Smart Home Trends in 2018

With the quick advancement of technology nowadays, living in a smart home is slowly becoming normal. New innovations in the smart home sector have grown exponentially over the past few years and with their high adoption rate, there’s no doubt that smart technology is a must-have feature in homes for home buyers and sellers alike. Here are a few smart home trends to watch out for this year.

As more and more appliances connect to the internet, security has become an issue. That is why smart security solutions have become more commonplace. A recent post from Smarterware talks about the importance of having home security solutions:

Home Security Solutions

“Security products will have a big showing at CES this year because they serve dual purposes,” smart home analyst Blake Kozak said prior to the event. “A security camera can alert you to when a package has arrived at the front door or when a child arrives home from school. Moreover, security cameras and video doorbells can act as a communication portal for parents, children, and family.”

Smart security solutions are what will help propel the market forward in the coming months. Whereas people may be less likely to spend on superfluous technologies, security is seen as an integral investment. This gives it an automatic advantage. Via

Smart home security systems are considered to be a priority. Security is very important, and it’s likely that having a robust security system will pay off when the time comes to sell your home to a cautious buyer.


Voice assistance for your smart products!


Next on the list are voice assistants. They’ve surged in popularity in recent years. A new post from The Culture Supplier discusses the advantages of voice assistants for your home.

Voice Assistance in Everything

With these innovative solutions and products, different Smart Home News all over the globe state that there are more to come this year that are much more enticing and worthier of the attention.

Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are known to be the voice assistants of today. As the year emerges, there are no known new additions to these voices (except for Alexa) but features and controls of these assistants are further expanded. It is seen that there will be a huge development on cloud integrations with these voice assistants and other smart products.

In these developments, it is now made possible to control almost everything through Apple’s Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant if smart products are efficiently connected to the internet. h/t

More and more devices have started to get voice-activated into their hardware. Voice commands are the new way to control your home and get information on anything from the weather to the best team to call:, advancements in lighting are sure to affect the way home interiors are shown off. Lighting that changes tone automatically sounds impractical, but research has shown that light colors have effects on health:

Tunable White Lighting

Science shows that the lighting can affect our moods, productivity, sleep and other functions. A cooler (bluish) hue can boost our energy, while a warmer (reddish) tone can calm us. Tunable white lighting, with variable color temperatures that can change automatically or manually, can help humans improve performance, moods and overall health. read more at

These lighting systems will likely do a lot to make a home stand out, especially in these pre-mass adoption times.

The post Smart Home Trends in 2018 is available on The A-Team YMM Blog


YMM Market Update: Average Discounts Still Favoring Buyers

The Close to List Ratio

It’s 2018, and the oil price crash is long behind us. Alberta has returned to growth, and unemployment in the Wood Buffalo region is down. In the last article we wrote about the market, we noted increased demand and reduced supply vis-a-vis last year. The number of foreclosures on the market is even down since Christmas. These trends have continued, but one piece of information remains bearish: The “Close Price to List Price Ratio”.

Here’s a chart:

fort mac home list prices
Graph Of The Average Monthly Fort McMurray Close Price to List Price Ratio Over the Last 4 Years[note]The data covers sales of all property types only the following areas: Abasand, Beacon Hill, Dickinsfield, Downtown, Eagle Ridge, Grayling Terrace, Parsons North, Prairie Creek, Stone Creek, Thickwood, Timberlea, Waterways and Wood Buffalo.[/note]

What is the Close Price to List Price Ratio?

Also known as the “sale price to list price ratio”, this tells us the average discount that buyers and sellers are negotiating below list prices, in any given market (or market segment) in any given time period. You can find a little more information in this Motley Fool article.

For example, let’s say Aaron Chalmers lists a home for $100,000 and sells it for his clients for $99,000, then the ratio would be 99%. In another example, buyer’s agent Aleaha Frigon, might help someone negotiate a $6,000 discount on a competing brokerage’s listing. This would give a ratio of 94%.

An indication of a balanced market is when the ratio is between 98-99% (1-2% discounts). Once the average ratio crosses below 98% (2+% discounts), it represents one indicator of a buyer’s market.

The above chart shows us, that negotiations have been favoring the buyer, for most of the last 3 years (save for a couple of months after the fire).

So, Are We In A Buyer’s Market?

Our opinion is “no”. We appear to have crossed the divide from buyer’s to balanced market, based on other, (more important) ratios, as well as the anecdotal evidence we encounter daily in our professional lives.

But it is an interesting result, that sellers and buyers are still negotiating large discounts despite the number of buyers and sellers in the marketplace reaching “goldilocks” numbers (like the porridge – not too hot, not too cold).

