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BC and Vancouver Island Recessions, Potholes, Flooding, Gas Prices, And Other Things Amiss

storm_clouds_over_swifts_creek

What the hell? I leave the Island for 10 days and it falls apart on me?

I got back on late Sunday night from a week in Mexico to attend my cousin’s wedding and generally unplug from the world for awhile. On that note, an all-inclusive resort with 40 friends and family and really expensive internet connections is a great stress reliever. Before that I spent a couple days on the mainland with (different) friends and (same) family to ring in the new year (kinda lame) and go skating at Richmond’s fabulous new Olympic Speedskating Oval (totally sweet).

flood

So, being unplugged for a week (well, that and not being geographically co-located with the weather system) caused me to miss most of the weather chaos. It would suck to live in Port Renfrew about now, what with the main highway being washed out and all. Sooke Road (aka Provincial Highway 14), for those not in the know, is a complete disaster all the way along. Sooke Potholes no longer refers to the swimming hole on the Sooke River, but I bet there are some on the road big enough to swim in. I managed to ruin a perfectly good rim and tire on my car by hitting a huge one on Tuesday evening. Mainroad Contracting is going to get a nice letter.

pothole1

Tonight, the kind folks from the Provincial Emergency Program were at the Sooke Council Chambers to offer information and applications to residents who suffered uninsured damage to their homes during 6-8 January, 2009.

gas_prices

Can somebody please explain to me why gas prices have increased by $0.15 while oil prices have decreased to below $40/bbl again? Somebody is gouging, I don’t care what they say.

Last night I attended, with the other directors of the Victoria Real Estate Board, the Canadian Home Builders Association Crystal Ball event, which featured several economists and our Board President, Chris Markham, giving their outlook on the economy and the housing markets for 2009. It was a good event, but obviously a heavy topic. I can’t imagine too many home builders that are thrilled about the recent slowdown in real estate sales.

Über-pessimist economist David Hobden of Central 1 Credit Union gave a grim forecast for 2009 (and 2010 somewhat), stating that the Island and Coast region are already in recession, and will remain so. He forecasts housing value to drop by 10 per cent in 2009. Hobden appeared to want to be anywhere but in that room last night, and his body language screamed doom, gloom, and defeat – it was painful to watch.

Jock Finlayson, BC Business Council executive vice president of policy was slightly more optimistic, and a much better speaker. He delivered his not-exactly-rosy forecast with levity and looked as if he enjoyed informing the room, which he had laughing on many occasions – and his visuals were way easier to read and understand. Finlayson explained that 2009 will be a difficult year, but by mid-year, credit conditions that are slowing the business cycle should improve, along with the U.S. economy, and 2010 should be a much better year. He forecasts housing starts (new construction) to be down by 40 or 50 per cent. Finlayson did a great job of explaining where all this mess came from and how Canada is better positioned to spend its way out of this recession via deficit budgets. Another positive point came in the fact that job losses will not likely be as sharp as in previous recessions because the demographics of recent years (families having fewer children and later in life, and people nearing retirement) will keep heavy losses in check – I’m sure you realize how tight labour markets have been up until a few months ago.

Victoria Real Estate Board 2009 President Chris Markham explained that while sales are slowing, it’s hard to compare 2008 to 2007 because it was an exceptionally strong year. This was emphasized by CMHC market analyst Travis Archibald showing that 2008 sales were actually very close to the 15-year average. The same goes for housing starts. They fell by a large percentage in 2008 over 2007, but are in-line with the historical averages. CMHC will be releasing its full outlook next month.

I think that Vancouver Island, and in particular, Victoria will fare better than the rest of the province, as we have a diversified economy, and stable major employers such as government and military. As for housing, it’s opportunity time out there. Buyers have their choice of many properties, and many would-be first-time buyers from the last few years, priced out by the rapidly increasing prices, will be looking at re-entering the hunt.

So, all in all, maybe the Island isn’t falling apart exactly, and I’m glad to be back. I’m optimistic about 2009, and we’re all in this together, so you might as well be optimistic too.

