Guest Speakers: Sam Simone & Monica Klingenberg
Sales Representatives with Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited, Brokerage in Prince Edward County, Ontario
- Where is Picton, Prince Edward County area?
- The areas that make up Prince Edward County
- What’s compelling about the area and why people should purchase or visit Prince Edward County
- The reasons Sam and Monica moved there
- Buying in Prince Edward County: A good investment?
- What about for downsizers or people looking for a vacation property?
- How is the vacation rental market there? Do people use AirBNB?
- The difference in purchasing a place in town vs on the water
- The price ranges in the County
- The lifestyle in Prince Edward County
- The demographics of people in Prince Edward County
- The improvements coming down the road there
- The areas that are better buys or places where there will be a lot demand
DavelleMorrison: Welcome to the Morrison Report. I wanted to create a podcast that would give people insight into the Toronto Real Estate Market. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at Davelle Morrison or like my business page on Facebook.
Hi everybody. Thanks so much for joining us today. Today we have Sam Simone and Monica Klingenberg, sales representatives with Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited Brokerage in Picton, Ontario. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us, guys.
Sam Simone: Thank you.
Monica K: Thanks so much for having us, Davelle.
Sam Simone: Pleasure to be here.
DavelleMorrison: Awesome. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your backgrounds and your careers in real estate?
Sam Simone: Myself, I started working part time in a Toronto real estate office while I was obtaining my culinary degree, if you can believe it, and I actually worked in Italy for a year, part of that culinary experience. But I still felt connected, for some reason, to the real estate world and just couldn’t give it up. So after the year in Italy, I decided to go further with my real estate career.
I worked as a full-time assistance with our other partner, Laurie Gruer, who’s unfortunately not here today, and worked with him as an assistant in 2002. We worked very well together and decided to become partners. I then got my real estate license about 2005, and then we both worked at the Chestnut Park office in Toronto and decided to move to the county and open up an office here in 2008/2009.
DavelleMorrison: Awesome. And Monica?
Monica K: Well, I have worked in real estate basically my entire career in one aspect or other. I started out in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I was working with a builder of passive solar homes. From there, I moved to Toronto, where I worked for a number of years in real estate marketing and advertising.
That led to an opportunity for me to move to New York City, which I eagerly accepted. I worked in New York for over 30 years as a consultant to real estate developers, basically throughout the Northeastern United States. I love real estate. To me, it’s a very rewarding business when you’re helping people find the home of their dreams or to change their lives as they move from one property to another. That’s how I ended up being in real estate basically for my entire life.
DavelleMorrison: Awesome. And you both work in Picton, the Prince Edward County area. Can you explain to our listeners where that is for those who don’t know?
Sam Simone: Definitely. Prince Edward County is, a lot of people don’t know, it’s actually an island and it’s two hours east of Toronto, so it’s about 30 minutes just south of Belleville, and we’re approximately 40, 45 minutes away from Kingston. So we’re almost halfway between Toronto and Montreal which, again, is a big appeal for many. When you mention Prince Edward County, nowadays people know what it is, where it is, but a couple years ago, people had no clue where it is until you mentioned Sandbanks Provincial Park. Then everybody kind of remembered Sandbanks because a lot of people used to come here when they were younger. So that’s where we are.
DavelleMorrison: What areas make up Prince Edward County? Because I always hear different things like Wellington and Bloomfield. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Sam Simone: Wonderful. Yeah. Definitely. The county is divided pretty much into seven wards, and within those wards sit the main towns of Picton, Bloomfield and Wellington, like you mentioned. Each area has its own characteristics and topography and its own personality really. Some areas of the county, Davelle, as you know, are ideal for growing grapes and orchards and farming and blueberry fields, etc.
The main community pretty much is Picton, because it offers a wide range of services like restaurants, the hospitals here in Picton, grocery stores, theaters here in Picton, there’s boutiques, there’s a lot … It has a lot to offer. Bloomfield is a charming village that features art galleries, boutiques, there’s antique stores and, of course, the famous Slickers Ice Cream, which one would have to line up to get a scoop of ice cream in the summertime. Then we have, of course, Wellington, the home of The Drake, and there are public beaches and restaurants and galleries; very appealing. Each area is pretty appealing for many reasons. It just depends what a buyer would like.
