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Fewer sales and a slight increase in new listings have the Greater Victoria Real Estate Board apparently hoping the market is becoming more balanced.

“The numbers we saw in April are a further indication that the market is gradually moving toward a more balanced state compared to the record-setting pace of 2016,” VREB president Ara Balabanian said Monday.

There were 885 properties sold in the region last month, well below the 1,286 sold in the same month in 2016 — and even below the 929 that sold in March of this year. The 10-year average for sales in April is 772 sales.

“We are starting to see hints of a more traditional spring market. Local agricultural production has been delayed due to the late spring, and so has the local real estate market,” Balabanian said. “More sellers listed their homes for sale over the month of April compared to the month previous.”

But real estate veteran Tony Joe of Remax Camosun said the market “is a long way from balanced.” “We literally would need to see 1,500 new listings come on in a month for things to start balancing out,” he said, noting the market has slowed down in terms of sales because there’s so little available to buy. “There is no inventory. It’s like going to the store looking for a loaf of bread and finding empty shelves,” he said.

There were 1,690 active listings at the end of April 2017. That’s a slight improvement over the 1,556 in March, but well off the 2,594 active listings at the end of April 2016. “But the interest level is still out there. There are people still jumping on properties right away,” Joe said, noting that has led to multiple offers, over-the-asking-price sales and many deals being done with no conditions.

“The reason there’s [no inventory] is people want to move, but while they know it’s relatively easy to sell, they know there’s nothing for them to move to,” he said. That, combined with a rental market with few available units, means there is no option for people who want to list their properties. “It’s deadlocked right now,” Joe said. “It’s a question of when the shift will happen. And it has to at some point — it can’t stay like this forever.

The problem is everyone wants to be here. I don’t think they get the same problem in Winnipeg.” Joe said the fact there were fewer sales in April than in March is an anomaly and symptom of the problem the market faces. “Again, that’s down to inventory level. Traditionally, that comes up by now. So [lower April sales] is a first, but only by virtue of that fact,” he said.

Source: Victoria Times Colonist, May 2, 2017
aduffy@timescolonist.com


First-time homebuyers can soon get a loan from the B.C. government to help with the down payment on a house, Premier Christy Clark announced Thursday.

But critics warn that the program will drive up prices and increase risk for young homeowners already carrying crippling debt.

The province will match the money saved by first-time buyers up to $37,500 or five per cent of purchase price.

No interest or principal payments are required in the first five years of the 25-year loans, as long as the home remains the buyer’s main residence. Purchase price must be $750,000 or less, excluding taxes and fees.

After five years, buyers will make monthly payments at prevailing interest rates. The loan will be registered as a second mortgage.

“What we know is for many first-time homebuyers, qualifying for a mortgage is hard, but getting past that down payment and scraping together the 25 grand or 50 grand that you might need to be able to get into your first home is just impossible,” Clark said.

“So we want to be there to help first-time homebuyers get over that hump. And we are going to be partners in their home.”

The province offered the example of a $475,000 home where the first-time buyer has saved $11,875 or 2.5 per cent of the selling price. In that case, the province will match the buyer’s saved amount, allowing them to make the required down payment of $23,750.

In the case of a $750,000 house where the buyer has saved seven per cent or $52,500, the province will match the buyer’s contribution up to five per cent of the price. The government’s maximum loan of $37,500 would allow the first-time buyer to put down $90,000 and reduce interest costs.

Tom Davidoff of University of B.C.’s Sauder School of Business panned the program for primarily benefiting sellers and developers. “I really don’t like it. I just think it’s lousy economics.”

He said that subsidizing buyers in markets with limited ability to increase housing supply will drive up prices. “So taking taxpayers’ money to give to people who own property — that’s a step in the wrong direction.”

B.C. NDP housing critic David Eby said the program will encourage young people to take on more debt. “This is a group that’s struggling with credit-card debt, student debt, record levels of debt that, according to the federal government, is so high it’s concerning for the federal economy.”

The province should use swaths of publicly owned land to develop co-ops and other affordable housing rather than selling the land for one-time gains, Eby said.

