May brings lower homes sales and fewer new listings

OTTAWA – June 16th, 2010 – Statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show that home sales activity and new listings in Canada declined in May.

Seasonally adjusted home sales activity via the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) Systems of Canadian real estate Boards declined nationally by 9.5 per cent in May from near-record level activity the previous month. While activity declined in more than 70 per cent of local markets, the lower national figure resulted largely from fewer sales in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Actual (not seasonally adjusted) national sales activity was down 4.3 per cent in May from the same month last year. In a departure from the normal seasonal pattern, national activity levels in May were also down from April levels. This suggests that the combination of changes to mortgage regulations and rising mortgage rates pulled forward a number of sales into April that would have otherwise taken place at a later date.

“May was the first full month in which sales activity was affected by these changes,” said CREA President Georges Pahud. “An accompanying decline in new listings and housing starts means these changes are also affecting the supply side, which will keep the market balanced and Canadian home prices stable.”

The seasonally adjusted number of homes that were new listings on Canadian MLS® Systems in May 2010 declined by four per cent from the previous month. This marks the first monthly decline in new listings in eight months. New listings had been climbing sharply, rising from a four-year low last September to the second highest level ever last month.

The number of homes listed for sale on Boards’ MLS® Systems at the end of May was up 5.4 per cent from levels at the same time last year, when the supply of homes for sale on the market had started declining.

The national average price of homes sold via Canadian MLS® Systems rose 8.5 per cent in May from a year ago. This is a smaller increase compared to those recorded over the past nine months.

“Supply and demand has become more balanced in a number of major markets,” said CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump. “Homebuyers now have more choice and are likely be in less of a rush to purchase than they were recently, so the amount of time it takes to sell a home is expected to rise in the coming months.”

With last year’s string of downwardly skewed average price values having now mostly passed, year-over-year national average price comparisons are coming back into line with changes in the national weighted average price.

The weighted average price compensates for changes in provincial sales activity by taking into account provincial proportions of privately owned housing stock. It climbed 8.4 per cent on a year-over-year basis in May 2010. Similarly, the residential average price in Canada’s major markets was up 9.8 per cent year-over-year in May, while the weighted major market average price rose 10.7 per cent.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of months of inventory stood at 5.3 months in May 2010. This is up from 4.8 months at the same time last year. The number of months of inventory is the number of months it would take to sell current inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, months of inventory stood at 6.1 months in May, the highest level since last April.

“The number of months of inventory may rise further in response to easing sales activity and a further rise in the number of active listings,” said Klump. “However, the number of newly listed homes will ultimately retreat in response to a more competitive sales and pricing environment in a number of local markets. The outlook for the Canadian economy, employment, and mortgage market trends remain upbeat, so supply and demand will remain balanced on a national basis. Canada will avoid a U.S.-style home price correction.”

PLEASE NOTE: The information contained in this news release combines both major market and national MLS® sales information from the previous month.

CREA cautions that average price information can be useful in establishing trends over time, but does not indicate actual prices in centres comprised of widely divergent neighborhoods or account for price differential between geographic areas. Statistical information contained in this report includes all housing types.

A more balanced market and the avoidance of a U.S. style home price correction are welcome news. I am always available to discuss your real estate queries or challenges. Please feel free to contact me at rdavison@trebnet.com or 905-845-2200.

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U.S.-Style Home Price Correction Unlikely in Canada

As a Realtor, the first question posed to me when I meet new people is always “How is the market?” This is often followed with “Where is the market heading?” I always enjoy these conversations with individuals who are interested in the dynamic market I am very much immersed in. The looming introduction of the GST is almost a month away and many people want to know how this is going to impact the market in the immediate term. Many fear we could be at the top of the market and heading for a correction. Below, you will find an excellent commentary from CREA on this very question.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released a new report today indicating that home prices will stabilize, and will remain stable for some time. This means that Canadian homeowners are unlikely to experience a U.S.-style decline in the value of their homes.

“The relationship between average price and income has recently been cited as portending a U.S.-style correction in Canadian home prices,” said Gregory Klump, Chief Economist, CREA. “However, such warnings ignore the longer-term relationship between prices and income, and disregard typical Canadian housing market cycle dynamics.”

