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COVID-19, now what?

The provincial government has added “Real Estate Trading Services” to the list of items that are essential for the economic wellbeing of our province.

What are we, your Realtors®, advising our clients who are wanting to sell or buy? First and foremost, stay home and stay healthy. Your health and safety are most important. Second, call us. We want to hear how you’re doing and answer any questions you may have about our market.

Sellers:

If you’re wanting to sell this year, take this time at home to get it ready for the market. On the sunny days, go outside and tend to your yard or if you have a condo, spruce it up by cleaning the deck, polishing the rails and glass and adding some potted plants. On those days when it’s raining, freshen up with paint, clean out the closets and get some of those cleaning tasks you’ve been putting off done. Once you’ve got the place looking fabulous, give us a call and we will book the photoshoot, floor plans and for every home, we list we are offering the 3D tour so potential buyers can virtually walk through your home online.

Buyers:

If you’re wanting to buy this year, expect that we will be sending you every available document, photos, floor plans and if available virtual 3D tour links. We’ll ask you to review everything and then go walk the neighbourhood. If you’re still interested but have questions, we’ll contact the listing agent and get the answers. If everything you’ve learned about the home ticks all the boxes for you, then we will book a viewing. At the viewing, we will first walk the property before entering the home. If there’s a deal-breaker at that point, we won’t enter the home.

Paperwork:

Like all big changes to the industry, COVID-19 has created the need for new paperwork. For our buyers, we will need to go over a “disclosure of risk” form. And for both buyers and sellers, you will begin to see new clauses appearing in contracts that protect both sides from potential delays caused by forced isolation or travel restrictions, caused by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Protocols:

Buyers and sellers, be rest assured we are following ALL the COVID-19 protocols when viewing homes. Masks and gloves are recommended. We also request shoes to be removed outside the home’s entrance. Please do not touch anything in the home. If you need to open a closet door or the cupboard under the sink, allow us to do that for you.

Yes, this is all very different, but we will keep moving forward, and get through this together.

Holly Sansom, Real Estate Professional

Victoria Property Specialists Group @ RE/MAX CAMOSUN

COVID-19 AND THE SPRING MARKET

By Holly Sansom

“This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.”
– Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC Provincial Health Officer

Last month the Spring Market was off to a great start with more sales than at that time last year and multiple offers were occurring more often as the inventory was lower than the demand. And then, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 a pandemic.

 Here are the numbers; the total number of properties sold last month in Greater Victoria increased to 608 compared to 563 last month. Compared to March 2019 there were 5% less. Condo sales were down 9.2% and single-family homes sales saw a drop of 5.3% than March last year. 

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, we have traced a predictable downturn of sales in our market. Moving forward is hard to predict what our spring market will look like, but it will likely be very different than recent years as our entire community slows down to stay healthy.”

– Victoria Real Estate Board President, Sandi-Jo Ayers.

I’ve started to track new listings to the market and sales daily to monitor trends. In March 2020 I’m seeing the usual ups and downs – new listings spike on Wednesdays and Thursdays while there are either none or very few on the weekends. Yes, the number of new listings coming to the market has decreased. Sellers seem to be holding off to see what happens with the comparable homes currently on the market. Are they dropping their price? How many days are they on the market before they sell? One area of note is the Peninsula. March 24th to April 1st there were no new condo or townhome listings. Two did come on the market April 2nd and as I’m writing this, there are none today. April 2020 will show us more clearly how COVID-19 is impacting the real estate market. I’ll keep you posted.

The Home Price Index (HPI) benchmark value for a single-family home in the Victoria Core in March 2019 was $836,100. The benchmark value for the same home in March 2020 increased by 5 per cent to $877,700, 1.1 per cent more than February’s value of $868,100.

The HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in March 2019 was $507,700, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in March 2020 increased by 4.8 per cent to $531,900, slightly more than the February value of $527,400.