It’s all you can do.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Sooke’s Sunriver Estates is On Sale

Sunriver Estates

Sunriver Estates

Driving home from a shift at Royal LePage’s Mayfair Mall kiosk last night, I heard a radio ad on CFAX 1070 for Sunriver Estates.

They are offering a “builder’s coupon” discount of $15,000 for purchasers. The popular planned community along the Sooke River is obviously experiencing a slowdown in sales like everyone else, so this is a great time to head on out and have a look. The ad mentioned getting a $369,000 brand new home for $354,000. It wasn’t clear from the ad whether this applied only to that plan or to any plan. The discount can be taken off the price or used for upgrades or appliance packages.

There are also 12 existing homes for sale in Sunriver, ranging from $349,900 to $500,000. Click the following link to view these Sunriver Estates homes for sale

If you are considering a new or resale home in Sunriver Estates and would like to be represented by an experienced agent, give me a call at 250-885-0512, fill in my contact form, or shoot me an e-mail at Tim@TimAyres.ca. My services are available to you, the buyer, at no cost; REALTORS® are paid by the seller.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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It’s Official: October Sucked. Victoria BC MLS Real Estate Statistics October 2008

October 2008, personified. (Pumpkinified?)

October 2008, personified. (Pumpkinified?)

The stock markets crashed. Billions were pulled out of mutual funds. Banks were bailed out. We were all subjected to hearing Sarah Palin speak. And now this reminder of the worst month in history, ever ™.

The monthly real estate statistics from the Victoria Real Estate Board were (mercifully) delayed by a few days due to the final changeover from our old MLS system (Quest’s Ambiance) to our new MLS System (Tarasoft’s Matrix). When I saw the numbers I thought maybe there was a problem with the software. Sadly, no.

In the first week of October, when the world seemed to be coming to an end, it scared the daylights out of everyone. Can you blame anyone for not wanting to contemplate a major purchase when the words recession and depression are being bandied about left, right and centre by the news media?

Now, it’s not fair to blame the media, although they certainly didn’t help the situation. People were scared, and they still are, although I’d suspect less so now that it seems that the world is taking steps to get the economy back on track, and economist after economist and expert-of-this after expert-of-that has reassured us that Canada, and in particular British Columbia, is in better shape than many areas to weather this storm. Thanks to our boring banks for that.

The point is that our market fundamentals are still sound. Household debt is overall manageable, mortgage rates are low and expected to remain that way, the number of mortgages in arrears is the lowest in the country. We still have interprovincial migration, job growth, low unemployment, and remain the retirement capital of Canada.

I truly believe that we’ve already seen the most of the decline in our real estate market here in Sooke and Victoria. The professional world has already stopped panic-selling their investments, and once the consumer world catches on to the fact that this isn’t the end of the world, I think we’ll start to see stability in the marketplace. Buyers that had been sidelined essentially by fear alone will come out of the woodwork and we’ll have a healthy balanced market come the spring. We won’t see crazy price increases month-to-month, but that’s a good thing.

It really is a good time time to buy – as long as you’re planning to live in your home for a minimum of 3-5 years (good advice in any market). Interest rates are low, and sellers are a little more willing to be flexible on their prices. Get out there and make some offers!

Here is the press release, and related graphs courtesy the Victoria Real Estate Board:

The number of property sales throughout Greater Victoria declined in October while prices remained stable.

A total of 316 homes and other properties sold in October through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) down from the 512 sales in September. There were 708 sales in October of last year. The number of properties available for sale at the end of October was 4,680. That represents a 41 per cent increase compared to October of last year but a slight decline from the 4,754 properties available for sale at the end of September.

