Vol. 1 Issue 1: First-Ever E-News

Wow, January flew by!! Happy New Year!
It’s been a wild ride since Ryan and I landed in Canmore six years ago, and the changes have been seemingly endless, which is probably why we’ve never put out a newsletter - Ha! 

So… if you’re confused as to why you’re just seeing an e-newsletter from us now, don’t be – and thanks for clicking in!

We haven’t advertised or sent a newsletter in six years, yet the business always comes, our people always connect us, and we are always put in touch with those we are meant to cross paths with.
Thank you for being those people. Thank you for referring us.

It’s been getting increasingly difficult to say what we do for a living. No joke.
Because honestly, we’re just doing life: raising boys, feeding boys, running boys, coaching boys, real estate, business operations, networking, community work, content creation, side hustles, and passion projects. And this past year we’ve been working hard to bring “all of our work” closer together so we can continue to do all the things we love to do and make a living while doing it.

So, here’s a little bit of what we’ve been up to as of late …

Real estate remains our main gig and day job, but like most (elder) millennials, we have a few things on the go; these are our side hustles and passion projects that are meant to push the world forward and pave the way for generations to come … so keep reading all the way to the end if you want the full-full update and see how we’ve been tying it all together, because really, as service providers, creators, parents, and visionaries, we are our work and it’s all connected, baby!

Starting with a high-level overview of the real estate market ... so high you won't find any stats here, mostly in the interest of time and space. But as you read on, you'll see that it's the real-time data that matters most.

The post-covid frenzy of real estate activity the last few years is very reminiscent of the market frenzy we experienced following the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires. The last four years of global turmoil and disruption have come with so much economic uncertainty, and many, many, jolts, jabs, and left hooks that unfortunately continue. And each of these changes impact every person, family, and business differently; and still some, not at all. Our boots-on-the-ground vantage point keeps us connected to the full spectrum of people and their movements.

Individualistic movement is how we like to describe our lived experiences after the fires and what we have been seeing in the real estate market these past few years. This is the reality of any market; it's a reflection of human behavior, trends, and economic movement – all of which have been set into a tail-spinning frenzy over the last few years.

These types of economic disruptions can be likened to a bear in a beehive.
Picture it: there is danger which creates an instant frenzy of activity out of the hive.
The bees are swarming and on alert. They’ve just been displaced and are moving in every direction; some are attacking, some are just a bit confused; others not affected at all.

The market frenzy we continue to experience today is no different.
And the bears in the beehive have been non-stop.

So, what happens when all this individual decision-making floods the market (and the stats)?

For us as Real Estate Advisors: Nothing really changes.

Our approach to real estate is truly about advisement and strategy no matter what. 
No matter where you are at in your real estate journey, and no matter what the market is doing; we provide valuable insight and market education that empowers our clients to make the real estate decisions right for them.

How do we find the best real estate strategy for you?

It starts with two questions: 
Who are you? and What are you trying to achieve?
We meet our clients where they are, and determine what is possible.

Despite the many outside influences and constant changes, the real estate market continues as the major economic churner it is, and we continue to move with the ebbs and flows, always focusing on the real-time data and how it applies to the outcomes our clients are trying to achieve today.

Utilizing these strategies, we had a fantastic year.

Not because it was easy - ha! But because we were able to pull off some amazing real estate that we are really proud of, in turn, helping some amazing people accomplish their real estate dreams, despite the market frenzy.

Diving into the market stats you'll see that the numbers are a bit crazy, which is why we feel compelled to share some of the market context and highlights from our year.

We worked through some complex transactions and market timing, often taking advantage of the slightest whispers of opportunity. There were some thrilling moments when the seemingly impossible became possible, truly the best part of our job. 

This past year we helped a mix of local families and businesses, as well as welcomed some newcomers to the community including a couple of growing families and two highly skilled first responders.

Our buyers negotiated the best prices, and so did our sellers.
Five of our transactions included properties with rental suites.

More than a few of our clients completed their transactions from afar; a testament to the trust our clients have in us, along with the market insight and empowerment we provide. This included some first-time buyers who made some veteran moves to move back to Canmore and purchased their cute little condo sight unseen!

Finding ways to work around offers with conditions was grueling in 2022 and we ended the year still unfruitful in finding a home that was handicap accessible/modifiable. We had the most stringent and specific criteria plus a long due diligence period during the most competitive and cutthroat market conditions. There were times we all wanted to give up, but we persisted, waited, and watched – and during the slightest market lull in early 2023, we made our moves! Maximizing everything we had learned up to that point, we finally secured the required due diligence period and perfect forever home for our youngest client to date. This one taught us a lot about elevators, but more about life and how precious it truly is. It was an amazing start to the year.

