If we’re going to take any lesson from the housing collapse in the U.S., it’s got to be a resolve to be better informed. The market is flooded with first-time buyers lured into taking on mortgages by low interest rates and special incentives. And whether you’re dipping a tentative toe into the land-owning ocean for the first time or diving in headfirst for the tenth, there’s always something to be gained by learning from the experiences of others.
The wisdom, frustrations and funny tales of real estate bloggers are yours for free if you know where to point your browser. For a round-up of current market news, tips and tidbits about Toronto neighbourhoods, surf over to www.toreal.blogs.com. It posts the latest expert opinions on trends and forecasts here at home and around the world. The page also lists mortgage rate updates and has dozens of links to other real estate-related blogs. A totally Toronto-centric blog, www.movesmartly.com, is described by its editor as “part chronicle and part guide.” It’s written by a collection of real estate news junkies, including a lawyer and a mortgage broker. It also links to media reports on city-centric topics like neighbourhood revitalization and market trends. The site’s editor invites like-minded writers to consider seeking approval to come on board and contribute blogs of their own. If it’s condos that catch your interest, www.truecondos.com is the brainchild of a city Realtor who specializes in condominiums and focuses on their particular pleasures and headaches. Andrew la Fleur blankets the city’s condo market, including those up for sale, under construction and under development. He also shares loads of information about buying, selling and renting your condo.
Real estate investors and brothers Tom and Nick Karadza blog about speculating in this country’s housing markets at www.therealestaterenegades.com. While the site does have an informercial feel about it, there is a motherlode of free information for the wannabe investor and a free newsletter to sign up for. If your idea of celebrity news is to ignore the red carpet fashions and focus instead on Hollywood estate wheelings and dealings, www.realestalker.blogspot.com is for you. Where else can you learn that actor Hank Azaria ponied up nearly $14 million for a massive gated home in Bel Air and that David Spade is renting his Malibu beach house for $65,000 a month for the summer? Even the general interest blogger like myself, who isn’t limited to one topic, occasionally runs into a real estate-related issue. I wrote a critical rant on my own site after an inspector missed a shopping list of major problems in a home I purchased, resulting in dangerous conditions and thousands in repairs. He had refused to even apologize, so I let him have it, cyber-style. If you run a Google search for “real estate hell,” you’ll find scads of similar rantings and ravings about homeowners’ experiences, good and bad.
All of these blogs help create awareness of potential issues and inspire buyers and sellers alike to ask plenty of specific questions in the hope of avoiding any number of setbacks that can crop up with transactions pertaining to a home purchase or sale. When you’ve filled up on information and advice, it’s time to have a little giggle at www.lovelylisting.com. The owner of this ironically named website shares the most outrageous photos from actual real estate listings, complete with snappy headlines and commentary. They’re gross, funny, careless and desperate, and they offer a lot of evidence that there’s no substitute for a good photographer, stager or cleaner. At least one amateur lensman took shots of his home without realizing that a mirror had captured his wife lounging on a bed in the background. You can do better if you take a little time to point, click and learn.