What Can We Learn?

Number 1: I think this chart shows how seriously our community has been rocked by the events of the last 4 years. In other evidence, confidence appears to have returned, but it’s not showing up in this statistic. It’s a reminder that we will only know the future once it happens.

Number 2: If you’re thinking of entering into a real estate transaction with us as a buyer or seller client, it’s good information to have that the average discount in the marketplace right now is approximately 3.5% for the market as a whole.

Can You Do Better?

The short answer is “yes”.

Selling? Because we specialize, we have listing agents who are dedicated to selling your home for absolute top dollar (that’s all they do – see our YouTube page, for example). you are planning a purchase soon, our specialist buyer’s agents will commit to finding you the best homes and negotiating the ultimate possible deal.

If you’d like to hear about our solutions and results, please reach out so that we can give you the information required to help you make the best decisions.

YMM Market Update: Average Discounts Still Favoring Buyers See more on: The A-Team LLC

Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of March 16)

It’s time for another edition of our weekly column from the A-Team. Here is some important news for this week.

Canadian debt is generally rising in recent times, but it turns Fort McMurray residents carry the highest average debt in the country, according to a new report by Equifax Canada. From Mix News:

Report: Fort McMurray Residents Carry Highest Average Debt In Canada

According to a new report by Equifax Canada, the average non-mortgage debt in Fort McMurray in the fourth quarter of 2017, was $38,359. This is a slight increase from the first quarter where residents, on average, had $37,345 in debt.

The next highest was Calgary sitting at $29,478, followed by Edmonton with $27,241.

Fort McMurray is on trend with the rest of the country as the report shows, nationally, consumer debt levels are on the rise with Canadian consumers owing an average of $1.8 trillion. Via

The residents between the ages of 18 – 25 have been recorded to have the least amount of debt, while residents of ages 46 – 55 have the highest average debt load.

As we reported earlier this year, home supply is decreasing in 2018. In a new report by Fort McMurray REALTORS®, fewer homes were sold in February compared to last year:

Fewer homes sold in February

Fort McMurray REALTORS® are reporting fewer homes sold in February.

According to their numbers, 30 homes were sold last month compared to 36 in February 2017.

Last month the average selling price was $611,483.

There are 279 houses currently listed, this time last year there was 357. h/t

The lower number of houses currently listed is a good sign for sellers and the housing market in general, which is slowly balancing.


Lastly, unemployment dropped to 6 percent in the census region covering Wood Buffalo. From Fort McMurray Today:

Unemployment falls to six per cent in Wood Buffalo

Statistics Canada released the information Friday morning, showing that employment in the Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake region was down 400 full-time positions, but was up 200 part-time positions from January.

For the first time since October, the sector covering natural resource jobs saw an increase in positions, with 400 jobs added to the region.

Construction saw an increase of 100 positions in February, after it had decreased by 100 in January. Wholesale and retail trade saw a decrease of 400 jobs.

Across Alberta, the unemployment rate remained at 6.8 per cent, the same as the rate from January. Nationally, unemployment saw a 0.2 per cent increase, bring it to 5.9 per cent. read more at

Hopefully, this will contribute to the uptick in activity the local economy is expected to receive this year.

That’s all for this weeks’ roundup. Check back on The A-Team blog for more news and updates on Fort McMurray.

The following blog post Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of March 16) Read more on: The A-Team YMM Blog

How to Save Money When Buying a Home

Home buying is a long process and it could take you a while to find the property you want, given the current market situation in Wood Buffalo. Buying a home could cost you more than you bargained for, particularly if you don’t know the ins and outs. Luckily, a buyer’s agent can help you navigate, but there are things you should take into account yourself as well.

The first thing to remember when home-hunting is to look for one that you can make your own. A recent post from MV Buyer Agents talks about the importance of buying lower-end properties and making it your own:

Go for the Home that You Can Make Your Own

Let’s say you’ve done all the legwork, contacted a lender and came up with an amount that you’re pre-approved for. A mistake that too many homebuyers make is not realizing that’s their upper limit.

Instead of looking at properties at the upper end of your maximum loan amount, consider going lower and giving yourself enough room to negotiate in the buying process.

There are plenty of high end luxury properties available for sale, but lower end properties that might require a little maintenance or remodeling before you move in are super-hot right now.

You spend less and get to make the home completely yours. Via

If you really want to spend less, there’s no need to buy a luxurious property that goes way beyond your budget. Instead, you can make do with a lower end property that you’re able to renovate.

Next tip is to purchase a home during the off-season. There are only a few weeks left till the snow melts and we enter spring, but it’s still a good time to hunt. A new post from PHX Wholesale Properties shares the monetary advantages of buying your first home during the winter season:

Buy in The Winter

There are many ways to save money when shopping for a house. By knowing what to expect and that you always have options, you can save some serious cash when buying your home.