Bryan Yu, an economist with Central 1 Credit Union, struck a more positive note. He said helping first-time home buyers with their down payment is “critical” in higher-priced markets. “It does provide definitely a demand uplift on the townhome and condo side for areas like Victoria as well as Vancouver, and allows people who have been waiting to get into the market that ability.”

He doubted the program would increase prices significantly, because buyers still have to qualify under tighter federal rules that make it more difficult to get a mortgage. “A lot of these buyers who it’s targeted at are still constrained by other factors.”

Mike Nugent, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, welcomed the program. “It’s certainly positive. A lot better than the federal government [saying]: ‘Let’s make borrowing and lending more restrictive.’ ”

The province is spending $703 million over three years for the B.C. Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership program, and estimates it will help about 42,000 B.C. households get into the market. Clark said there is no cap. “It’s not as though once we get to 42,000, no one else will be eligible.”

The program will begin accepting applications on Jan 16.

To qualify, buyers must have:

• been pre-approved for a high-ratio insured mortgage for at least 80 per cent of the purchase price.

• been a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for at least five years.

• lived in B.C. for at least one year before applying.

• never owned interest in a residence anywhere in the world.

• combined, gross household income under $150,000.

Source: Victoria Times Colonist, Dec 15th, 2016
 lkines@timescolonist.com


The Liberal government has announced sweeping changes aimed at ensuring Canadians aren’t taking on bigger mortgages than they can afford in an era of historically low interest rates.

The changes are also meant to address concerns related to foreign buyers who buy and flip Canadian homes.

Below is a breakdown of the four major changes Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Monday.

The current rules

Buyers with a down payment of at least 5 per cent of the purchase price but less than 20 per cent must be backed by mortgage insurance. This protects the lender in the event that the home buyer defaults. These loans are known as “high loan-to-value” or “high ratio” mortgages.

In situations in which the buyer has 20 per cent or more for a down payment, the lender or borrower could obtain “low-ratio” insurance that covers 100 per cent of the loan in the event of a default.

Mortgage insurance in Canada is backed by the federal government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Insurance is sold by the CMHC and two private insurers, Genworth Financial Mortgage Insurance Company Canada and Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company. The federal government backs the insurance offered by the two private-sector firms, subject to a 10-per-cent deductible.

1. The change

Expanding a mortgage rate stress test to all insured mortgages.

What it is

As of Oct. 17, a stress test used for approving high-ratio mortgages will be applied to all new insured mortgages – including those where the buyer has more than 20 per cent for a down payment. The stress test is aimed at assuring the lender that the home buyer could still afford the mortgage if interest rates were to rise. The home buyer would need to qualify for a loan at the negotiated rate in the mortgage contract, but also at the Bank of Canada’s five-year fixed posted mortgage rate, which is an average of the posted rates of the big six banks in Canada. This rate is usually higher than what buyers can negotiate. As of Sept. 28, the posted rate was 4.64 per cent.

Other aspects of the stress test require that the home buyer will be spending no more than 39 per cent of income on home-carrying costs like mortgage payments, heat and taxes. Another measure called total debt service includes all other debt payments and the TDS ratio must not exceed 44 per cent.

Who it affects

This measure affects home buyers who have at least 20 per cent for a down payment but are seeking a mortgage that may stretch them too thin if interest rates were to rise. It also affects lenders seeking to buy government-backed insurance for low-ratio mortgages.

Why

The government is responding to concerns that sharp rises in house prices in cities like Toronto and Vancouver could increase the risk of defaults in the future should mortgage rates rise.

2. The change

As of Nov. 30, the government will impose new restrictions on when it will provide insurance for low-ratio mortgages.

What it is

The new rules restrict insurance for these types of mortgages based on new criteria, including that the amortization period must be 25 years or less, the purchase price is less than $1-million, the buyer has a credit score of 600 and the property will be owner-occupied.

Who it affects

This measure appears to be aimed at lowering the government’s exposure to residential mortgages for properties worth $1-million or more, a category of the market that has increased sharply in recent years in Vancouver and Toronto.

Why

Vancouver and Toronto are the two real estate markets that are of most concern for policy makers at all levels of government. These measures appear to be targeted at those markets.

3. The change

New reporting rules for the primary residence capital gains exemption.