DavelleMorrison: Awesome. What do you feel is compelling about your area, and why do you think people should purchase or visit Prince Edward County, for that matter?
Monica K: That is a long answer because there’s just so much here. Leisure Magazine described the county this way. They said, “If you cross Montauk, New York, with the California Napa Valley circa 1970, you get Prince Edward County.” Condé Nast Traveler magazine named Prince Edward County as “Canada’s Coolest Island Hideaway.” There’s just so many wonderful things in the county. Whether your passion is the arts or cycling, fine dining, wine and spirits, whether it’s craft beer or you’re a foodie and you want artisanal bread and cheeses. There’s lilacs, there’s llamas, and there’s lavender. You can find it all in the county.
DavelleMorrison: That’s awesome.
Monica K: So if you enjoy the water or boating, there’s the Sandbanks Provincial Park, which has some of the most beautiful fresh water beaches in the world. They also offer great camping sites with facilities. There’s public boat launches scattered around the county, so if you’re a kayaker or a canoer, you can put your boat in and explore the county from the water side. If you’re a more serious boater, there’s the Yacht Club in Picton and there’s several large marinas in the county as well.
Then, in the summer, which is really our high season here, there’s a multitude of farm stands, there’s asparagus farms and organic vegetables and wonderful nurseries. We really kind of encourage people to get off the beaten path and take any small road, and it will lead them to some new adventure, and they’ll find some terrific surprise along the way. They can explore the Art Trail. There’s 63 galleries started around the county. There’s Taste Trail. There’s Countylicious. There’s a Barn Quilt Trail. There’s all kinds of wine tours offered by almost 40 vineyards that are here.
If you’re a music lover – see, I told you it was a long answer …
DavelleMorrison: Yeah. That’s okay.
Monica K: … there’s many venues that offer live music, and there’s the annual jazz festival at the Regent Theater in Picton, which draws people from all over. So the county is a pretty compelling place.
One of the other aspects about it that we love is that it’s a very diverse community. All people are welcome here. In fact, Prince Edward County sponsored two families from Syria last year, and there’s more to come this year and in the future. So we’re really proud to be a part of this community.
DavelleMorrison: Cool. That’s awesome. I’m always surprised in Toronto how a lot of my friends have never been to the county and they don’t know about it, and they sort of go, “Well, what’s there to do there?” I’ve actually organized a group of my friends to come for May 2-4 weekend, and I’m going to be putting together a weekend for them, and for most of them, they’ve never been to the county. So I’m going to be sort of introducing them to it.
Sam Simone: Wonderful.
DavelleMorrison: It’s very interesting to hear about all the different things, because over the years, I’ve gone camping in Sandbanks Provincial Park. I’ve been to the beach. I actually did my yoga teacher training out there, which is how I became familiar with Prince Edward County to begin with and sort of everything that was going around there. So, yeah, your restaurants are amazing, and the food’s great. I think there’s definitely a lot to offer there, for sure.
Why did you guys …
Sam Simone: We’re very lucky.
DavelleMorrison: Yeah. Why did you guys move to the county? Because you weren’t born there, so what propelled you to move there?
Sam Simone: Purely accident actually, if you can kind of say that. Laurie Gruer and myself actually, we came out here with a friend, because she was actually interested in a farm property. At that time, back in 2001, we were working in Toronto, so we weren’t familiar with farm properties, but we thought, “We’ll just come for the ride,” if you will.
Well, we pretty much fell in love with the county and, if you can believe it, we actually bought a house on that maiden voyage. After that, we began doing the weekend thing, and the more we came here, the more we fell in love with the county and what it has to offer, as Monica has mentioned. We then ultimately made the decision to move here full time and open up an office here.
DavelleMorrison: That’s awesome.
Sam Simone: And here we are.
DavelleMorrison: And Monica, what about you? What drew you to the county, to move there?
Monica K: Well, I told you previously that I came from Saskatoon, so as a kid, I spent my summers on a farm. I’m very used to being in your rural communities. That aspect of Prince Edward County really appealed to me. When I moved to New York, at about the same time, one of my best friends from Saskatoon, who is an artist, moved to the county.