Victoria Real Estate Board President, Tony Joe, says despite the decline in the number of sales, it is important to keep the market activity in context. “The last six years have seen extraordinary growth. Last year in particular was truly exceptional both in terms of sales and prices so comparisons must be made with care. A more realistic comparison would be with 1998 — a year in which sales and inventory levels were comparable to today and a time when the market was considered to be strong and stable.” Joe noted there has been a total of 6,012 sales in the first ten months of this year compared to 4,571 in the corresponding period in 1998. There were 4,057 active listings at the end of October, 1998

The average price of single family homes in Greater Victoria last month was $565,741, up from $549,284 in September; the six-month average was $574,848 though the median price in October was considerably lower at $495,000. There were seven single family homes that sold for over $1 million in October, including two in Oak Bay, one of which sold for between $2 million and $3 million.

The average price of all townhomes sold last month was $389,731, down from $405,287 in September; the six month average was $425,866. The median price in October was $369,500. The overall average price for condominiums at $323,028 last month was up from $319,562 in September. The average for the last six months was $316,644. The median price for condominiums in October was $280,000.

MLS® sales last month included 184 single family homes, 76 condominiums, 26 townhomes and eight manufactured homes.

Summary Report and Graphs

Monthly Sales Summary
Average Selling Price Graphs
Active Listings, New Listings and Sales Graphs

Do you have any questions on buying or selling in today’s market? Interested in creative marketing methods to make your home stand out from the crowd? Fill in my contact form, give me a call at 250-885-0512, or e-mail me at Tim@TimAyres.ca and I’d love to meet you for coffee.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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2007: A Surprising Year for Victoria and Sooke Real Estate

Year-end and December 2007 Statistics Released

The Victoria Real Estate Board has released the December 2007 and year-end statistics:

Real Estate Records Broken in 2007

The value of all property transactions through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) hit a new record of over $4.1 billion in 2007, up from $3.3 billion in 2006. The value of single family home sales was over $2.5 billion while the value of condominium sales was over $756 million. Victoria Real Estate Board President Tony Joe noted that both sales and prices for all major property types increased last year. “Last year was another exceptional year for the local real estate market. The total number of sales increased over 12 per cent while the overall average price for single family homes rose 8.5 per cent; the average for condominiums rose over 11 per cent and the average for townhomes rose 10.5 per cent,” said Joe.

Meantime, the sale of 14 single family homes in Greater Victoria over $1 million pushed the average price to a new record high of $624,450 last month [Note: The sale of an island completed last month for $7 M, which would have skewed the average considerably – Tim] ; the median price, however, was considerably lower at $536,000. “It’s always important to bear in mind that the average price in a given month can often be significantly affected by the sale of high-priced homes,” noted Joe. The six-month average for single family homes in December was $581,419.

The average price of all condominiums sold in December was $332,793; the average for the last six months was $319,980. The median was again lower at $292,900. The average price for townhomes sold last month was $445,960; the average for the last six-months was $415,648. The median price was $387,900.

There were 408 MLS® sales last month, up from 385 sales in December of last year. There were 623 sales in November. Sales last month included 202 single family homes, 120 condominiums, 46 townhomes and 8 manufactured homes.

There were 2,799 properties listed for sale on the MLS® system at the end of last month, up from the 2,650 properties in the same month a year ago.

 

Summary Report and Graphs

Monthly Sales Summary
Average Selling Price Graphs
Active Listings, New Listings and Sales Graphs

At the end of 2006, listings had been steadily increasing, and sales were lower than the booming year of 2005. Everyone was on edge for expectations for 2007. The year surprised us all, with interest rates rising by one-quarter per cent and then being cut by that one-quarter in December. Steady, low interest rates breed consumer confidence and keep home ownership possible as increasing prices erode affordability. An increase in good-paying jobs, record-low unemployment, and migration and investment from out of the area all helped to push the market to record heights this past year.

What does 2008 hold? I see steady price increases, but on a slower, more moderate scale. As prices increase, affordability continues to be eroded. The Bank of Canada meets on Jan 22, with David Dodge expected to announce a cut in interest rates as his final duty before stepping down as governor. The continued diversification of the local economy, with more high-tech jobs and the decline in tourism from the U.S. being replaced with domestic and international visitors, will drive migration to this corner of the country and keeps our market on sound financial footing.

