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Canadians, bombarded by change on all fronts, may really need their summer "get away" time to prepare for more of the same -- plus some -- as the year rolls on.

Wishing things would "go back to normal" is self-defeating. Shutting your eyes and hoping things turn out all right is a dangerous way to navigate the future. Ultimately, the choice for all real estate owners (and everyone else) is simple:

  • Anticipate change and strategize to minimize loss and improve gain, or
  • Be trapped by change and settle for expensive compromises or unwelcome alternatives as you try to make the best of the situation. Those with SUVs already know what we mean by that option.

Everything that happens has side effects and repercussions. Each decision has consequences. With the certainty of unrelenting change ahead, the pivotal characteristics for successful property owners are resilience, resourcefulness, and persistence, not whining "if only I'd" or blaming someone else. Success lies in searching beyond the obvious and examining issues with a 360-degree perspective. Search out a full range of solutions: individual action, group enterprise, business ventures, community efforts, or combinations of these approaches.

To start you off, here are a few examples to explore:

  • The green revolution continues at such a pace that there has been little time to consider repercussions. The "beyond-green" impact of many related improvements has not been fully considered. For example, look at the impact biofuel production has had on corn markets and food prices. On a more localized scale, the rush to cut back on energy use brought back the clothesline. Municipal bylaws and restrictive subdivision covenants had driven this low-tech approach to clothes drying off the landscape, but now it's back.

    Consumer demand originally led to the anti-undies-waving-in-the-breeze movement and now the line is back by demand and bylaws and contracts must be changed. Landscaping may now need adjustment to take this new backyard function and the new view issue into consideration. Actions that save the environment often take more time and personal involvement. Where will you feel the impacts? What else lies just over your horizon?

  • The collapse of the United States' housing market has imploded the real estate industry as well. The necessity of adapting to dramatically lower home sales, financially-devastated sellers, and strapped buyers will lead to a re-invention of the real estate selling machine. This will bring an industry stuck in the past, roaring into the twenty-first Century. Remove some of the often-expensive "we've always done it that way" thinking and watch out.

    A new publication from the Urban Land Institute, Strategy for Real Estate Companies, is one example of how creative minds can see beyond the downturn to re-apply strategic planning and critical thinking and unearth unexpected and previously-overlooked opportunities. Hopefully, the result will be organizations and an industry stronger than ever and designed to further benefit and protect consumers. Since Canada picks up on US trends down the road, there should be some interesting improvements ahead on both sides of the border. Perhaps you and your community will be part of this progress.

  • Surcharges, or charges on charges, have become the norm, so expect cost increases in many areas. Airlines are surcharging at rates that are almost equivalent to ticket prices. Watch for this add-on approach in many aspects of life. If you selected a holiday resort based on published room rates, you may be familiar with the combined impact of these "little extras" when you receive your bill. Read the fine print to see what is included and what triggers an extra charge.

    Anything, including in-room bottled water and internet connection, that adds to luxury stays and fun may end up adding cost, so affordable accommodation becomes over-budget holidaying. Back home, expect municipal power to add surcharges to many services and conveniences that you now take for granted. This means buyers may be able to afford the purchase price of their new home, but living there may be unaffordable.

And you should have more time to muse on these and other changes, according to recent Statistics Canada analysis. Between 1997 and 2006, the average standard work week continued to decline, despite stronger growth in full-time employment, rather than part-time. In 2006, fewer workers worked 49 hours or more a week, marking a shift from the increase that occurred from the 1980s to the 1990s. The average workweek declined from 38.6 hours in 1976 to 36.5 in 2006, following a world-wide trend. How is this affecting you? What changes are you and your family making to enrich your lives with the extra non-work time in this work-life (un-)balanced world?

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