Through all the years I was in the United States, I would come to the county with my kids for vacations. We spent a lot of time here over the years, and I just fell in love with the county. I just find it to be breathtakingly beautiful and the people here to be so warm and welcoming. After 32 years in New York, I decided it was time to start over and slow down my life a little bit, and the county was just the obvious choice for me.
DavelleMorrison: Perfect. That’s great. I’m going to assume the next answer to my following question’s going to be yes, but do you feel that Prince Edward County is a good investment?
Sam Simone: Yes. The way real estate’s going all over Ontario, I think anywhere is a good investment these days. But why we’re seeing the county as a good investment, in the past number of years, as we all know, the economy has stabilized. Prices in the county have increased modestly, but we’re noticing now that Prince Edward County is definitely on people’s radar.
The recent years, the demand has definitely increased. We’re now seeing competition for properties, which was never the case, so prices have certainly gone up. We’re seeing the rush of Torontonians taking the opportunity to buy here as opposed to spending a million and a half in Toronto that they can’t afford. They can come out here, buy something for 300, 400, and enjoy their lives and not have to work the rest of their lives paying off their mortgage.
DavelleMorrison: Nice. So you were saying, the price ranges that you’ve seen are sort of 300, 400, 500,000? Would that be about right or more?
Sam Simone: You know, the price ranges here can vary from $80,000 for a lot to multi-million dollar homes. There is a wide range. There’s something for everybody. Definitely.
DavelleMorrison: Tell me a little bit about the days on market, what they used to be versus what they’re like now.
Sam Simone: Well, when we first moved here from Toronto, it was quite the shock because, as we know, Toronto real estate has been strong for the past many years. We were used to listing a property, putting an offer date on the property, receiving offers and moving on to the next listing. Moving here was a total change.
Properties were on the market here for one, two, three, even sometimes four years, which was normal here, because it was essentially second homes for people. There wasn’t really the rush or demand but, again, now we’re seeing … We’re even seeing now, in the past couple of weeks, even the past year, a listing will come up, you call to make an appointment, and you’re told that, “Sorry. There’s already an offer on it.” It’s certainly changed. Especially the days on market has certainly diminished.
DavelleMorrison: It’s sort of like you guys move out there for the quieter lifestyle that now the Toronto lifestyle has following you there.
Sam Simone: Pretty much. That’s pretty much why we moved out here, for the quieter life, and it’s changing.
DavelleMorrison: Toronto’s coming to get you.
Sam Simone: Which we’re not complaining about.
DavelleMorrison: Right. Would you say that some of the people buying out there are looking for vacation properties or are they downsizers? Who would you say is sort of the demographic of people going out there to purchase property?
Sam Simone: Both actually. Obviously it depends on the amount you wish to invest here. As I mentioned, there’s a wide range of options available from large estate homes, century homes, modest cottages, bungalows, and there are even new subdivisions being built. At first, with demographics, at first we saw, it was usually retirees coming down or people preparing for their retirement, buying a home, doing the weekend thing and when they were retired, they moved down here full time.
In the past four or five years, we’ve seen a total change. It’s a much younger demographic coming in. We’re seeing younger people, even younger people in Toronto that have even quit their jobs in Toronto and are moving out here and reinventing themselves out here. It’s really, really changing, and it’s boosting our economy really, because all these new ideas and galleries and shops and stores are all opening. So it’s just adding to the community, which is great.
Monica K: Also, I would just add to that. With the technology of today, people can now work remotely. You don’t have to go to an office every day. You can work in the county from home, and if you need to go to your office in Toronto once or twice a week, it’s very doable from here. That also opens the door for the younger demographic to move to the county where housing’s more affordable and there’s plenty of opportunities.
DavelleMorrison: How is the vacation rental market out there? Are people using AirBNB or VRBO or …?
Monica K: They’re using everything. The vacation rental market here is very vibrant. In the summer here, the population swells with so many visitors that come here. And there are a lot of options for accommodations here depending on their preferences.
You can go to a place like the Merrill Inn, which offers full service and has restaurants. Or if you prefer something that’s more private, there’s cottages, there are private homes available that you can rent. There’s people who are very gregarious and they like to meet other people, and they enjoy staying in private homes. Those options are also available through AirBNB and another of other services as you mentioned. There’s a lot of diversity in the kind of places that people can come to stay in the summer. As I said, it’s very busy.