Sorry, bubble-blowers, there just isn’t one here to burst.

 

Record prices, Sales up from 2006 – Victoria MLS® Statistics November 2007

As expected, the surprisingly busy November numbers reflect a continued strong market.

 

December 3, 2007

The Victoria area real estate market continued to show exceptional strength last month with strong sales and record average prices for single family homes and townhomes. There were 623 sales through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in November, up from the 571 sales in the same month a year ago. There were 708 sales in October of this year.

Victoria Real Estate Board President, Bev McIvor, noted that 16 sales of over $1 million pushed the average price of single family homes in Greater Victoria to a new record high of $596,586. “As always, it’s important to note that high end sales have a significant impact on the average price and that the median, or mid-range price, was considerably lower at $510,000.” McIvor noted there were also three sales over $1 million on the Gulf Islands last month and that the average price of all townhomes sold also reached a new record high of $473,758. “The high demand and robust prices show continued strong consumer confidence in the market,” added McIvor.

The six-month average for single family homes was $576,230. The average price of all condominiums sold in November was $311,844; the average for the last six months was $324,255. The median was again lower at $292,000. The six month average of all townhomes sold last month was $411,262. The median price was $421,750.

MLS® sales last month included 335 single family homes, 179 condominiums, 63 townhomes and 14 manufactured homes.

There were 3,196 properties listed for sale on the MLS® system at the end of last month, up slightly from the 3,158 properties in the same month a year ago.

Summary Report and Graphs

Monthly Sales Summary
Average Selling Price Graphs
Active Listings, New Listings and Sales Graphs

Tim Ayres

 

Home Prices Rise Modestly in Victoria, Vancouver: BCREA

News Release from the BC Real Estate Association:

For immediate release

Home Prices Rise Modestly in Vancouver and Victoria Vancouver, BC – November 21, 2007. British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports residential sales volume on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC climbed 23.5 per cent to $3.40 billion in October, compared to the same month last year. Residential unit sales increased 12.8 per cent to 7,358 units during the same period. The average MLS® residential price hit $462,912, up 9.5 per cent from October 2006.*

“While home sales continue at a brisk pace, prices in Vancouver and Victoria are climbing at a more moderate rate,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. Compared to October 2006, the average sales price increased 7.8 per cent in both markets. Fraser Valley and Chilliwack prices climbed 6.2 and 6.3 per cent, respectively, during the same period. “Eroding affordability is providing less upward pressure on home prices in both Victoria and the Lower Mainland, as many first-time buyers no longer have the financial wherewithal to bid up prices,” added Muir.

In contrast to the South Coast’s major urban areas, home prices in the interior and northern markets continue a rapid ascent. “The Okanagan, Kamloops and Kootenay markets are benefiting from strong demand from retiree, investor and recreation buyers,” noted Muir. “Abundant natural amenities and relatively low prices are drawing considerable attention from empty nesters around the province and across the country.”

“Housing markets in the north that are receiving new investment in resource extraction and transportation are performing well,” added Muir. “However, sluggish US demand for softwood lumber is impacting housing demand in many communities.” The average sales price of a home in the BC Northern Real Estate Board area rose 11.3 per cent last month compared to October 2006. In the Northern Lights Real Estate Board area, the average home sales price climbed 18.5 per cent during the same period.For the complete news release, including detailed statistics, follow this link: www.bcrea.bc.ca/news_room/2007-10.pdf .

Victoria BC Real Estate Board MLS® Statistics – October 2007

I don’t think you’d find a real estate professional in the Victoria area who’d tell you they expected 2007 to outperform 2006. Everyone said the market was plateauing, that we should expect properties to sit on the market for months, and see price reductions left, right and center. The doomsday prophets predicted the credit problems in the United States would cause the so-called bubble to burst, and that sellers would be scrambling to offload their burdens. But, as the MLS® statistics show month after month, the market continues to surprise us. Here is the latest MLS® statistics report from the Victoria Real Estate Board.