Home prices tend to rise in cycles, characterized by periods of sharp growth and periods of stability. By contrast, income generally follows an orderly upward trend over time. For home prices to keep pace with incomes, they must rise faster during housing booms to make up for periods of little or no price growth. Canadian home prices were stagnant throughout most of the 1990s, while incomes continued rising, making housing more affordable. Over the past decade, home prices have climbed sharply as mortgage interest rates declined.

Klump adds: “The Canadian housing market is now widely thought to be at, or very near, the top of a cycle, and the ratio of home prices to incomes is currently high. This ratio will revert to its long-term average as it always does as part of a normal housing market cycle. History suggests, however, that it will not do so by means of a significant correction in home prices. The more likely scenario is that home prices will stabilize, giving incomes a chance to catch up again.”

The correction in U.S. home prices has sparked fears that Canadian home prices may share a similar fate. However, according to Klump, “warnings to this effect ignore solid Canadian mortgage market trends.”

Conservative lending practices in the mortgage industry combined with prudent borrowing and accelerated payments among Canadian mortgage holders have been seen throughout the recent housing market cycle. Accelerated accumulation of home equity will provide options for the small proportion of homeowners who may face financial difficulty when their mortgage is renewed at a higher interest rate. These trends are expected to help Canada avoid a U.S.-style housing crisis.

The correction in U.S. home prices is set against a massive oversupply of homes due to distress sales, combined with a drop in housing demand due to unemployment. The unwinding of the housing boom in Canada will be more orderly, characterized by softening sales activity and stable prices.

I hope you have found this information informative and I always welcome your comments or viewpoints on this and all topics posted on 905westword.com. I can also be reached at 905-330-1241 or rdavison@trebnet.com.

Cancellation of Home Retrofit Program –

A lot of home sellers have reaped the rewards of the home retrofit program. The benefits were two fold in that home owners made their homes more efficient while at the same time increasing the value of their properties. The program was introduced in 2007 as the ecoEnergy program. After conducting the initial audit home owners were able to update their properties with everything from insulation to furnaces and air conditioners in order to get back as much as $5,000 in rebates. In order to obtain the rebates a follow up audit had to be performed.

This program was intended to run until March 2011. However, on March 31st at 5pm ET it was announced that the Department of Natural Resources would not be accepting any new applicants to the program. Those who have had the first audit done can complete their retrofits and then complete the second audit to get the rebates. According to the press release If you have already booked an appointment for a pre-retrofit evaluation, have completed an evaluation or applied for re-entry to the program, you remain eligible to apply for a grant.” Homeowners who have not booked an audit will not be eligible for the rebate. The Government will be administering the program until March 31, 2011.

The speed at which the program was cancelled and with little to no warming is drawing fire from the political opposition. This program was also creating many jobs in Canada.

I know that I personally have benefited from this program, as have numerous clients of mine. Hopefully the decision makers will reconsider this decision. For those of you that missed the opportunity you may want to send your opinion to Ottawa. For those that are still going to squeak in under the wire, you will want to make the most of the opportunity.

If I can be of assistance to you with regard to this information, please contact me at 905-330-1241 or rdavison@trebnet.com. All the best. Ryan.

The February 2010 Real Estate Market was Golden! (Oakville & Milton)

(March 2010 – Oakville – Milton, Ontario) For the month of February 2010, The Oakville, Milton and District Real Estate Board *total sales transactions were 786, an increase of 45 per cent over February 2009. Sales have shot up sharply in the last two months, confirming an increasingly strong market. This is verified by looking at February sales from years past, compared to 2008 they are 14 per cent ahead and 47 per cent ahead when compared to those in February 2007. The total value of sales processed through the Board MLS® System also demonstrates a consistent increase. The Oakville, Milton and area resale market reported a **total dollar volume of sales for the February 2010 of 115 per cent higher than 2009 and 127 per cent year to date, according to Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) statistics released by The Oakville, Milton and District Real Estate Board.