The key that we want to stress to people to enjoying their stay in the county is planning ahead. The county’s become so popular, and you know this from your experience here, too, many of the places are booked up by late spring. It’s really important to think ahead, to plan ahead so that you can really explore your options and plan a fabulous vacation here.
DavelleMorrison: Right. That leads me to sort of … As an investor, it seems like there are a lot of people purchasing properties to use them for short-term rentals. Are there additional opportunities? You mentioned how places are getting booked up and you better book soon. Are there opportunities for investors to purchase properties there and use them for short-term rental? Is there still enough demand for that?
Sam Simone: Definitely. We’re seeing that a lot with the younger couples especially. They’ll definitely buy a place here and use it for AirBNB and as a short-term rental. That’s becoming very popular as AirBNB becomes more popular. Also, VRBO is not as big as AirBNB, but people are also using that outlet.
There are also other avenues for rentals. There are some companies out here, they manage a whole bunch of cottages and do the whole rental things for the owners so the owners don’t have to worry about anything. They just sit back and basically let the company do everything from bookings to turnovers to repairs. We’re definitely seeing an increase of people wanting short-term rental properties.
Monica K: One of the things that we stress to people, because we get calls every day from people who are looking to come here and buy a house with the thought that they can divide it into two or three apartments and just make it basically into a rental thing. We do stress to people that they have to be aware, there are zoning regulations in the county, and they’re in place for the reason that the county wants to stay the county. It doesn’t just want to become a rental community.
You can’t have that expectation that you can do anything you want to do with a property. You have to … That’s where realtors come in handy. We understand what those things are, and we can guide people, because they don’t really understand what the rules can be for certain properties here.
DavelleMorrison: That definitely makes sense. Would you say, for an investor, that there is positive cash flow then available for doing short-term rentals for a property out there?
Monica K: Well, it varies property by property depending on how much they have invested in the property and what their carry is. But certainly, in the summer months, the rentals are substantially higher than they are through the rest of the year and people do stand the opportunity to make a good income from those.
DavelleMorrison: What about the long-term rental market there? Yes, lots of people are focused on the short-term rental market, but what if somebody’s purchasing a property and then wants to just have a year-round tenant? Does that make sense for people or how does that work?
Monica K: It does. There’s a real need for rental properties in the county, and there’s actually a shortage of long-term rentals. That gets even more intense during the summer months because a lot of people transfer over to weekly rentals with their properties. Long-term rental, definitely there is an opportunity there for that.
Sam Simone: There are … We have clients even that some people are building a house and they need somewhere to live instead of … They like to be here while their house is being built as opposed to being in Toronto or Ottawa or wherever you may be from. That’s also an opportunity for a long-term rental, because usually those people building new houses tend to want something here long-term so they can keep an eye on their house.
DavelleMorrison: Right. What’s the difference between purchasing a property, let’s say, in town, let’s say, in Picton versus on the water in sort of a more outlying area? I guess I’m looking at the plumbing and being on a dug well versus the sewer system. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Sam Simone: That’s what I was going to say actually. The main difference probably is prices and taxes. Of course, they tend to be higher on waterfront properties than in-town properties. Waterfront properties can offer more privacy whereas in-town locations appeal to those who want to be on town services, like water and sewage, and who can walk to the conveniences of Main Street. We’re getting a lot of that lately, that people just have that lifestyle in Toronto, so when they come out here, they want to walk to get their newspaper or coffee, etc.
But on the other hand, we are seeing people who also want to be outside of the town and want privacy and quietness. With waterfront properties, as you mentioned Davelle, you are going to have to deal with septics and wells, whereas in-town properties usually don’t, depending what town, because not all towns are on those services.
Our advice would be … We always advise our clients not only to do a home inspection but also to do the well and septic inspection also just to make sure everything is on the up and up and you’re getting what you’re buying. It just depends, again, on what people want and where they want to be.