INTEREST RATES:  A five-year fixed term mortgage can be had for around 2.54% if you qualify, depending on your down payment, term, credit history, institution etc.  You may be wondering why the rates are going up when the Bank of Canada dropped their overnight lending rate to 0.25%. Mortgage brokers are telling me that this helps the banks to maintain more liquidity as borrowers will be accessing their lines of credit over the next 6 to 12 months. Banks are also building extra costs into raes as there are more risks with mortgage applications – potential job loses, deferred payments and in some cases foreclosure. Banks need extra staffing right now to manage the overwhelming number of calls during this stressful time. And businesses’ revenues are down or they are closing which means no new business for the banks. If you’re thinking of buying, take the time to meet with your mortgage broker to discuss your options. It’s important now more than ever to have that conversation with them. 

Need a Mortgage Broker? Click HERE to send us an email and we’ll forward on a list of reputable Mortgage Specialists.

If you’ve been thinking of selling, we offer complimentary Market Evaluations. CLICK HERE to email us and we’d be happy to talk with you about how we can help you market and sell your home.

Of course, if you have any questions about the market or what your home or investment property could sell for, we are here to help you!

Holly Sansom

Real Estate Professional

Victoria Property Specialists Group

c. 250-857-3477

CONDOS CRISIS: Part II

This is a news item that has generated more questions than almost any other issue affecting real estate in Victoria. I had the chance to attend a discussion panel with various professionals in the strata space, who all share their opinions on the crisis. 

From my copious notes, here are the top 10 things you should know about this panic:

  1. Insurance premiums are going up the most in buildings worth at least $50 million or those that have a lot of recent claims. 
  2. These price increases will get worse before they get better. There is a market cycle in insurance that goes from a soft market to hard… and it’s just our luck that 2017 had enormous claims worldwide. (Remember all of those hurricanes and storms? The insurance companies are still paying for the cleanup and rebuilding.) The prevailing professional opinion seems to be that next year will be tougher, then things will go back to normal.
  3. The main items which impact your premiums are: 
    1. Claims History
    2. Aging infrastructure. – building plumbing is only able to last a few decades before pipes start leaking and ending their service life. 
    3. Deferred repair projects – It is not mandatory to follow a depreciation report, but failing to follow professional recommendations may increase your premiums.
    4. Significant replacement cost – If your building has a replacement cost above $50 million, you may struggle to find an insurer willing to take you on.
  4. If the strata doesn’t have enough money in their budget to pay for the insurance, they can charge a levy to all of the owners WITHOUT having them vote on it. Most other decisions require a community vote and a group decision… but insurance does not. Your Strata corporation is required to have such insurance in place and does not have to ask for permission in order to assess those levies or special assessments. 
  5. High rise buildings represent a higher risk than a low rise because water can travel through many units in a tall tower and cause a lot of damage. In fact, high rise water damage claims represent 90% of all strata insurance claims. 
  6. Buildings with carpet are a lower risk than building with engineered hard floors like laminate.. this is because carpets can usually be dried out, where hard flooring can be damaged enough to require replacement.
  7. When looking for a condo to buy, DO NOT just go with the one with the cheapest monthly strata fees… make sure they have healthy savings and a good track record for maintenance. 
  8. If buying, make sure the building has insurance in place! Your bank may pull out of financing your deal if it is discovered the building is uninsured. 
  9. If you already own a condo, encourage your community to reduce the number of claims they submit, work together to prevent water damage, consider a leak detection system or other measures which will reduce your claims and maybe even your premiums. 
  10. Encourage all owners in your building to have a conversation with an insurance provider about the individual policy they carry on their individual units. As deductibles get higher and higher, it is a good idea to make sure you still have coverage!

The one thing you should do, today: Look at your insurance policy, call your broker, and find out if you are protected! Make sure you know the answers to the following questions:

  1. What is my water damage deductible?
  2. How much are my premiums?
  3. What does this policy cover?
  4. Make sure to document the answers, and ask for a copy of your policy cover letter, so you have the right info in case of a claim or if you want to sell your unit. 