“Our market is very healthy and sustained low interest rates have made it a great time for buyers and sellers. I anticipate an even stronger market for the up-coming Spring,” states Oakville, Milton and District Real Estate Board President Jeff Mahannah. “Even with the government changes to the mortgages rules of limiting buyers to a mortgage of 35 years and requiring a minimum of five per cent down payment, I predict that we are going to see records set for real estate sales and prices this year.”

Residential resales in Oakville for February 2010 are up by 85 per cent over February 2009 with an average price of $586,031 and a median price of $498,000 representing a 32 per cent and 31 per cent increase respectively over the same month last year. The luxury market is very healthy in Oakville, recording 22 sales over a $1,000,000 in February 2010, compared to 4 in February 2009.

Milton’s sales were up by 67 per cent and the average sale price was $381,134, an increase of 23 per cent when compared to February 2009.

Year to date residential sales in Milton show a 72 per cent increase when compared to 2009 and Oakville demonstrates a very healthy 101 per cent increase.

Also notable are the Days on the Market Activity for both Milton and Oakville. For Milton in February buyers had to move quickly and make decisions fast as the average time period was 13 days. Oakville also had a very short time period of 25 days, indicating we are in a seller’s market. Consumers should note that the comparisons to 2009 to 2010 will continue to be extreme through to the beginning of the second quarter due to the low sales activity during that period in 2009.

*The total sales are comprised of all sales by OMDREB Members, regardless of jurisdiction.
**Total dollar volume of sales reflects “all property types” including residential, condominiums,
commercial property, farmland and sale of businesses.

Source: The Oakville, Milton and District Real Estate Board

These are some exciting sales figures. If I can be of assistance with any of your Real Estate needs please do not hesitate to contact me at 905-330-1241 or rdavison@trebnet.com .

Low inventory levels set stage for heated Spring market in most major Canadian centres, says RE/MAX

Active listings down in 81 per cent of markets in January

Lack of inventory will be the greatest challenge facing housing markets across the country this Spring, according to a report released by RE/MAX.

The RE/MAX Market Trends Report 2010, which examined real estate trends and developments in 16 markets across the country, found that unusually strong activity during one of the traditionally quietest months of the year has led to a sharp decline in active listings in 81 per cent of markets surveyed. The threat of higher interest rates, tighter lending criteria, and in British Columbia and Ontario, the introduction of the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) have clearly served to kick-start real estate activity from coast-to-coast, prompting an unprecedented influx of purchasers. As a result, 87.5 per cent of markets posted an increase in sales in January. Average price appreciated in 81 per cent of markets surveyed.

There have never been so many motivating factors in play at once. We’re in for a heated Spring market that will, in all probability, spill over into the summer months, as the window of opportunity draws to a close. The supply of homes listed for sale has been drastically reduced, housing values are once again on the upswing, and banks and governments are moving in unison toward stricter lending policies.

Markets experiencing the tightest inventory levels include Toronto (- 41 per cent); Kitchener-Waterloo
(-33 per cent); Ottawa (- 30 per cent); Victoria (- 30 per cent); Greater Vancouver (- 27 per cent); Halifax-Dartmouth (- 19 per cent); London-St. Thomas (- 18 per cent); Regina (- 16 per cent); and Winnipeg (- 13 per cent). Conditions were still balanced, but starting to tighten in Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon, particularly in the single-family detached category.

The highest year-over-year sales gains were reported in Greater Vancouver (152 per cent), Kelowna (121 per cent), Greater Toronto (87 per cent), Victoria (69 per cent), Hamilton-Burlington (58 per cent), London-St. Thomas (55 per cent) and Calgary (47 per cent). Western Canadian cities dominated the list of centres with the highest increases in price appreciation. These included Victoria at 25.5 per cent, Kelowna at 22 per cent, Greater Vancouver at 19.5 per cent, and Winnipeg at 17 per cent. St. John’s (23 per cent) and Toronto (19 per cent) were also among the frontrunners for price growth.

Affordability is the catalyst for the vast majority of purchasers in today’s housing market. While homeownership is still within reach in many major centres, levels are slipping. There is a growing sense, on both sides of the fence, that the time to act is now.

