Tuesday, July 31, 2007

CBA's Rebuttal Continues and Saskatoon Real Estate

The Canadian Bar Association's rebuttal to the Maclean's August 6th cover story about lawyers continues.

Page A11 of the National Post (July 30th) featured an article by James Morton (President of the OBA and member of the CBA Board of Directors) called "An inexcusable smear on lawyers". James Morton also got to be on the Charles Adler radio show (I friggin' love Charles Adler ... I know he's a bit of a nut, but he's such a lovable nut).

Here's some of the article (click the link above to read the rest):

In my years as a lawyer, I have seen many things. These include a (very) few lawyers who intentionally lied about their billing, slept with a client or defrauded someone. Where discovered, those lawyers have been disbarred and, in some cases, sent to jail. That's how our system works: If a lawyer breaks the law or the professional code of conduct, he or she is punished just like everyone else.

The distorted, one-sided cover story in Maclean's this week is an insult to the country's legal profession. One can only hope it isn't a trend. Bankers, architects, engineers, dentists, accountants - who will be targeted by the next smear campaign? I suppose we should keep our eyes on the cover of coming issues of Maclean's to find

While I understand that Maclean's magazine is in the business of making money, I find it just hilarious that, as per an e-mail send out to CBA members by J. Parker MacCarthy:

Despite our request for space to refute the article, Maclean’s has only agreed to publish a short letter to the editor from the CBA in the next edition. I am sending the letter today. I am also speaking to The Lawyers Weekly today and will continue to schedule media interviews to refute the outrageous accusations contained in the original article.

So ... obviously Maclean's is loving every minute of this. Should be interesting to follow this story, and see where it all ends up.

As for my weekend, Jason and I drove to Saskatoon Friday night after work. MAN is that a long drive. We got into Saskatoon at about 11:30 PM or so, and crashed hard (into our bed). We had an appointment with a Realtor on Saturday, and spent the day looking at different properties.

I am FLABBERGASTED when it comes to the real estate market in Saskatoon. I am absolutely floored. The houses that we looked at were SOOOOO expensive, and were older homes that really need to be gutted and redone. I kept wondering how the heck Saskatoon could possibly sustain this real estate market, when the city itself (in terms of industry) doesn't seem to be going through a proportional boom. Salaries are nowhere near comparable to Calgary salaries, and while people are starting to move back to Saskatoon, my impression is that it's more young families and older retirees that are making the trek back ... hardly people in their prime earning years (or earning years at all in the case of the latter).

I found this blog (an excellent resource) by Saskatoon Real Estate agent Norm Fisher while doing some searching last night, and it shows that my shock is well placed:

Saskatoon Real Estate Resource Centre Blog

These articles in particular sum it up:

The other side of the boom: collateral effects of a changed Saskatoon real estate market
Housing affordability deteriorates nationally, but most sharply in Saskatoon

Another thing that was surprising is that many of the homes that are for sale accept bids only through a presentation of offers (usually via your real estate agent) on a particular night. This seems to create an atmosphere much like bidding for tenders, as you don't know what anyone else (if anyone at all) is going to bid. When Calgary was going through the CRAZY upswing over the last two years in their real estate market, I had heard of this kind of thing going on, but more commonly I heard about auction-style bidding, where buyers were present and could see what other people/bids were in contention.

On the blog mentioned above, there's a whole article addressing some issues that arise for agents from scenarios as described:

The ethics of "bidding" for Saskatoon real estate

Last weekend, we were told that a house we looked at, that was listed for X$, had a market value of X+10K or X+15K, as most places in Saskatoon were being overbid and purchased for above listed price (i.e. it was suggested that if we were to place a bid, that it be from $10K-$15K over list).

Needless to say, from an investment perspective, this is not the direction that we took.

If you peruse the Norm Fisher's blog, you can see that while there is still some overbidding going on, there are certainly still properties that sell for both under and at listing price. This is the category that Jason and I will belong to, if we buy anything at all in Saskatoon.

In a market that I'm not sure can sustain itself, why would I pay over list price when I'm only interested in a 2 year plan? If I was looking at investing over the long haul, I could see myself thinking differently. But ... there are neighbourhoods in Saskatoon, like East College Park (as per the Saskatoon Real Estate Resource Centre), where the average selling price of the homes takes hiccups from year to year. YIKES (for those of us wishing to invest for only two years).

Anyway, that's my rant for the day.

We still aren't sure where we're going to live this fall, or when we'll be able to move our household to Saskatoon, so we'll be making another trip to Saskatoon in the near future to scout out some more potential homes.

As for the rest of the weekend, we met some of my law buddies at O'Shea's, on the rooftop patio where there was a heavenly mister making our sweltering stay a little more bearable. It was so awesome to catch up with some of my classmates, and hear about the exciting things that they've been doing this summer. We hit Whiskey Jack's afterwards for some stellar karaoke performances (none by yours truly, though, since I was driving ... and it requires a little more than diet Pepsi to get this girl up and singing).

Sunday, we basically drove home. Yup. Long drive, no A/C and 34 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, it made us a little grumpy. We crashed when we got home (again, into bed).

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