And as always, if you have questions about the insurance/condo/strata, I am always here to help solve your real estate quandaries.

-Vince

REAL ESTATE IN BLOOM THIS SPRING!

The daffodils are out, the snow drops are carpeting our gardens and real estate sales in Victoria is definitely in bloom this Spring. The sales are up substantially and much earlier than last year.

The total number of properties sold last month in Greater Victoria increased to 563. In February 2019 there were only 429. Condo sales were up over 35% with single family homes increasing to nearly 24%. 

With 2,127 active listings at the end of February 2020, we saw an increase of just under 9% from January 2020. 

“One of the most prominent aspects of our market right now is the continued low inventory,” states Victoria Real Estate Board President Sandi-Jo Ayers. “Our ten-year average active listings for the month of February is 3,007. We concluded this month with just over 2,000 active listings, which means a lot less choice for consumers, more pressure on pricing and multiple offers.”

If you’ve been thinking of selling, we offer Complementary Market EvaluationsCLICK HERE to email us and we’d be happy to talk with you about how we can help you market and sell your home.

FEBRUARY 2020

INTEREST RATES:  A five-year fixed term mortgage can be had for around 2.59% if you qualify, depending on your down payment, term, credit history, institution etc. 

“The Bank of Canada lowered its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to 1.25%. While Canada’s economy has been operating close to potential with inflation on target, the COVID-19 virus is a material negative shock to the Canadian and global outlooks, and monetary and fiscal authorities are responding.” states Kelly Curtis of Mortgage Designers.  

If you’re thinking of moving, take the time to get preapproved to make sure everything goes smoothly. If you’re thinking of using funds invested in mutual funds or other investments to purchase real estate, talk to your financial advisor. The TSX and Dow closed higher today. Read today’s CBC article, Stock markets close higher as investors shake off coronavirus fears – for now

Need a Mortgage Broker? Click HERE to send us an email and we’ll forward on a list of reputable Mortgage Specialists.

Of course, if you have any questions about the market or what your home or investment property could sell for, we are here to help you!

Holly Sansom
Real Estate Professional
Victoria Property Specialists Group
c. 250-857-3477

Condo & Strata Insurance;

Should you worry? Where are we headed? Is there a crisis coming?

by Vincent Baart on February 13, 2020 

It’s all over the news in 2020: Condo insurance across Western Canada is going through a big transition. Premiums are doubling, deductibles are growing exponentially, and in some cases, buildings are being flat-out denied insurance coverage. 

Yes, some of this is happening. No, it’s not the beginning of a crisis… and here’s why:

The insurance industry is going through changes across all sectors and trying to manage increases in claim numbers and damages payouts. This is not unique to condos… ICBC and private healthcare are all facing shifts. Managing risk, and figuring out how to effectively transfer risk is at the heart of the insurance business, and has been since the first insurance groups were created in the 1300’s for merchant ships. The industry will adapt and change, because, let’s face it, there is a lot of money to be made! 

Another reason I feel this is just a temporary blip is because Real Estate is the single largest issue on British Columbian’s minds. In our two biggest cities, condos make up 50% of the real estate market, are the easiest way to create more housing, and are the most affordable option for most buyers. Housing was the main political issue in BC in the last election and is the cornerstone of all government platforms, both provincially and municipally. Both levels of government are pushing hard to regulate real estate and make it affordable. If the insurance industry can’t work out a solution, the government will likely step in and intervene. 

And finally, if the insurance industry and the government both fail to stabilize this hiccup, I can see a future where the strata owners of BC would work together to create their own private insurance fund. 

Case in point; in 1936, with the automobile industry growing like crazy and a lot of people facing the newfound risk of underinsured vehicles, a San Antonio bureaucrat named Leo and his wife, Lillian (with their own money) formed a small insurance company to sell automobile insurance to their fellow government employees. This idea probably seemed crazy at the time, but it grew into the second largest insurance company in the United States. Along with having the coolest mascot in the biz, they provide insurance to millions of Americans. You may have heard of it? GEICO was formed on the same concept. 

