us the ability to ride the cable cars as our primary form of transportation.

Nightlife included memorable visits to great restaurants and live music venues.

Our most enjoyable dining experience was the Tadich Grill, touted as the third oldest restaurant in North America.   Opened in 1849, it has moved to various locations, though only 9 persons have been given the privilege of being head chef over those 163 years.   Truly remarkable food, at reasonable prices.

Based on previous experience as a promoter and tour manager, worthwhile musical entertainment in San Francisco can always be found not by genre, but in the city's willingness to embrace the thrillingly eclectic, which was best evidenced at the Cafe du Nord / Swedish American Hall double billing of headliner Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, backed by otherwise-on-hiatus Foo Fighter guitarist Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants.

"Cow-punk" indeed!


Photos above by Jeff D. Derksen:

The coastal highway takes drivers across the Golden Gate bridge through magnificent Redwood forests

All of San Francisco's world-famous cable cars run on four cables, which run at a steady speed of 9.5 miles per hour, 20 hours a day

Tadich Grill - the third oldest restaurant in North America, with tasty fare to match

360 degree views from the top of the Coit Tower are amazing; as are the murals in the lobby of this depression-era monument

Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the National Association of REALTORS®

The Pacific coast at the entrance to San Francisco Bay is preserved as a series of National Parks, which now includes the former prison / native encampment at Alcatraz Island


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