While buyers are taking advantage of favourable conditions, sellers too are reaping the rewards. Competing bids are a factor in the marketplace once again, with well-priced listings—especially at the entry-level price point—experiencing multiple offers. Properties priced at fair-market value will likely sell quickly for top dollar. The overall pressure on sales and price is significant across the board – and it’s not likely to subside unless more inventory comes on-stream.

The level of frustration is growing, as pent-up demand builds. For every successful offer, there are those that will walk away empty-handed. They’re thrust back into the buyer pool and the process starts all over again. Some buyers are upping the ante, while others are considering alternate housing options. Still, purchasers remain cautious in their bids, with most careful not to max out debt service ratios.

Recent revisions to lending criteria will add fuel to the fire in the short term. Buyers considering a variable rate mortgage will step up their plans for homeownership in the next month or so just to get in under the wire. In the longer term, buyers will adjust, but move forward. Compromise has long been a reality—particularly in the larger centres. This simply means they may go smaller or further in their pursuits.

It’s been a 180 degree turnaround from this time last year. It’s clear that real estate from coast to coast has roared back to life and markets are once again firing on all cylinders. The vast majority of markets are now recovered and fully-evolved, with all segments working in tandem. At the luxury price point, activity was brisk in seventy-three per cent of centres surveyed, with momentum ramping up in the remainder. Opportunity exists in some areas, but the question is for how much longer?

The local real estate market is quite active at the moment. Should you wish to discuss how the information above might impact the value of your current home or the price of a home you might be considering, please feel free to contact me at rdavison@trebnet.com or 905-330-1241. Exciting times!

Jim Flaherty’s Changes to Mortgage Qualification Rules

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced three changes to Canadian mortgage rules on February the 16th. These are important changes, but less important that what Mr. Flaherty did not change. There had been industry talk of increasing the minimum down payment from 5% to 10% and shortening the maximum amortization period from the available 35 years. Thankfully Jim Flaherty understood that increasing the down payment rules and shortening the amortization would potentially put the brakes on higher priced markets like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

The changes that the Finance Minister did make are designed to impact real estate speculators and heavily indebted people looking to roll higher priced debt into their mortgages. The every day home purchaser should not notice much of a difference following the implementation of the changes as of April 19th, 2010. These changes impact mortgages with less than 20 per cent down that are covered by government backed mortgage insurance, in the following ways:

– Increased mortgage term used for mortgage qualification calculations. Regardless of the term or type of mortgage the consumer selects, they must qualify against the 5 year fixed rate. This is up from the 3 year fixed rate that is currently used for qualification. Once qualified against the 5 year fixed rate, the consumer can select whichever type and term of mortgage they wish. This approach will insulate borrowers from the shock of the rising rates in the future.

– Increased down payment requirements for income properties when the property is not the owner’s principal residence. Investors that purchase these investment properties will have to come up with a 20% down payment to qualify for mortgage insurance as of April 19th, 2010, instead of the 5% down payment required at the moment. Currently, very few investors would purchase a rental property with 5% down payment.

– Mortgage refinance restrictions. Home owners that are looking to roll higher priced consumer debt into their longer term, lower cost mortgage debt through refinancing will face limited access to their equity. Currently, home owners are able to take up to 95% of the equity out of their homes. As of April 19, 2010 refinancing will only be allowed to a limit of 90% of the equity of the home.

Jim Flaherty’s changes to mortgage qualification rules are slightly more restrictive than what was in place prior to his February 16th, 2010 announcement. However, he has not implemented any changes that will put healthy Canadian real estate markets in shackles. These are responsible restrictions that will help the real estate market avoid over heating and heading toward bubble territory.

Should you have any questions about this or any other piece on the 905 West Word blog please feel free to contact me at rdavison@trebnet.com or 905-330-1241.

Are You Fit To Sell? – Curb Appeal

The exterior of your home says a lot about how well your home is maintained both inside and out. When a buyer drives by your home or views photos on line this will create a lasting impression, so show them that your property is well cared for. When buyers see an attractive exterior they will be eager to stop and excited to view the interior as well. Curb appeal is the sizzle that helps to sell the steak.