Monica K: I think it’s fair to say that for some people who are buying in the rural properties, it’s a bit of a learning curve. You have to test your well water from time to time. You have to be careful what you put into your septic system. Not everybody’s aware about how sensitive they can be. It’s a bit of a learning experience for people who aren’t used to living on rural properties, but it’s not enough to keep people away certainly. They love all the other benefits enough that they don’t let that stand in their way.
DavelleMorrison: Of course. Can you tell us a little bit about … I’m a Toronto agent, and when I would look on the MLS for property, I would look and search, but I can’t find a lot of the Prince Edward County properties when I do my MLS search. I know I get a lot of the listings from you guys that you send to me. Can you explain to us sort of the difference and why that is?
Sam Simone: Sure. Our, and we think this is an advantage over some other agents, we’re part of the Toronto Real Estate Board as well as the Quinte Real Estate Board so all of our listings go right to Toronto and go to the Quinte Board. They’re all filtered through the boards right down to Realtor.ca that many people use.
That’s the reason probably why you’re seeing some listings on your system and not on the Quinte system is that because agents here, many agents here, most of the agents here actually, aren’t part of the Toronto Real Estate Board. So when they post their listings, they’re just going to Quinte board and they’re filtered to Realtor.ca, whereas you, if you pull listings up on the Toronto Real Estate Board, you won’t see nearly as much as you would on Realtor.ca or on the Quinte board.
DavelleMorrison: Exactly. I think it’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed in other markets. I’m part of a bunch of different Facebook groups with agents, and I think what people are noticing is that because the Toronto market is becoming so difficult, because it’s so expensive …
Sam Simone: Oh yes.
DavelleMorrison: … you have a lot of Toronto agents looking outside of Toronto for properties for their clients. Because not all of them are on that Toronto system, they’re not seeing everything. It’s certainly causing a couple of differences. It’s just sort of interesting to note.
Sam Simone: Yeah. It is interesting how that works. I think it’s a little bit of a flaw in the system, but …
DavelleMorrison: Yeah. Absolutely.
Sam Simone: But, again, most of the public does rely on Realtor.ca for their listings, but as you said, if you put someone on the email search, they will get most of the listings. But, as you say, the odd person can list a property on the Toronto Real Estate Board and not on the Quinte board and no one would know about it essentially.
DavelleMorrison: Right. Exactly. I mean, this week …
Sam Simone: That’s why we do both to give our sellers the most exposure as we can.
DavelleMorrison: Perfect. Exactly. I noticed a listing this weekend on Sheba Island. It was close to Sandbanks, and it was this modern property for $799,000. It was interesting because I thought, “It’s the Toronto mentality for sellers creeping into the county in that you have sellers with these really high expectations about what they think their place is worth because they think someone from Toronto who’s got a million-dollar property’s going to sell it and think that $800,000 is nothing in the county.” Do you find that that is something that’s creeping, mindset rather that’s creeping into your sellers these days?
Monica K: I don’t think it’s so much a mindset as it’s just a reflection on the market here and how it’s changing. We do see homes selling this year for prices at those numbers, and they’re not necessarily on the water. It’s just a matter of the property or how the house is itself, but we do see a demand for those properties at those prices here this year.
DavelleMorrison: Wow. Obvious-
Monica K: I mean, within reason. You can’t just throw any number on a property, as you know, and expect it to sell. The buyers are intelligent people, and they have an understanding of how real estate works and how to research what the values of properties should be with the help of their agents. So you can’t just throw crazy numbers out there, but we do see numbers going up here for sure.
DavelleMorrison: Got it. What improvements do you see coming down the road for the county? Are there changes coming? Things are going sort of the way they are? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Monica K: Well, I think the county’s very aware, the county council, they’re all very aware of the changes that are occurring in the county and, in some respects, they’ve tried to be ahead of the curve. I don’t know if you were here last summer, but it was a little bit difficult in town because Main Street was under construction. They completely tore up the entire Main Street of Picton to upgrade the services in preparation for, I think, more people moving here. The result of that was better services plus all new sidewalks and new trees and new lighting as a beautification of Main Street in Picton, so I think that is being done in response to the way the county is growing.
The Royal Hotel on Main Street is a beautiful historic building that’s undergoing a complete renovation but maintaining its historical façade. Once that’s completed, it’ll be a beautiful boutique hotel with stores, more commercial on the street level, and its own restaurants with a [nameshare 26:03] from Toronto coming here to work there.
