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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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Victoria Real Estate Board Green Task Force Tours Eco-Sense Sustainable Home

The Eco-Sense House in Victoria, BC

The Eco-Sense House in Victoria, BC

As a volunteer on the Victoria Real Estate Board‘s Green Task Force, I was fortunate enough to visit a truly one-of-a-kind project in the Highlands District near Victoria yesterday. Ann and Gord Baird are the people behind Eco-Sense. Part lifestyle, part science experiment, part eco-pioneering, this truly amazing and simply fascinating home is nearing completion atop a rocky pinnacle in the rural municipality about 20 minutes outside downtown Victoria.

What’s so special about Eco-Sense? The short answer: Everything. Ann and Gord have invested myriad time and energy to research, design, and build North America’s first code-approved, seismically engineered load-bearing insulated cob house. As if that wasn’t enough, the home features a BC Hydro grid intertie system, meaning that their electrical meter flows both ways. When their solar and wind energy array is producing more power than the home requires, it reverses the flow of electricity, selling the excess to Hydro. Furthermore, the house is also heated by the sun with a solar hot water system, which also provides the hot water for the plumbing.

Ann and Gords Living Room

Ann and Gord's Living Room

From the foundation up, every detail has been thought about and constructed in a way that is not only environmentally sound, but also economically so. The foundation was poured with high fly-ash (a by-product of Albertan coal-fired power plants) concrete, and fabric forms were used to reduce waste wood. Total cost of forms? $300.

What’s cob? Cob is a building material; a mixture of sand, clay, and straw. Ann and Gord took this one step further and introduced pumice (lightweight, porous volcanic rock) into the mix to decrease the weight of the mixture, and to increase the insulative value. The cob is structural; there is no load-bearing framing in the walls of the home. One of the parts I found most interesting is the wiring and plumbing. Channels for the wires are carved out of the walls, the wiring installed and inspected by the city, and then simply filled over with more cob or plaster. It’s simple, seamless, and it works! Not only is the cob functional, but when finished in a lime-plaster it is also beautiful.

The house features lots of natural light. Light pipes direct sunlight from the roof into a dome-light-like fixture in the ceiling. Also, embedded in the walls are old glass bricks, and wine and beer bottles (my favourite were the blue ones). Other lighting is LED. While the bulbs cost considerably more than incandescent or compact fluorescent, they’ll last quite literally a lifetime, and use a mere fraction of the electricity.

Ann and Gord explain about their home.

Ann and Gord explain about their home.

Nearly all wood in the house is recycled, from local sources including the demolished Mayfair Lanes bowling alley (they even used the nails!).

The house has a composting toilet (no water use), a rainwater collection system for gardening, and a greywater (from sinks, laundry, and showers) treatment system, which is also used for irrigation.

It’s not easy being an eco-pioneer. Since no one has ever done the things that Ann and Gord have been doing, they have had to get each little step approved by the municipality. In fact, they had to shop around for a municipality that was willing to work with them to see this project through. Everything has been done to code, and that meant a few sacrifices. To appease the plumbing inspector, they had to install a flush toilet which has now been removed. They even had to install a $30,000 septic system, even though they aren’t going to be using it. Their toilet uses no water, and the rest of the wastewater is grey water, which is being treated and used for irrigation. Their modified cob mixture had to be strength tested in the lab. However, a nice by-product of building walls out of a non-flammable material is that you get a nice discount on your insurance.

The low-slope roofs will be living roofs, planted with native species. This replaces the vegetation that is lost where the house sits, and also helps insulate the home and purify the rainwater which also flows more evenly and slowly because the soil retains some water before it drains out.

Cob floors, before finishing

Cob floors, before finishing

Now, one thing that’s always bugged me about so-called “green” buildings is that they cost ever so much to build, that it’s hard to get people to buy into it. Every system in the Eco-Sense house has been evaluated on a triple-bottom-line basis. All things considered, Ann and Gord figure that their per-square-foot cost is around $140. Standard construction starts around $150 as I understand it. This is also including an estimate of their labour cost over 15 months, and a very pricey $60,000 alternative heating system. Therein lies the beauty of what Ann and Gord are doing. They are building Eco-Sense the way they see as best for the planet, but realize that other people might have different ideas. You could do more or you could do less. The point is that there are alternatives to frame construction for single family, two-storey dwellings.

This was the kicker for me. It made sense to my logical business brain. Here are two people, who have a

Recycled glass is used extensively in the home.

Recycled glass is used extensively in the home.

lifestyle they want to live that has less of an impact of the natural environment, and they are demonstrating that it can be done very well while remaining with reach of the average family. Once municipal codes and building techniques catch up with the innovation that these two eco-pioneers are forging in the Highlands District of Victoria, it will become even easier and more within reach of the common man.

Why should only the rich be able to afford to be nice to our planet when it comes to housing?

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

For more information, check out Eco-Sense.ca. Ann and Gord offer fascinating tours for the general public, as well as private tours for technical/tradespeople. Many thanks to Ann and Gord for sharing their work with us. More photos can be found on my flickr page.

EDIT: For even more, check out Gord’s Flickr page, and the eco-sense blog

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