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Moral Dilemma

I missed a Horrible MLS Photo yesterday. I had a bit of thinking to do on the future of this part of my blog.

On Friday, I had a call from a member of our real estate board who had noticed one of his pictures on the blog last week. He wasn’t upset about the fact that his photo had ended up on my blog, but was more concerned that I was skating on thin ice by pointing out the inadequacies of other members’ photography skills, which could be construed as discrediting another member, which isn’t allowed under our code of ethics.

I explained that I never ever mention the name of the REALTOR®, the address or even the MLS® number of the subject photo. In fact, I rarely even know these things myself; I usually just scan the photos section of the listing without looking at such details.

Often, the photos are from out of the area or are e-mailed to me by readers.

And the whole point of this exercise (other than entertaining you, the reader), is to encourage real estate agents to get better at what we do. I’ve even posted some of my own photos before.

This agent that called was concerned that I was poking fun at other agents in our area, which is inappropriate, especially now that I’ve been elected as a director for our real estate board. It really struck me when he told me that he had in fact voted for me. I felt like a complete jerk.

So I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. On the one hand, I don’t feel I’m doing anything wrong. Usually my comments are more helpful tips on how to make the photo better rather than biting remarks ridiculing the agent that took the photo (whose identity is never revealed). On the other hand, I do have a duty to respect and represent the agents who elected me to sit on the board for the next two years, and I feel I’m held to a higher standard in that regard.

What I’ve decided is that I’ll continue the Horrible MLS Photo Of The Day. However, I will no longer use pictures from the Victoria Real Estate Board, and wherever possible, I’ll search for them outside the province. I will also begin to accept reader submissions from outside our trading area. I will also make sure that my comments about the photos, if any, will be constructive in nature and not demeaning.

And my policy stands as it always has, that if you’ve found one of your photos on this blog and want it removed, simply let me know and I’ll take it down.

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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Victoria BC MLS® Real Estate Statistics – August 2008

Listings are up. WAYYYY up. Sales are down and prices are flat or falling. What does this mean to you?

If you’re a buyer: Good news. If you’re buying now you’ve got more inventory to look at than any time in the last twelve years. Shop around and make offers. Sellers are probably nervous.

If you’re a seller: Not so good news. While prices for single family homes have remained relatively flat over the medium-term (the six-month average is still near $600,000), the average price dropped to $550,000 from $578,000 last month. Realistic pricing (listen to your agent!) and good marketing is key to success in this market.

Below is the full report and summary graphs, courtesy Victoria Real Estate Board:

Property Sales and Prices Soften in August

September 2, 2008

Sales of homes and other properties in the Greater Victoria area followed the expected trend and softened last month as many people enjoyed vacation time. Prices also moderated slightly. A total of 517 homes and other properties sold in August through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) compared to the 616 sales in July. There were 846 sales in August of last year.

Victoria Real Estate Board President, Tony Joe, notes that today’s buyers now have more properties from which to choose than at any time since 1996. “The number of properties available for sale is now at the highest level in over 12 years, increasing in August to 4,657. That represents a 39 per cent increase compared to August of last year.” Joe notes that prices moderated last month with nearly 46 per cent of single family homes selling for under $500,000. “The average price of single family homes in Greater Victoria last month was $549,914, down from over $578,000 in July; the six-month average was $592,582 though the median price in August was considerably lower at $512,000.” Joe noted that eleven single family homes sold for over $1 million in August, including two sales on the Gulf Islands.

The average price of all townhomes sold last month was $413,994, down from nearly $455,000 in July; the six month average was $435,309. The median price in August was $382,000. Joe noted that the overall average price for condominiums at $302,200 last month was virtually unchanged from July. The average for the last six months was $319,825. The median price for condominiums in August was $280,000.

MLS® sales last month included 269 single family homes, 160 condominiums, 53 townhomes and eight manufactured homes.

Summary Report and Graphs

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

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Victoria BC MLS® Real Estate Statistics – June 2008

Nothing to comment on these numbers, but view the Sooke real estate statistics for June here.

Courtesy VREB:

Sales Soften, Prices Remain Stable

July 2, 2008

Sales of homes and other properties in the Greater Victoria area softened last month though prices continue to remain stable. Victoria Real Estate Board President, Tony Joe, notes that the modest decline in sales from May to June followed a similar pattern to last year. “There was a total of 723 sales of homes and other properties in June through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) compared to the 770 sales in May. Although sales last month were down substantially compared to the 949 sales in June of last year, it is important to remember that 2007 was an exceptional year for the local real estate market.”

Joe notes that prices remain stable. The overall average price of single family homes in Greater Victoria last month was $580,104; the six-month average was $600,740 though the median was considerably lower at $538,000. “There will always be month-to-month fluctuations in prices, but when we consider that the six month average in January was just over $586,000 we see that prices have remained remarkably stable this year,” said Joe.