Preparing your home for sale can be a daunting task. A check list can help focus your efforts in the most productive manner. Please review the list below and be as objective and realistic about the current condition of your home.

Things to consider:

[] What major repairs are needed?

[] What minor repairs are needed?

[] Make a list of what needs to be done

[] Sweep walkways, driveways, patios and decks

[] Maintain front, back and side yards

[] Add flower arrangements on your front porch, in front of your garage and on your decks and patios

[] Is your lawn lush and green?

[] What shape are your flower beds in?

[] Are there any visual distractions?

[] Are the kids toys stored neatly away?

[] What condition is your drive way in?

Committing twenty minutes to honestly review and answer each of the points above will help you increase the curb appeal of your home. Should you wish to discuss any of the points above I am always available at 905-330-1241 or by email at rdavison@trebnet.com . Best of luck!

Multiple Offers – Dare I Take Part?


There has been considerable press lately about the real estate market being over heated, feeding fears of a “market bubble” situation. Those that support these views often cite the prevalence of multiple offer situations – driving sale prices $50,000 and $100,000 over asking prices in hot market centres – as a key contributor. What exactly is a multiple offer?

A multiple offer situation presents itself when a property is so desirable that more than one offer for the property comes in at the same time. It may be only two competing offers, however, it can be more as I have personally experienced the misfortune of being one of 15 competing offers on the same property in a certain trendy west Toronto neighbourhood. As you might imagine, the more offers on the table, the stiffer, more emotional and less logical the competition often becomes. How does a property become so desirable that multiple offers occur?

Multiple offer situations can happen on their own, as a result of a premium property being offered when supply is low, but more often than not they are created. They can be created a couple of different ways:

• A significant price drop by a Seller may entice more than one set of buyers who were “on the fence” about the property at the previous
price
• Holding offers until a specific date (often 7 days after listing it) in order to generate the most possible interest
• Pricing the property well under market value to create a buzz with today’s well informed buyers the moment it hits the market (often
combined with holding offers until a certain pre-determined date)

How does a multiple offer situation proceed? When a home has more than one offer registered on it, the offers will be presented in the order in which the offers were registered – a phone call to the listing brokerage to let them know the papers are signed. The sellers will review all of the offers at a specified time and then decide on their course of action. The sellers may accept the best offer, negotiate with the best offer and reject all others, negotiate with one buyer and inform the other buyers their offers are being set aside while the negotiation takes place or reject all offers completely. Often, the listing agent will inform the competing buyer’s agents before the presentation that it will be one round of offers and the best offer will be dealt with.

What about conditions? The winning bid may not always be the highest price. In some instances it may be a bit less money, however, it could have no conditions or be “clean”. An offer containing a home inspection or financing clause provides an “out” for purchasers, which in the eyes of the seller weakens their bid. That being said these conditions may be essential to your comfort level putting a bid in on the property and a home purchased without an inspection can reveal a range of post sale surprises. Should the home be bid up considerably over fair market value, it may not appraise for the amount you are looking to finance. In this instance the inclusion of a financing clause might have cost you the house or, if you are successful with your bid, saved you financial distress should it not appraise.

What is the best strategy in preparing for a multiple offer? Unfortunately, there is no “best strategy” that blankets every situation. Each home and multiple offer situation is unique. I often meet with my clients and create an offer plan. We determine what we feel the value of the house is and a logical limit on what they are willing to pay for this specific home. It is also beneficial to determine a price at which the clients feel someone else can have the home. This way expectations and intentions are clear and some of the emotional lack of logic can be removed from the process. In the instance that your agent also has the listing on the property, be sure to review the Buyer Representation Agreement section on Multiple Representation.

Luckily, multiple offers are less prevalent in Burlington and Oakville than some other centres such as Toronto. However, I have experienced them in the Halton Region as well, albeit less often. My best advice is to be realistic about what you feel the home is worth. Keep in mind that other inventory will eventually become available. Create an offer plan and stick to it. Good luck!

The Regional Municipality of Halton Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy Program

A flooded basement is one of the worst surprises a homeowner can come home to realize. Water can find its way in to your home in a number of different ways. I am always an advocate of being proactive to keep your home tight and dry. As such, I feel it is important to share the news that the Regional Municipality of Halton is currently offering a Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy, for as much as $2,725.