Yes, 2020 will be an interesting year for strata communities and a busy one for the insurance industry, but just like water soaking through the ceiling of your condo, money always finds a way

-Vince

External Articles which are helping to fan the flames of panic 😉

FAREWELL TO JANUARY!

Last month the BC Real Estate Association announced in the Times Colonist “Home prices and number of sales are predicted to rise this year and in 2021 in Greater Victoria and on the rest of Vancouver Island…” Looking at the sales figures for January 2020, it appears the rise has begun.

The total number of properties sold last month in Greater Victoria increased to 411. In January 2019 there were only 329. There was also a small increase to the number of new listings; 901 in January 2020 compared to 897 in January 2019. 

“Our new year is already showing a strong distinction from the year previous,” says Victoria Real Estate Board President Sandi-Jo Ayers. “We’ve returned to more traditional January sales numbers – which tend to be over 400 sales. Unfortunately, we have not seen a corresponding increase in listings alongside the demand, so buyers in the low- to mid-price segment of our market may find themselves in competition for desirable properties…”

If you’ve been thinking of selling, we offer complementary Market Evaluations. CLICK HERE to email us and we’d be happy to talk with you about how we can help you market and sell your home.

JANUARY 2020

Sales of condominiums were up 6.3 per cent from January 2019 with 118 units sold. Sales of single-family homes increased 31.6 per cent from January 2019 with 200 sold.

The Home Price Index (HPI) benchmark value for a single-family home in the Victoria Core in January 2019 was $846,900. The benchmark value for the same home in January 2020 increased by 1.4 per cent to $858,500, 0.4 per cent more than December’s value of $855,000.

The HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in January 2019 was $500,500, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in January 2020 increased by 4.1 per cent to $521,100, slightly more than the December value of $520,700.

INTEREST RATES:  A five-year fixed term mortgage can be had for around 2.69% if you qualify, depending on your down payment, term, credit history, institution etc.  Rates are still inching down little by little. That’s a very good rate, historically speaking.  If you’re thinking of moving, take the time to get preapproved to make sure everything goes more smoothly. 

Need a Mortgage Broker? Click HERE to send us an email and we’ll forward on a list of reputable Mortgage Specialists.

Of course, if you have any questions about the market or what your home or investment property could sell for, we are here to help you!

Holly Sansom
Real Estate Professional
Victoria Property Specialists Group
c. 250-857-3477

Garden Suites in Victoria

Garden Suites in Saanich. 

If you’ve spent any time lately on instagram, or reading architectural design magazines or blogs, tiny homes, garden suites, and other alternative forms of housing are EVERYWHERE. 

In case you missed it, the municipality of Saanich is considering joining the city of Victoria in working to allow the construction of garden suites in our most populous municipality. 

Sample plan view from Saanich’s website.

Here are the the most important things to know:

  1.  A house cannot have a secondary suite AND a garden suite
  2. There are restrictions on the size of the suite, based on the size of the lot. 
  3. Just because your lot meets the size and zoning requirements will not guarantee approval; neighbour’s privacy, shadows cast by the building, etc will all be considered. 
  4. A garden suite MUST have its own parking space. 
  5. The city is looking for green design factors.. Energy consumption, rainwater runoff management, etc. 
Parking is an import consideration in your development application.

Check out the proposal here:

https://www.saanich.ca/assets/Community/Documents/Planning/Garden%20Suites%20Boards%20and%20Site%20Plans%20May%202019.pdf

Check out the original Study Here:

https://www.saanich.ca/EN/main/community/community-planning/policy-initiatives/garden-suite-study.html

Keep in mind, this is not approved yet. Make sure to talk to your local planning department to confirm a project is feasible BEFORE spending too much time designing your perfect little backyard dream project. 

And, if you ever have questions about real estate anywhere in Victoria…. We are here to help!

This is what a garden suite could look like. Keep in mind height and size restrictions when submitting your application.