The number of properties available for sale continued to increase last month rising to 4,513 – a 27 % increase compared to June last year. “With more properties from which to choose, buyers clearly feel less pressure to make a quick decision, though sellers who price their homes realistically can still expect strong interest,” said Joe.

The average price of all condominiums sold in June was $319,943; the average for the last six months was $330,992. The median was again lower at $295,000. The average price of all townhomes sold last month was $431,992; the six month average was $432,152. The median price was $399,500.

MLS® sales last month included 395 single family homes, 180 condominiums, 81 townhomes and 23 manufactured homes.

Summary Report and Graphs

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

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Sooke MLS Statistics for June, 2008 – Still going strong!

Repeat after me: Real estate is local. Real estate is local. Real estate is local.

While some generalizations can be made about the overall real estate market in Canada, British Columbia, and the greater Victoria area, you have to look at a local level to find out what’s truly going on. With reports of the Vancouver market officially being in buyer’s territory, and the latest VREB stats report showing lower sales and increased listings, you might assume that everywhere is experiencing the same slowdown.

Well, according to my statistics below for single family dwellings in Sooke, Sooke real estate is still going strong!

Last month saw more sales than both May of this year (traditionally a stronger month than June), and June of 2007, a record setting year for the Victoria Real Estate Board. I’ve used the pending sales as an indicator, as they more accurately reflect the month’s sales activity. Closed sales are properties that have now changed hands; the sales that led to the closings could have occured months ago.

Listings appear to be stabilising, too, with the same number of current single family dwellings in the core area this month as last, and only 3 more when you count outlying areas. With any luck, the market will eat up the inventory and keep prices stable here in Sooke.

I don’t think you would want to bet on any huge price increases over the next year, and we may see a slight decline in prices; but a major correction is unlikely. But what we can take away from these numbers is that the market in Sooke is still robust, and properly priced and marketed properties will still sell.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Victoria BC MLS® Real Estate Statistics – May 2008

No surprises here, inventory up, sales are down.

More evidence of balance in the real estate market (although with the number of new listings, I’m not sure just how ‘balanced’ it is!) was revealed today with the release of the Victoria Real Estate Board‘s May MLS® statistics.

Despite a 25% increase in listings available for sale over the same time a year ago, prices seem to be remaining stable. 18There were virtually the same number of sales this month as last, but 193 less than May of 2007. Despite that, the average and six-month averages of condos, townhomes, and single family detached homes remain virtually the same.

What does it all mean? The number of properties available for sale has been increasing steadily all year. However, buyers are still out there, and it’s still common to see well-priced properties get snapped up very quickly. What is important, as I’ve said time and time again, is good marketing. With so much to choose from, buyers will very quickly skim over properties with horrible photos, bad write ups, or worse still, none of the above.

Below is the full Victoria Real Estate Board news release, with graphs.

More Choices Now Available for Home Buyers

June 2, 2008
With a return to a balanced real estate market, home buyers in the Victoria area now have a much larger pool of properties from which to choose. The number of properties available for sale increased to 4,332 in June – a 25 % increase over the same month a year ago and the highest level since June 1998.

Victoria Real Estate Board President, Tony Joe, notes that despite this increase, prices and sales remain stable although the number of sales is down compared to a year ago. “There was a total of 770 sales of homes and other properties in May through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®), virtually unchanged from the 768 sales in April but down from the 963 sales in May of last year.” Joe noted that a significant number of new properties came on the market last month: “There were 1,850 new listings in May – the highest number for a single month in over 18-years”. Joe added that 24 sales over $1 million had an impact on the overall average price of single family homes in Greater Victoria which last month was $601,897; the six-month average was $606,985 though median was considerably lower at $545,000. There were also three sales on the Gulf Islands of over $1 million.

The average price of all condominiums sold in May was $336,157; the average for the last six months was $333,208. The median was again lower at $295,500. The average price of all townhomes sold last month was $435,058; the six month average was $433,854. The median price was $394,900.

MLS® sales last month included 470 single family homes, 168 condominiums, 71 townhomes and 25 manufactured homes.

Summary Report and Graphs

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

Courtesy Victoria Real Estate Board

Tim Ayres

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Victoria BC MLS® Real Estate Statistics – April 2008

Greetings, search engine visitors! For April Statistics, released today, June 2, 2008, click here!

As choices increase and buyers decrease, pressure is on to price it right!

There is still fuel in the fire of the Victoria and Sooke real estate market, but decidedly less from a year ago. The April statistics were released today, and despite an all-time record high average price for single-family detached houses of $630,295 (caused by a relatively high number of sales of $1M+ homes), the trend is to increased inventory and fewer buyers.

There were 17 per cent more properties available for sale last month compared to the same month a year ago, and 768 sales, compared to 898. Sales were up from March, which had 707 sales.

There is still robust market action on moderately priced and lower priced properties, and the key is good marketing and good pricing. Still, sellers can expect to have to wait longer than in recent years in most cases as buyers consider the increased inventory. Make sure your photographs look good! Below is the statistics release from the Victoria Real Estate Board and their graphs.