Real Estate Sales Soar in October

November 1, 2007

Sales of homes and other properties in the Greater Victoria area soared 20 percent in October compared to the same month a year ago. There were 708 sales through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in October, up from the 590 sales in the same month a year ago. There were 632 sales in September of this year. Meantime, prices for single family homes moderated somewhat while prices for condominiums and townhomes showed little change.

Victoria Real Estate Board President, Bev McIvor, says the strong sales and stable prices show continued consumer confidence in the market. “Sales last month were the highest for October since 2003 and so far this year sales are running nearly 13 per cent higher than the first 10 months of 2006.” McIvor added that it’s normal for overall prices to fluctuate on a month-to-month basis depending on the properties that sell in a given month. “While the average price of single family homes moderated slightly last month, the overall average price so far this year is over seven percent higher than at the end of last year.”

The average price of single family homes sold in October was $556,222; the six-month average for single family homes was $570,454. The median price was considerably lower at $495,000. The average price of all condominiums sold in October was $343,334; the average for the last six months was $321,993. The median was again lower at $291,000. The average price of all townhomes sold last month was $407,031; the six month average was $404,163. The median price was $369,950.

MLS® sales last month included 375 single family homes, 196 condominiums, 79 townhomes and 22 manufactured homes.

There were 3,311 properties listed for sale on the MLS® system at the end of last month, down slightly from the 3,426 properties in the same month a year ago.

Summary Report and Graphs

Monthly Sales Summary
Average Selling Price Graphs
Active Listings, New Listings and Sales Graphs

-Tim Ayres

Victoria and Area Real Estate MLS® Statistics – September 2007

More good news from your friends in the statistics department. Remember to spread this news around – it’s important to keep consumer confidence high with all the rumblings of doom and gloom down south!

Real Estate Market Sizzles in September

October 1, 2007

The strong real estate market throughout Greater Victoria showed no signs of slowing down last month with continuing strong sales and robust prices. There were 632 sales through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in September, up seven per cent from the 593 sales in the same month a year ago. There were 846 sales in August of this year.

The average price of single family homes sold in September reached a new record high of $584,193 although the median price was considerably lower at $520,000. Victoria Real Estate Board President, Bev McIvor, noted that a number of high-priced sales affected the overall average price, “There were 17 single family home sales of over $1 million and this had a significant impact on the overall average. Nearly a quarter of all single family homes sold for less than $425,000.” The six-month average for single family homes was $572,007. McIvor added that overall sales so far this year are running 12 per cent ahead of the first nine months of last year.

The average price for all condominiums sold in September was $341,014; the average for the last six months was $318,198. The median was again lower at $288,500. The average price for townhomes last month was $402,313; the average for the last six months was $402,246. The median was $375,000.

MLS® sales last month included 335 single family homes, 150 condominiums, 77 townhomes and 21 manufactured homes. There were 3,381 properties listed for sale on the MLS®; system at the end of last month, down slightly from the 3,449 properties in the same month a year ago.

Summary Report and Graphs

Monthly Sales Summary
Average Selling Price Graphs
Active Listings, New Listings and Sales Graphs

BC Home Sales Sheltered From US Market Woes

Hello fellow professionals. More evidence today from the BC Real Estate Association that our market in British Columbia is continuing to thrive despite the implosion in the United States brought on by the sub-prime mortgage issues and economic difficulties. Below is the release. Those of you with blogs or e-mail newsletters, you need to get this information out there. Post it, e-mail it. Don’t assume they’ll hear about it on the news or in the paper. Every day we’re asked questions from people who are nervous about buying or selling, because they assume that what is happening in the US is also affecting us. Spread the good word!

Tim Ayres 

BC Home Sales to Surpass 100,000
BCREA Fall Housing Forecast

Vancouver, BC – September 27, 2007. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) released its fall 2007 Housing Forecast today.