Early in the year we also heard from a long-time client who has been making real estate goals and checking them off in a whirlwind couple of years. Realizing where the market was heading, they did some financial gymnastics and were able to capitalize on another slight two-week market lull back in February, just before inventory went down and prices went up again. Their existing condo was listed (exactly one year after purchasing) and received multiple offers the same day. It was enough to hit the target price “to make it all work” and for the developer to accept the sale of buyer’s home condition who wouldn’t have even considered it just weeks earlier. This growing family postponed their honeymoon and was successful in upsizing and securing a new build property with income suite instead. But that was already a whole year ago and they are likely reading this very update, beachside.

Making multiple transactions to achieve some goals was a theme for 2023 and many of our clients made some Nascar-worthy moves as they navigated all sorts of multi-faceted scenarios - when pricing, negotiating, and timing were everything.

At one point we were timing the sale of the lowest-priced single-family on the market to upsize to the next lowest-priced single-family home which was another round of financial gymnastics and a very specific listing strategy to achieve the timing and price required. These negotiations also came with four existing lease agreements and two new ones, a relocation, and a baby on the way. I’m dizzy even writing that. Ha! They too, didn’t see their new home until they arrived in person on possession day - coincidently the same day a neighbour was throwing a backyard-kitchen party, arriving to live music and festivities, which was hilariously awesome and something we’ll consider for our clients going forward 😉

Another noteworthy transaction I’m super proud of is the commercial sale of the previously undeveloped – but soon to be iconic – second-floor event space with spectacular views located at the Solara Resort. It’s thrilling to be working alongside some incredible local businesses who are realizing their dreams years in the making which also contribute to the health and wealth of our local economy. More to come on this space soon … and party invites 😉

Our experience and strategies continued to shine through the ebbs and flows of the market and by the end of the year we were negotiating fifty-thousand-dollar reductions for our buyers; one appraisal even coming back $50k higher than their purchase price - woohoo! We helped people with their business and staff housing needs, retirement, and pre-retirement plans, and we helped investors both get in and out of the market. We even sold our first lakefront estate on Ghost Lake.

Moving quickly with real-time data is our superpower, and we accomplished a lot for our clients, ending the year at $16M in transactions, or about 3.4% of the Canmore market share! We’re on the map! 

Thank you again to everyone who personally and professionally referred us, and who trusted us with their real estate needs, contributing to our success this year.

But this isn’t the only way we’re on the map.

In September 2023 we also co-founded the community land trust, Canmoreland CLT. This is one of the ways we have been working to tie together our community work with our industry knowledge and to the bigger economic realms that all our other work and networks connect us to.

As much as we are proud of the work we did this past year, it wasn’t easy, and it’s only getting harder to navigate this industry in its current state.

The impacts and reality of the real estate market is something we don’t take lightly with responsible real estate weighing heavily on our hearts and minds. As real estate professionals, we see firsthand how the local community is affected by the many facets of the real estate sector and therefore we spent 2023 doing a deeper dive into the health of the entire sector, bringing our market insights and knowledge to the forefront of the housing and affordability crisis in the Bow Valley.

Through this community research, Ryan, and I, together with two other incredible humans, merged our work and community visions to create a new non-profit company focused on preserving real estate space meant for the fabric of the community, which comes in the form of a Community Land Trust (CLT).

Paving a new way for real estate has been on my mind for a long time.
In fact, I’ve been carrying around an article for about a decade which is about how the real estate industry is overdue for a shakeup. This shakeup is less of a shakeup and more about applying industry knowledge differently, moving to empower local communities to own their space and take charge of their own economic prosperity and at this point, their own existence.

Community land trusts are effective and practical mechanisms meant to acquire and preserve real estate in the most expensive and trickiest of markets. Canmoreland CLT was created to support real estate solutions for the Bow Valley so that the health of the community is not jeopardized by outside influences or market conditions of the day; it’s a way to keep the fabric of the local community intact, affordable, and accessible, no matter what.

It's still early days, but the focus for Canmoreland CLT in 2024 surrounds gathering other collaborators and providing education on what’s possible with the new entity (so much). We will be expanding the board out into the community and of course fundraising, grant writing, and sourcing donations which is the name of the game and a whole new realm for us as a “not-for-profit” – a term I’d rather not use to be honest – and thankfully our approach to the new NFP is already a business approach with plans for our own revenue streams.

If you happened to see the documentary UnCharitable by Dan Pallotta, then you will understand the reference, but if not, we highly recommend the film, or at very least, the TedTalk on this topic.

We have spent the last year dancing around political, municipal, and granting barriers in all our endeavors; the common theme being that there are so many barriers that stifle action; so many processes that waste time, energy, and resources when that same time, energy, and resources could be used for action.

So, we created an entity ready for action.
Canmoreland CLT is the direct result of our community research project and was identified as the fastest and easiest way to be able to support real estate solutions today. Enough talking about solutions – we now have a vehicle to drive solutions.