This Subsidy is available to:

• Halton residents who have a history of basement floods caused by a backup or surcharge of the sanitary sewer system.

and

• Halton residents who have not experienced flooding but would like to correct improper storm water connections and install a backwater valve.

A surcharge is an overloaded sewer as a result of severe rainstorms. The sewers become overloaded due to excessive water flow from downspouts, weeping tiles/Foundation Drains and sump pumps that are connected to lines designated for sanitary sewer flows.

A backwater valve is a valve installed where the main-sewer clean out is located. The Mainline Fullport backwater valve is the only one that can be used in Ontario. It allows the sewer line to still vent gasses caused by positive or negative pressure, but will close to protect the home in the event of a surcharge.

What Subsidy Amounts Are Available to Homeowners?

Disconnection of Downspouts that used to tie in to the weeping system then into the sewer: ½ of all costs up to a maximum $250.

Weeping Tile Disconnection/Sump Pump Installation: ½ of the invoiced total by the contractor up to a maximum of $1,800.

Backwater Valve purchase and installation: ½ of the invoiced total by contractor up to a maximum of $675. In order to qualify for the Backwater Valve portion for the subsidy homeowners must demonstrate they do not have any downspout or weeping tile/foundation drain connections to the sanitary sewer.

The funding available for the Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy is limited and will only be distributed while funds last. This funding is also on a first come, first-served basis so be expedient in the process if you wish to take part. Would be participants start with a Household Drainage Survey to evaluate the extent of the work to be done and eligible subsidy amounts. It is worth mentioning that if you do proceed with the program reimbursement is not provided for interior finishes such as drywall, paint or flooring or exterior restoration such as landscaping, gardening, porches, decks concrete or asphalt etc;

Should you wish to proceed with this process you should contact the Program Coordinator Matt Stefanik at 905-825-6000 ext. 7918. The link below will provide all of the specific details on the Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy program. This generous offer from the Regional Municipality of Halton is time sensitive. Should you have concern about your basement flooding, call soon.

CLICK HERE for Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy Program Details Specifics

Halton Region H1N1 Flu and Seasonal Flu 2010 Clinic Schedule

The H1N1 Flu pandemic created quite a stir in Halton Region and the rest of the world. Although there has been criticism of everything from the production to the administration of the vaccine, it seems to me that the Region of Halton has done a good job vaccinating those that wanted the H1N1 vaccine. I am the proud father of 1 year old identical twin boys. They were on the early list of those allowed to receive the vaccine. My family and I spent a solid hour and fourty five minutes patiently waiting for the vaccine, which can seem like an eternity with two toddlers that do not like to sit still. The volunteers at the Halton Regional Centre on Bronte Road provided water and colouring books for those in line to make it a pleasant as well as efficient experience.

It is January 7, 2010 and the Halton Region re-opens their flu immunization clinics today. Halton Region’s flu immunization clinics are offering the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine. These vaccines are being offered to those that want them over the age of 6 months. Please go to the link below in order to review the clinic schedule.

http://www.region.halton.on.ca/health/services/communicable_disease/H1N1/clinics.htm

In order to continue the smooth and efficient administration of the vaccines in Halton here is what you can do to help as an attendee:

• Wear a short-sleeved shirt
• Be prepared to present your Ontario Health Card/Driver’s License
• Be on time, the clinic doors close promptly on schedule – those inside the doors will be immunized
• Come prepared for: weather as you may be outside in line (umbrellas/blankets), your children’s needs – bring books, toys, snacks/drinks etc;

Following the immunization, the Region of Halton has a couple of suggestions on how to keep yourself and your family from getting sick:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15 seconds or use a 60-90% alcohol based hand sanitizer
• Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with hands that have not been washed/sanitized
• Should you have flu-like symptoms please stay home and get better
• Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or a tissue, not your hand, and disgard tissue immediately and clean your hands
• Keep commonly touched surfaces clean and disinfected

We have all done a great and responsible job to combat the H1N1 flu virus, lets continue to do our part.