Statistics show that home prices tend to drop in the winter time. There are a few likely reasons for this. For one, fewer people are buying during this time of year.

Depending on the climate, cold weather will deter many people from moving. Also, families will usually avoid disrupting their kid’s school year if possible.

Sometimes, interest rates will drop. With fewer people buying, lenders will cut their rates to gain a competitive edge. h/t

The season can make a huge difference and can save you a lot of money. So in order to gain the most negotiating power and also a better or cheaper price, winter is the season which you’ll likely want to purchase a house. Since fewer people buy during winter, you have greater leverage.

Take advantage of buying a home during the off-season!

Lastly, be sure to consider your mortgage options. Your agent will usually recommend a mortgage advisor, but it’s always a good idea to get other opinions:

Shop Around

When you’re a first-time homebuyer it’s easy to focus only on the end goal. However you have to remember to look at the bigger picture. Check out your financing options with multiple lenders. That will help make sure you get the best rate possible. Getting preapproval gives you an idea of how much of a mortgage you’ll qualify for and whether you qualify for the best interest rates. Via

We’re not mortgage advisors, so we can’t say much more, but shopping around may save you a lot on your mortgage and in turn your home.

The following article How to Save Money When Buying a Home is available on

Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of March 9)

It’s time for another edition of our weekly column from the A-Team. Here is some important news for this week.

A lack of pipelines is costing the province an average of $7.9 billion revenue every year in a report released by the University of Calgary. From Mix News:

Report: Province Losing Billions in Revenue Due to Lack of Pipelines

Research Associate at the School of Public Policy Kent Fellows tells Mix News this is resulting in price benchmarks being very much in favor of the U.S.

“We find in periods where these pipelines were not at capacity, where there was still some access room in the line, we had much lower differentials and a lot of that is due to the fact that we have the capacity restraint which limits our ability to get the oil to the market.”

Fellows says before 2013 people buying Alberta crude got a discount between 9 and 13 per cent compared to West Texas Intermediate. Since February 2, 2018, local prices are 47 per cent lower – meaning less revenue.

This is also resulting in the province losing around $6.60 on every barrel exported to the United States. Via

This adds to the importance of the Trans Mountain pipeline for Alberta, which is currently in a standoff with BC over the matter.


In other news, a wildfire recovery session will be held at Shell Place on March 7. From My McMurray:

Wildfire recovery session to be held at Shell Place – MyMcMurray

The Here For You drop-in session will allow residents to speak with organizations that are supporting our region’s recovery.

Residents will be able to speak to representatives from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, The Red Cross, NSUUR, and more.

Organizations range from mental health support, to free legal services, to rebuild services.

Residents who unable to attend and who haven’t completed proof-of-loss statements are encouraged to contact their insurance provider immediately to learn how the upcoming two-year statement of claim deadline will affect them. h/t

These sessions have been occurring every so often since the wildfire.

Lastly, Council has unanimously approved funds for 16 local organizations and homelessness plan, according to Laura Beamish of Fort McMurray Today:

Council approves funds to non-profits and homeless

A total of $300,000 in provincial funds will go towards Family and Community Supports Services (FCSS) across 10 organizations. An additional $4,224,331 from combined provincial and federal funds will go towards the Community Plan on Homelessness (CPH) across an additional 6 organizations.

Representatives from a number of organizations raised their concerns about the process and what was eligible for funding this year, in comparison to what was eligible in the past.

Administration said that although the eligibility handbook had not changed since 2010, the difference was due to the amount of applications they had seen in previous years in comparison to 2018. In past years, administration said they had received a total request of approximately $300,000, whereas this year they received requests totalling $1,085,984. read more at

The CPH funding comes from federal and provincial grants to support homeless initiatives.

That’s all for this weeks’ roundup. Check back on The A-Team blog for more news and updates on Fort McMurray.

Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of March 9) was first seen on The A-Team Real Estate Blog

How to Set a List Price For Your Home

When preparing to list your home, care should be taken when deciding the initial listing price. It’s pretty easy to overestimate the value of your home, and pricing it outside of what buyers expect can lead to disappointment. Here are some things to keep in mind.

First on our list is to make a pricing contingency plan before you’re ready to list your house on the market. A recent post from Reader’s Digest explains the importance of having a backup plan:

Work out a pricing contingency plan before you put your home on the market

Sometimes, sellers have high expectations about their property’s appeal and they want to ask top dollar for it, even if their agent doesn’t believe they’ll get it. Or perhaps another agent they talked to planted a high price tag in their mind.