Canmoreland CLT is currently one of only four CLTs in Alberta and one of about forty nationwide.
You can learn more about this growing movement through the Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts at www.communityland.ca their name is like ours and it makes me smile every time.

If you are in the Bow Valley, you may have seen the money-wrapped Monopoly-themed tree at the Rotary Club of Canmore Festival of Trees this past December at the Malcolm Hotel. This was a bit of a soft-launch community announcement of the new entity. 

From value-priced Baltic Avenue opportunities to bigger Boardwalk dreams and everything in between,” Canmoreland has a long list of alternative, low-investment, and more immediate real estate and space solutions that exist.

Much to our surprise the tree won a third-place ribbon for Artistic Sophistication, but more importantly the interest from the community is growing. We invite you to learn more at www.canmoreland.ca and to sign up for the newsletter if you haven’t already. More to come on upcoming events, blog, and opportunities to get involved.

In all that we do, we are ready for action.

Which brings us to Ryan’s passion project update, four years in the making.

SustainAgro Ltd. has been a labour of love with the most incredible culmination of visionaries, passion, knowledge, leading-edge technology, and some divine crossing of paths in terms of how the group came to be. And now, this company is transitioning the future of renewable energy and agriculture through a high-tech proprietary process that converts biomass into four high-quality outputs: renewable diesel, biochar, an agricultural bio-accelerant, and graphene.

Tying together his twenty years of experience in construction, oil and gas, and industrial operations (all before real estate), in his spare time, Ryan has been building the business infrastructure as Chief Operating Officer.

2023 was a huge year of traction, but a last-minute political something moved the focus of the operations from PEI, to Ontario and Nova Scotia, now both vying for the first location - very much to the disappointment of (us) and Kensington, PEI Mayor Rowan Caseley who made headlines by putting the province on blast. Love him.

But as they say, there’s no such thing as bad press and since then, the progress has accelerated.
With government support, SustainAgro expects to break ground on their inaugural manufacturing facility in 2024 … location TBD … you can stay updated on their progress by following them on LinkedIn.

If you’re still reading, thank you for making it this far...
In some ways it feels hard to believe we made it this far too.

And in all honestly, this newsletter almost got filed away like all the previous ones – because, well, real-time data – by the time I’ve typed it, the info is practically outdated(It’s also why there’s no fancy formatting or images even though it pains me not to pretty it up). But at the same time, it’s all still only a drop in the bucket and there’s so much more to come.

The work and the pivots never really stop, do they?!
Therefore, we continue to live in the moment the best we can, prioritizing the needs and the people of the day (including our growing boys), balanced with getting into nature, disconnecting from the screens, connecting within the community, and doing the good work.

In the words of my late friend Karl Wahl, “All we’ve got is time and priorities."

His fifty years of leadership and experience boiled down to three words of advice.
Although I didn’t feel like it was at the time, I now know it’s the best advice. Focusing on our time and priorities really helped us shape all our endeavors in 2023 and continues into 2024.

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent on the @liveworkplaycanmore socials as of late, which was another shift to balance my outputs, focus, and priorities … but I really miss the online community I’ve created over the years of dedicated posting despite never quite cracking that algorithm. Comeback pending … but for now, I’m working on about 100 blogs … 

If any of this resonates with you and you wish to collaborate or support us further, please do!!!
Community connection remains paramount on our list of priorities for 2024 and we love making connections, big and small. Please reach out any time to talk about any potential synergies and alignment with your own projects.

This is a callout for the good guys, the helpers, the misfits, and the ignored; the innovators and changemakers, the artists, and free thinkers. The action people. We could also really use some volunteer researchers, a lawyer, an accountant, videographer, and a graphic designer ... 

We believe through community collaboration everything is possible. 

Being in start-up mode is challenging, and so far, we are self-funded until we can source the next phase of seed funding. If you are in a position to invest or donate to a visionary community organization, Thank You!!

Every $ counts and we promise we will action every $ to its highest and best use, keeping the good work going.

But supporting us can look like many things:

  • Call us with your real estate needs, advice, and strategy
  • Refer us to your people for any of their real estate needs
  • Send us a killer client testimonial we can share with the world
  • Sign up for the Canmoreland CLT newsletter and let us know you want to help
  • Watch for and attend the upcoming Canmoreland community sessions
  • Donate & Collaborate: Introductions, Connections, Time, Energy, $$$
  • Follow SustainAgro on LinkedIn
  • Reach out to keep the conversation going

We appreciate each and every one of you.
Sorry, we have been out of touch and off the socials the last little while … but as you can read, it hasn’t been for lack of content.

Reach out any time. We hope to connect with you soon.
Donna (and Ryan)