What it is

Currently, any financial gain from selling your primary residence is tax-free and does not have to be reported as income. As of this tax year, the capital gains tax is still waived, but the sale of the primary residence must be reported at tax time to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Who it affects

Everyone who sells their primary residence will have a new obligation to report the sale to the CRA, however the change is aimed at preventing foreign buyers who buy and sell homes from claiming a primary residence tax exemption for which they are not entitled.

Why

While officials say more data are needed, Ottawa is responding to extensive anecdotal evidence and media reports showing foreign investors are flipping homes in Canada and falsely claiming the primary residence exemption.


4. The change

The government is launching consultations on lender risk sharing.

What it is

Currently, the federal government is on the hook to cover the cost of 100 per cent of an insured mortgage in the event of a default. The federal government says this is “unique” internationally and that it will be releasing a public consultation paper shortly on a proposal to have lenders, such as banks, take on some of that risk. The Department of Finance Canada acknowledges this would be “a significant structural change to Canada’s housing finance system.”

Who it affects

Mortgage lenders, such as banks, would have to take on added risk. This could potentially lead to higher mortgage rates for home buyers.

Why

The federal government wants to limit its financial obligations in the event of widespread mortgage defaults. It also wants to encourage prudent lending practices.

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Five previous federal housing moves since 2008

Monday’s package of announcements is the sixth time since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis that Ottawa has taken policy action in response to concerns about Canada’s housing market.

July, 2008: After briefly allowing the CMHC to insure high-ratio mortgages with a 40-year amortization period, then Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty moved to tighten those rules by reducing the maximum length of an insured high-ratio mortgage to 35 years.

February, 2010: Responding to concern that some Canadians were borrowing too much against the rising value of their homes, the government lowered the maximum amount Canadians could borrow in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent of a home’s value, down from 95 per cent. The move also set a new 20-per-cent down payment requirement for government-backed mortgage insurance on properties purchased for speculation by an owner who does not live in the property.

January, 2011: The Conservative government under Stephen Harper tightened the rules further, dropping the maximum amortization period for a high-ratio insured mortgage to 30 years. The maximum amount Canadians could borrow via refinancing was further lowered to 85 per cent.

June, 2012: A third round of tightening brought the maximum amortization period down to 25 years for high-ratio insured mortgages. A new stress test was also introduced to ensure that debt costs are no more than 44 per cent of income for lenders seeking a high-ratio mortgage. Refinancing rules were also tightened for a third time, setting a new maximum loan of 80 per cent of a property’s value. Another new measure limited the availability of government-backed insured high-ratio mortgages to homes valued at less than $1-million.

December, 2015: The recently elected Liberal government moved to tighten lending rules for homes worth more than $500,000, saying it was focused on “pockets of risk” in the housing sector.

The package of measures included doubling the minimum down payment for insured high-ratio mortgages to 10 per cent from 5 per cent for the portion of a home’s value from $500,000 to $1-million.

Source: Globe & Mail, Bill Curry, October 3, 2016


Would-be homebuyers in the capital region have fewer choices as the number of properties for sale continues to diminish while prices stay strong.

“This is the lowest level of inventory on the market in September that we have on record since 1996,” Mike Nugent, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, said Monday.

As of the end of September, there were 2,061 properties for sale. That is down by 40.7 per cent from the 3,478 properties on the market last September.

“This continuing lack of inventory holds up sales,” Nugent said.

The benchmark price for a single-family house in Greater Victoria’s core came in at $745,700 in September, up by 22.8 per cent from $607,100 in the same month last year. However, last month’s benchmark was down slightly from $746,900 in August.

September saw 781 properties change hands, down by 11.5 per cent from 883 in August.

Even so, September sales climbed by 10 per cent from 709 in the same month a year ago.

Saanich East led the way last month in single-family sales at 80, followed by Langford at 60 and Victoria at 41. Victoria had the most condominium sales at 72, with Saanich East next at 35.

The total value of all sales through the board’s Multiple Listing Service was $460 million.

Economic drivers are strong, Nugent said. “The GDP [gross domestic product] is up, employment numbers are up, retail and population growth is up.”

As well, Victoria is not seeing any signs that the foreign buyer property transfer tax imposed in Vancouver has sent foreign buyers into the local market, he said.