Whatever the reason, as a listing agent, I’ll agree to try and sell the home at the higher price. But before the “For Sale” sign goes up, I always try to work out a contingency plan with the seller, in case the property doesn’t go for the desired price. By having everything on the table from the get-go, we’ll have a plan B should the first plan fail. This saves time and helps set the appropriate expectations in the seller’s mind, so there are no unpleasant surprises down the road. Via

It would be nice to always get what you initially ask for, but having a backup plan, whether it be to end the sale or reduce the price, saves you from indecisiveness later on.

Next is to consider the condition of the local market. A good REALTOR® will have extensive knowledge of whether the current market favors buyers or sellers (or neither):

Buyer’s Market or Seller’s Market?

A CMA often includes a Days on the Market (DOM) value for each comparable house sold. When real estate is booming and prices are rising, houses may sell in a few days. Conversely, when the market slows down, average DOM can run into many months.

Your REALTOR® can tell you whether your area is currently in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. In a seller’s market, you can price a bit beyond what you really expect, just to see what the reaction will be. In a buyer’s market, if you really need to sell promptly, offer an attractive bargain price. h/t

Currently, Fort McMurray seems to be settling into a balanced market, a noticeable improvement from where we were last year.

Price your home against comparables in the area!

Lastly, while it seems pretty obvious, bringing on a REALTOR® early in the process will save you from potential disappointment later on, as they will temper expectations by being realistic:

Importance of an Agent

The earlier you bring a local real estate agent into the fold, the better. Top agents tour properties regularly, and know their market inside and out. They can likely explain the seemingly inexplicable, and offer tips to help make your home more valuable.

A good agent has the inside knowledge on pending homes sales and their finger on the pulse of the market 24/7. But remember to research independently, and never rely solely on the advice of your agent. read more at

A good agent will give you an overview of the market and what you can expect during the selling process. The A-Team handles this part with an in-depth listing presentation.

The post How to Set a List Price For Your Home Read more on:

Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of March 2)

It’s time for another edition of the weekly column from the A-Team. Here is some important news for this week.

Alberta’s GDP is expected to grow by 2.8% in 2018 due to the added jobs last year, according to Jaryn Vecchio of Mix News:

Report: Alberta’s GDP Expected To Increase By 2.8% in 2018

On Wednesday, the Conference Board of Canada released its outlook for the province’s and territories with Alberta expected to see the second highest increase.

They believe the province’s GDP will increase by 2.8 per cent. This is mostly due to improvement in drilling and the number of jobs added in 2017.

British Columbia is expected to see the most growth at 3.1 per cent with Prince Edward Island matching Alberta.

Last year, the province saw the biggest growth in the country at 6.7 per cent. Via

It’s worth noting that the numbers don’t take into account the multiple pipelines awaiting construction, so Alberta is set to continue its growth even if the delay drags on.

In other news, Alberta is investing $1 billion in oilsands bitumen upgrading. The goal is to increase the flow of oil in pipelines. From My McMurray:

Alberta to invest $1B in eight years on bitumen upgrading projects

Premier Rachel Notley says the money will be used for loan guarantees and grants to attract anywhere from two to five partial oil upgrading facilities _ resulting in $5 billion of private investment.

The project will begin in 2019 and last for eight years.

The goal is to have Alberta’s thick bitumen upgraded in the province so that more of it can flow through pipelines, leading to an increase in volume and sales.

It’s expected to free up 30 per cent of pipeline capacity at a time when bottlenecks are causing Alberta crude to sell at a steep discount on the North American market. h/t

The investment should do a lot to get Alberta in a better position, as it will be able to overcome the discount that local oil is selling at.


Lastly, Council unanimously approved Operating and Capital budgets for 2018 last Tuesday:

Council unanimously approves 2018 budget

With an overall budget of $775 million, the municipality’s “zero-based budgeting approach” includes a $94.6 million decrease from the 2017 budget. The OB has a $433 million budget and the CB a $252 million budget.

A decrease of $724,869 from the proposed budget appears in the final one, largely thanks to feedback heard from the three-day budget workshops that took place earlier this month.

Investment in public facilities takes up the biggest chunk of the CB’s budget, at $152 million.

Second is transportation projects at $70 million followed by recreation and culture projects at $30 million.

Around $220 million of the overall CB will be spent on construction. read more at

The 2018 budget places a focus on sustaining current services, with investments in public facilities and transportation taking the biggest shares.

That’s all for this weeks’ roundup. Check back on The A-Team blog for more news and updates on Fort McMurray.


The following blog post Around Town: Fort McMurray News (Week of March 2) was originally published on