BC Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) home sales are forecast to break the 100,000 unit mark for only the second time in history. BCREA forecasts that BC MLS® residential sales will hit 101,000 units this year, up 4 per cent from 2006. The highest number of MLS® sales in the province was recorded in 2005, when a total of 106,310 homes were sold. The ten-year average is just under 78,000 units.

“Exceptionally strong consumer demand over the summer months has changed the outlook for this year from declining home sales to the second highest on record,” said Cameron Muir, Chief Economist. “While eroding affordability is squeezing some potential buyers out of the market, the housing stock is increasingly diverse, providing a mix of home types that appeal to a wide consumer market.”

BC home prices are also on the rise. The average MLS® residential price is forecast to climb 12 per cent to $437,000 this year. “While home prices continue to face upward pressure, the rate of growth is expected to moderate,” added Muir. The BC average MLS® price increased 18 per cent last year, and is forecast to rise at a more modest 8 per cent in 2008.

BC housing starts are forecast to decline 7 per cent to 33,900 units in this year and a further 4 per cent to 33,000 units in 2008. While single detached housing starts are trending down, multiple housing starts are holding firm at 21,000 units this year. Multiple housing starts now comprise 62 per cent of all new residential construction activity in the province.

The BCREA Housing Forecast is a semi-annual publication produced in the spring and fall of each year. The report contains forecasts and analysis of the BC economy and housing markets, including detailed forecasts by home type of the province’s 12 real estate board areas.

A complete copy of BCREA’s Housing Forecast is available here: www.bcrea.bc.ca/economics/forecasts/2007-09Forecast.pdf.

A Coming of Age for Canada's Economy?

Is the continued diversion of Canada’s economy from the USA’s a sign that we’ve grown up?

Picture two brothers. The older brother is wildly successful, and the younger brother looks up to his senior sibling all his life, often modeling certain parts of his life after his counterpart. The years go on, and younger brother experiences success also, all the while following the elder’s advice.

One day, younger brother sees a change in older brother. He’s out too late, partying too much, spending too much money on unwise and risky investments. Younger brother decides he’s learned enough over the years and strikes out on his own, making his own decisions, taking his own chances. Sadly, he watches his older brother in a downward spiral into financial trouble and economic uncertainty. Strangely, younger brother’s success is now independent of his older brother. He’s grown up now.

Money money money monaaaaay!It’s not exactly a subtle parable, I know, and perhaps a tad on the trite side. But I think it can help many understand what is going on in the North American economy. The US is in a tailspin, while we’re flying high. Our economy is booming, while there is talk of the dreaded “R-Word” in the US.

The sub-prime mortgage issue in the states has not affected us here in Canada as much as many thought it would. When the story broke, people started to panic. Our economy, for so long, has been tied to the fortunes of the larger, more powerful economy of the USA, that people were certain that it meant economic doom north of 49. But it didn’t. Canada’s economy has come of age.

But why? Anyone with a basic understanding of economics can see that Canada is in a much healthier position than the USA for a strong economy. The US economy is largely based on consumer spending. If they stop buying things, it slows the economy down. The US is a net importer; their trade deficit is enormous. Canada is a net exporter. And what we export is in demand. Oil, forest products, minerals, metals, grain. Demand from Asia has partially replaced some of the lower demand from our number one trading partner, the USA (due to their flagging dollar).

And the strong Loonie helps too: much of what we buy in Canada is imported. As our dollar climbs, importers can bring goods in more cheaply and either pass on the savings to consumers, or make more profit, further fueling the economic cycle.

Finally, Canada’s successful economy vis-a-vis the American one is also partly due to divergent fiscal policies between the two countries. We saw what was going on down there and struck out on our own. We watched inflation carefully. Canadian banks didn’t risk it with the sub-prime lending.

Can we sustain this pace without the larger economic powerhouse of American consumer spending buying our goods and services? It’s unknown at this point – we’ll have to wait and see. Or has the time of the US economy setting the pace for the North American economy come and gone?

-Tim