Those are all upgrades that are happening, and there’s a lot more going on throughout the county. The roads are continually being upgraded. In some instances, they’re being widened a little bit just to accommodate more traffic and maybe to make them a little more palatable to cyclists who are having some bumpy rides around the county some days. They’re working hard to make the county a better place, for sure.
DavelleMorrison: Awesome. That sounds great. I was hearing about that hotel. I think it was the chef from Le Sélect Bistro that was going to be going to open up a spot there.
Sam Simone: That’s right.
DavelleMorrison: Then I’m on the Jamie Kennedy email list, so I get emails from Jamie Kennedy about, he’s got sort of a food experience happening in the county as well. There’s definitely …
Sam Simone: That’s right. With a wine pairing. That’s right.
DavelleMorrison: Yeah. Have you guys been to that one yet or no?
Sam Simone: No. We know people that went. We might actually be going this year.
DavelleMorrison: Cool. Excellent. Are there areas out in the county that you think are better buys or sort of places where you think that people maybe they don’t consider yet but that you think they should consider?
Sam Simone: I think that was the case years ago. I think now, in today’s market, I think the county as a whole is pretty much in demand. People want a piece of the county. Again, it really depends on whether people want to be in town or the country.
Some buyers like the remoteness of the county, of the country. Others like to be in town and close to all the action. Some like to be close to the vineyards or the beaches or cycling routes. We’re even seeing now, to reduce their traveling time, we’re even seeing people that want to be closer to the 401. It just really depends, yeah. It really depends on who it is and where they want to be and what they want out of the county.
DavelleMorrison: Wow. Geez.
Sam Simone: The county, as you know, Davelle, a county’s not a small place, but it’s not difficult to get from one place to another. So if you’re staying at one end of the county and want to get to some wineries at the other end of the county, it’s not a big deal. It’s not a long drive. It’s not like driving through downtown Toronto.
DavelleMorrison: See, the trick of driving through downtown Toronto is knowing the route to take and the side streets to drive on.
Sam Simone: That’s right. That’s right. Here, you can take the same route, and you’ll never experience rush hour.
DavelleMorrison: Exactly. Is there anything else you think my listeners should know about the county or investing there?
Monica K: Well, I guess, the key to having a good time, as we talked about earlier, one of the things that we like to stress to people is the aspect of planning ahead and taking the time to get to know the county. It’s a bigger place, as Sam just mentioned, than most people realize. We highly recommend that people come and visit and explore the county so that they can get a sense of where they want to be. Because, as we just discussed, there’s a lot of different types of locations within the county.
We also really, again, stress to people that they should plan ahead. The summer in the county is our prime selling season here, so [inaudible 29:12] appreciate if people will give us as much notice as possible before they come. The analogy for us is kind of, you wouldn’t buy an expensive car without taking it for a test drive, nor should you come here expecting to buy a property on your first visit. You really need to get to know the place a little bit. We just think that people should take the time to explore and get to know where they want to be before they start making serious decisions about buying real estate here.
DavelleMorrison: Perfect. That makes sense. How can my listeners reach you guys for more questions if they want to come out to the county and take a look at some properties? Where can they find you?
Sam Simone: They can reach us through our websites, which is www.samsimone.com or www.monicaklingenberg.com, or alternatively through our office. We have a toll-free number, which is 1-877-471-1708, and we can easily be emailed through our website also. We’re ready to be reached.
DavelleMorrison: You’re reachable. You’re with Chestnut …
Sam Simone: We’re reachable.
DavelleMorrison: You’re with Chestnut Park Real Estate in Prince Edward County in Picton.
Sam Simone: We are.
DavelleMorrison: If people have a hard time reaching you, they can just Google and find you guys there. Thank you both so much for joining us today. This has been awesome. Really interesting. Thank you.
Monica K: Great. Thank you so much.
Sam Simone: Thank you, Davelle. Thank you for the opportunity.
DavelleMorrison: Thanks so much for joining us today with some Toronto Real Estate market insights. You can visit my website at MorrisonSellsRealEstate.com or listen to more episodes, go to MorrisonTalksRealEstate.com. Thanks so much for joining us.