Real Estate Sales Moderate – Prices Remain Stable

May 1, 2008Sales of homes and other properties in the Victoria area moderated in April with a total of 768 sales through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®), up from 707 sales in March but down from the 898 sales in the same month a year ago. Overall prices remain steady but 28 sales of over $1 million, including two sales in Oak Bay of over $2 million, pushed the average price of single family homes to a new record high.

Victoria Real Estate Board President, Tony Joe, notes that the number of properties available for sale continues to increase. “In April, there were 3,859 properties available for sale – a 17 per cent increase over the 3,305 properties on the market in April of 2007. This increase in inventory coupled with a moderation in the number of sales offers further indication of a more balanced market that offers stability for both buyers and sellers.”

Joe added that despite the record high average price for single family homes, overall prices remained steady last month. “The relatively large number of high-priced sales had a substantial impact on the average price of single family homes in Greater Victoria, pushing this figure to a new record high of $630,295 but it is important to note that the median or mid-range price was substantially lower at $558,000.” Joe noted that nearly 28% of single family homes last month sold for under $475,000.

The average price of all condominiums sold in April was $325,975; the average for the last six months was $328,915. The median was again lower at $294,900. The average price of all townhomes sold last month was $420,658; the six month average was $440,364. The median price was $407,450.

MLS® sales last month included 395 single family homes, 235 condominiums, 80 townhomes and 20 manufactured homes.

Summary Report and Graphs

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

Courtesy Victoria Real Estate Board

Tim Ayres


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Strong and Balanced Real Estate Market for Victoria in 2008

Incoming President’s predictions for next year, and my interpretation.

Tony Joe, 2008 president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, says the Victoria area housing market should remain strong and stable in the coming year. “During the past couple of years we have seen a return to a more balanced market. Demand remains remarkably strong and prices continue to rise, but at a more moderate pace than we have seen in recent years. Barring unforeseen circumstances, all indications point to continued strength and stability in 2008.”

Joe added that the Board will enhance its efforts to “go green” in the coming year. “One of the Quality of Life principles adopted by our Board is ‘preserving the environment’ and we intend to further our efforts to promote green values as part of the real estate transaction,” he said. Joe noted that the Board has had some initial discussions with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources about new ways to encourage home owners to heat their homes more efficiently. “We’ve volunteered to run a pilot project in Greater Victoria to inform buyers of the energy efficiency rating of various homes. We think growing public interest will prompt more and more sellers to do all they can to get their homes ‘energy-ready’ before they list for sale,” said Joe.

Joe noted that the Board has also volunteered with the Ministry of the Environment to run a pilot project in our Board area to notify buyers of a home’s ‘water-conservation measures’. “We think REALTORS® can play a key role by helping to rate a home based on its use of such items as low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, front-end loading washing machines and the use of grey water and rain water,” he added.

The 2008 Board of Directors is as follows: Tony Joe – President; Chris Markham – President Elect; Bev McIvor – Past President; Carol Crabb – Secretary-Treasurer. Other Directors are: Jane Logan, Randi Masters, John McVie, John Smith and Lorraine Stundon.

The 2008 Directors take office effective January 1.

This prediction echoes my personal comment about next year. I believe the continuing strength of the Canadian economy, and in particular, the continued strength and diversification of the Capital Region’s economy will keep prices steadily increasing, but at a slower rate.

The continuing economic woes in the United States and threat of a recession will force the Bank of Canada to maintain the low interest rates or reduce them further to avoid crippling the Canadian economy, which is surely to be affected by the situation in the United States.

Why is the Canadian economy booming, while the United states is suffering? I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I read this post on a local real estate bear blog which, while clever, is wholly inaccurate. What the bubble-blowers here in Victoria fail to note is that the reasons for our continued economic success here in Canada are not the usual Canadian success stories of manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec brought on by a favourable exchange rate. The rise of the dollar over the last 24 months and the expansion of our economy is driven by global demand for what Canada has to offer: minerals, resources, oil and gas, wheat, technology. This time around is different. Prices here in Victoria are not inflated beyond their sustainability. These $100,000 price drops are not going to happen. Not in 2008, anyway.

The bears will gripe: “the statistics are skewed!” “too much marketing spin!” They will argue that as REALTORS®, we have a vested interest in making the statistics look favourable so we make more money. Of course, with any industry-produced statistics, there can be some professional bias. What they can’t ignore (but often try to) is that as REALTORS®, no one else works as closely with the buying and selling of real property in the area. No one else is as experienced as we are with what the numbers mean. And, no one else depends on an accurate and objective interpretation of the real estate statistics as a REALTOR®.

So, yes, we certainly do have a vested interest in accurate real estate statistics. Our livelihood depends on it.

I hope everyone enjoyed the surprisingly strong real estate market in 2007. Last December, the bubble blowers said 2007 would be the year. I’m not surprised they’re calling for it again this year.

Happy New Year, professionals!

Tim Ayres

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

 

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