Vincent Baart

Real Estate Professional

Victoria Property Specialists Group

RE/MAX Camosun

250-532-5364

Greater Victoria Market Update – December 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

With the holiday season behind us and a new year ahead of us, things are gearing up for the 2020 market. The BC Assessments are in the mail for nearly 2 million homeowners in British Columbia. Tina Ireland, an assessor with BC Assessment states, “I would suggest that the significant increases that we have generally seen in the past are just that – they are a thing of the past. We have really seen moderate changes this year, and even some decline in value. So I’d suggest that we are returning to a more stable and balanced market.”

Where prices are rising is in the condominium market. With the Speculation Tax and now, the recent news of strata corporations across BC seeing large increases in their insurance rates and deductibles, 2020 may be the year to consider selling if you own a condo.

If you’ve been thinking of selling, we offer complementary Market Evaluations. See how your BC Assessed value compares to the Market Value!

DECEMBER 2019 & 2019 IN REVIEW

A total of 402 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this December, 7.2 per cent more than the 375 properties sold in December 2018 and a 30.3 per cent decrease from November 2019. Sales of condominiums were up 17.5 per cent from December 2018 with 121 units sold. Sales of single family homes increased 13.8 per cent from December 2018 with 198 sold.

A grand total of 7,255 properties sold over the course of 2019, 1.47 percent more than the 7,150 that sold in 2018. 2019 sales came in at slightly under the ten-year average of 7,413 properties sold.

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in December 2018 was $860,400. The benchmark value for the same home in December 2019 decreased by 0.6 per cent to $855,000, slightly less than November’s value of $855,400. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in December.

INTEREST RATES:  A five-year fixed term mortgage can be had for around 2.74% if you qualify, depending on your down payment, term, credit history, institution etc.  Rates have been coming down little by little.  That’s a very good rate, historically speaking.  If you’re thinking of moving, take the time to get preapproved to make sure everything goes more smoothly.  Don’t know a Mortgage Broker? Click HERE to send us an email and we’ll forward on a list of reputable Mortgage Specialists.

WHAT DOES THE MARKET LOOK LIKE FOR 2020 IN BC? The Western Investor published their B.C. residential real estate outlook 2020 on December 17th. the B.C. Real Estate Association (BCREA) predicts that MLS residential sales across the province will increase 10.9 per cent to 85,500 units in 2020, which would take the annual total to just below the 10-year annual average of 85,800 units. Greater Vancouver residential transactions are predicted to increase by 18.2 per cent in 2020, compared with 2019, and Fraser Valley sales are forecast to go up 12.4 per cent next year. In comparison, Victoria’s resale transactions are expected to rise a more modest four per cent in 2020.

Of course, if you have any questions about the market or what your home or investment property could sell for, we are here to help you!

Holly Sansom

Real Estate Professional

Victoria Property Specialists Group

RE/MAX Camosun

250-857-3477

Best Places to Live: Canada Liveability Report

Canadians love where they live; RE/MAX Report explores some of the best places to live in Canada

  • 89 per cent of Canadians would recommend their neighbourhoods to others
  • Major Canadian cities are a beacon for liveability

Canadians genuinely celebrate the liveability factors — the qualities that give each homeowner the true satisfaction of his/her home within the context of a neighbourhood — when it comes to choosing a property to buy and live in. In fact, 89 per cent of Canadians would recommend their neighbourhood to others according to a recent RE/MAX survey conducted by Leger.

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Beyond Legislation:

The shortage of affordable housing in BC was a top political pain point in the last election, and citizens voted based on the party they felt had the best plan to tackle affordable housing. 

Since the 2017 change of government, a lot of red-tape has been added to the process of buying and owning real estate in our Province. There has been a combined effort on the Provincial and Municipal levels to curb the use of short term rentals, vacant homes, out-of-province satellite families, and investors, but is it really working? In addition to the increase in taxes and costs on landowners, the Residential Tenancy Branch has added additional protections for tenants, making BC the province with the strictest protections for tenants and the harshest penalties for landlords who stray from the law. 

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