Source: Victoria Times Colonist, Oct 4, 2016
cjwilson@timescolonist.com




The plunge in real estate sales and deceleration in price increases in the Vancouver area last month were exactly what the government was trying to manoeuvre, and Premier Christy Clark says there will be no changes to the foreign-buyers tax.Clark told reporters Tuesday that her government will not reconsider the 15-per-cent tax that is intended to calm what she called a "distorted market."

"The prices were going up way too fast and if we helped slow that down, that's good," she said.The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver announced last Friday that August sales were down by 26 per cent compared with last year, signalling a return to more typical levels.

The largest drop in property sales last month was among detached homes, with a decrease of 44.5 per cent.

Along with the slowdown in sales, the board said prices that were once skyrocketing may be tapering off.The average price of a detached home fell to $1.47 million last month, a 16.7 per cent drop from the month before.

Dan Morrison, president of the real estate board, said on Friday that the region was seeing fewer sales of the highest-priced detached homes and fewer sales of detached homes compared with other kinds of housing, causing average prices to slump.But the real estate board prefers to measure prices using the benchmark price, which is a representation of a "typical" property sold in the area.

The benchmark price for detached properties reached $1.57 million in August, representing a 12-month increase of 35.8 per cent. However, compared with July, the figure was down 0.1 per cent.

Clark said it is too early to tell what the impact of the foreign-buyers tax and a luxury sales tax on homes priced over $2 million has had on the market.

While the premier said changes to the new legislation are not an option, the government will be doing even more to try to address housing affordability in Metro Vancouver.

"We need to make it easier for first time home buyers to get into the market and that's not just about price."Housing supply is a contributing factor to the problem, Clark said, with prospective developments "languishing" in city planning departments for years.Without giving away specifics, Clark said her government will look at ways to ensure cities are "moving some of that inventory" and increasing supply. -

Source: Victoria Times Colonist, September 6, 2016


It doesn’t look like there will be any break this year in the heated residential real estate market in Greater Victoria.

The B.C. Real Estate Association predicts in its latest forecast Thursday that the region’s home prices will rise by 15.4 per cent this year from 2015 and by another 6.2 per cent in 2017. The forecast puts additional pressure on buyers already facing stiff competition for homes in popular areas where prices have been climbing amid shrinking listing numbers.

Concerns have been raised about affordability in the southern half of B.C., where prices are marching upward and the number of sales have broken records for three straight months.

The average price of a single-family house in Greater Victoria reached $763,517 in May. Higher prices and strong demand in B.C. are being fuelled by a strong economy, consumer confidence, job growth, higher retail sales, and out-of-province buyers, including Albertans, the forecast said.

Net interprovincial migration was close to 17,000 people last year, the highest in almost 20 years. This year is expected to see the average B.C. home price through the Multiple Listing Service increase by 20.4 per cent to $766,600, the association said.

Next year should see prices move up at a slower rate, by 3.4 per cent. Vancouver-area buyers are facing a price increase of between 22 and 25 per cent this year. A single-family house in the Lower Mainland is now often considered to be a luxury product, as average prices top $1 million.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said Thursday May was another record-breaking month. It said homes are selling at an unprecedented rate in communities across the region stretching from Whistler to South Delta. Sales last month were 35 per cent above the 10-year sales average for May and rank as the highest sales total on record for that month.

The board said the benchmark price for detached properties increased to over $1.5 million, a 37 per cent jump from May 2015. By year end, a record 115,000 housing units are expected to be sold within the province, the provincial association’s forecast said. That is 38 per cent higher than the 10-year average of 83,000.

Next year, B.C. sales are expected to reach 105,600 units. In Greater Victoria, the association predicts that the average price, for all types of housing, including condominiums and townhouses, will reach $602,000 this year, and $618,000 in 2017.

This year, a record 8,960 homes are expected to change hands in the capital region, beating the previous record of 8,403 set in the 2007, prior to the recession. “The nearly 14 per cent increase year-over-year is the fourth consecutive year of sales growth,” the association said.

As sales numbers jump, inventory drops, driving up prices, the report said. Homebuilders constructing units will help meet demand, but more construction will be needed in the capital region to keep price increases from accelerating even more, it said.

Greater Victoria is home to many high-end properties, a segment that Sotheby’s International Realty Canada anticipates will remain strong. The first five months of this year saw 388 single-family homes sold for $1 million or higher in the capital region, the firm said in new report. That’s an increase of 240 per cent from the 114 homes sold in the same months last year.

In the $4-million-and-up category, a total of eight houses have sold so far this year, compared to none in that range for those months last year, Sotheby’s said. “We expect the intensity experienced in the first few months of 2016 to remain into the foreseeable future,” said Tom Stratton, managing broker for Sotheby’s in Victoria and Kelowna.

There are currently 18 residential properties for sale at $4 million and higher through the Victoria Real Estate Board. The highest is 529 Swanwick Rd. in Metchosin at $28.8 million, followed by 3195 Humber Rd. in Oak Bay at $14.9 million, 6342 Old East Rd. on the Saanich Peninsula for $12 million, and 9344 Ardmore Dr. for $11.8 million.

Sotheby’s said luxury homes sales are propelled by economic optimism, strong employment, Vancouver and Alberta buyers, and increased awareness of Victoria as an investment opportunity among Chinese buyers.

Source: VIctoria Times Colonist, June 3, 2016


 

Source: Youtube, Video published March 14, 2016


The number of property sales in the capital region during March hit an all-time high for any month recorded in the local real estate board’s database, which dates back to 1990.

A total of 1,121 properties of all types sold through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service last month. The previous record of 1,083 sales was set in May 1991. “I think the strong uptick in the market has surprised many of us,” board president Mike Nugent said Friday. “The business cycles of real estate are affected by economic drivers and it’s clear that this cycle has all possible drivers running at top speed.” Prices are rising, homes are selling faster and the inventory of available properties remains 30 per cent lower than a year ago.

Certain areas, such as Gordon Head, Oak Bay and Fairfield, are in particularly high demand. House hunters are getting used to being beaten out in bidding wars, a common practice these days. Vancouver’s super-charged real estate market has spilled into the capital region, where local buyers are vying with Lower Mainland and offshore purchasers. Nugent also points to low mortgage rates, pent-up demand from slower years between 2008 and 2013 and a buoyant economy.

For single-family homes, March had 569 sales, the fourth highest on the board’s database. The record for single-family sales was also set in May 1991 when 646 changed hands. Real estate was especially hot in 1991. April of that year had 624 single-family sales, with March at 597. Last month’s sales numbers for all types of properties are up by 45 per cent from February at 772. March sales numbers beat March 2015 numbers by 52.7 per cent, when 734 properties were sold.

The benchmark price for a house in the core rose to $663,000 last month. Again, that is up from last month and higher than a year ago at $569,700. Real estate agent Leslee Farrell sold a waterfront Oak Bay house for the highest amount recorded so far this year. An offer of $6.2 million, due to close in July, has been accepted for Salty Towers, a 9,777-square-foot English Tudor-style manor on 2.25 acres. The 1101 Beach Dr. property features mountain views across the water. Salty Towers has nine bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, salt-water aquarium, snooker room and temperature-controlled wine cellars. Real estate watchers thought that the Greater Victoria’s hot market would attract more sellers and it did — but not by much.

There were 2,618 listings in March, an increase from 2,562 in February. The number was higher in March 2015, at 3,769. Saanich East saw 134 sales of single-family homes last month. That’s the highest number of sales in any neighbourhood for any category of home. Victoria followed with 100 condominium sales. With 29 sales of single-family homes, totalling $34.6 million in sales value, high-end Oak Bay hung on to its reputation for higher prices. Nugent said that prices and inventory vary in different neighbourhoods. “Areas near the downtown core continue to see high demand for houses and condos, as do most areas in the Peninsula,” he said. Unlike the core, the West Shore has room to build and has lower land prices, both key to lower housing prices.

Oak Bay is opening its door to the idea of creating more housing sites through an infill strategy. This week, it published a request for proposals to develop a residential infill plan, outlining policies, criteria, and design guidelines. The process will include public consultation and meetings. The current owner of Salty Towers is already on board with that concept, having submitted a four-lot subdivision plan to Oak Bay. No decision has been made yet.

Source: Victoria Times Colonist, April 1, 2016


Posted in the Oak Bay News, March 25th, 2016
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