The B.C. government is moving ahead with its promise to impose a cooling-off period on real estate sales, to give people time to get home inspections and consider their financing before making a deal in a bidding war for scarce homes.
Finance Minister Selina Robinson tabled amendments in the B.C. legislature Monday to impose what she calls a “homebuyer protection period,” but it will be some months before buyers and sellers know how long it will be. The target for regulations that would set the cooling-off period and other terms is expected by some time this summer, after the newly created B.C. Financial Services Authority consults with realtors, home inspectors appraisers and legal and financial representatives.
Robinson, who announced the cooling-off change in early November, emphasized the need for home inspections, which were among the first casualties of multiple-bid home sales that have intensified in the past two years.
“In our overheated housing market, we have seen buyers feeling pressure to waive conditions just to be considered, and new homeowners discovering costly problems only after a deal has closed,” Robinson said March 28. “We want to make sure people buying a home have time to get the information they need to make a sound decision within limits that still give sellers the certainty they need to close sales.”
Helene Barton, executive director of the Home Inspectors Association of B.C., said the previous hot real estate market in 2016 resulted in many disappointed buyers who found significant problems with homes after they closed the deal, in some cases having to move back out shortly after moving in to make repairs.
Ottawa's commercial real estate market to 'remain vibrant' in 2022, Re/Max says – Ottawa Business Journal
Ottawa’s commercial real estate sector is “gaining momentum” thanks to a booming industrial market and a retail industry that’s roared back to life in recent months as pandemic-related restrictions have lifted, according to a new report.
After topping $3.8 billion in a record-setting 2021, commercial investment activity in the National Capital Region is on pace to exceed that amount this year, Re/Max says in its 2022 Commercial Real Estate Report released on Thursday.
Citing the Conference Board of Canada’s projection that Ottawa-Gatineau’s GDP will grow by 3.4 per cent in 2002 as the tech and construction sectors heat up, the firm said that sunny forecast should bode well for real estate investors.
“Against this backdrop, the city’s commercial market should remain vibrant, with improvements projected in the office sector as the pandemic recedes from the forefront,” the report said.
Re/Max singled out the red-hot industrial sector as the star performer in Ottawa’s commercial real estate scene.
1.7% availability rate
The report cited the city’s close proximity to 400-series highways and the U.S. border as prime reasons for the ongoing surge in industrial activity, adding the limited stock of available properties is “presenting serious challenges” for investors seeking to capitalize on the sector’s growth.
According to the Altus Group, Ottawa’s industrial availability rate sat at 1.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2022, down from 3.1 per cent during the same period a year earlier.
“While intent (to invest) exists, a shortage of available inventory for both lease and sale has fallen short of demand, especially in the popular west end,” Re/Max said.
The company said the space crunch has pushed industrial lease rates to a new record average high of a net $15.50 per square foot – a 30 per cent increase over the average of $12 per square foot just two years ago.
“In the city’s east end, smaller space is almost impossible to find, with listings that do come on stream snapped up quickly, often at a premium,” the report said.
Meanwhile, Re/Max said Ottawa’s retail real estate sector has “rebounded with a vengeance” after a difficult two-year stretch in which COVID-19 wreaked havoc with brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants and other mainstreet businesses.
Smaller spaces have been almost completely snapped up in major malls such as the Rideau Centre, Bayshore Shopping Centre and St. Laurent Shopping Centre, the report says, adding that vacant storefront properties in areas like the ByWard Market, Glebe and Westboro are also being occupied at a brisk pace.
“Negotiations with landlords are more complicated than in years past, with many wanting guarantees in the form of personal covenants,” Re/Max said. “The glut of space available last year has been absorbed, albeit at a slightly lower lease range.”
Suburban mall revival
The report said suburban retail complexes are also undergoing a renaissance, with fitness facilities, restaurants and fast-food outlets among the major tenants taking over space in big-box malls.
The company isn’t as bullish on the office sector, which still has an overall vacancy rate above 10 per cent. With many civil servants still working from home, Re/Max said it could be a while before Ottawa’s office towers are teeming with tenants again.
As a result, the company said, landlords have started offering incentives such as free rent for a year and various leasehold improvements in a bid to fill vacant properties.
“At the same time, the relatively low interest rate environment has generated an upswing in demand for office buildings in suburban areas like Kanata,” Re/Max added. “Most are smaller, commercial buildings ideal for professional offices, generally sought-after by end users.”
3-day 'cooling off' period, transparent bidding recommended to transform B.C. real estate sector – CBC.ca
The regulator for British Columbia’s real estate sector has recommended that the province adopt a so-called “cooling-off” period of three business days to protect people buying a home, through legislation tabled this spring.
A report from the B.C. Financial Services Authority released Thursday advises that sellers be required to provide reasonable access for a property inspection during the three-day homebuyer protection period, which would start the day after an offer is accepted.
It also advises that B.C. implement a “modest” termination fee of 0.1 to 0.5 per cent of the price of a home to be paid by buyers who pull out of a deal.
The fee “strikes a balance between discouraging frivolous offers and recognizing the disruption in the selling process,” the report said.
Additional recommendations include a five-day “pre-offer” period after a property is listed, when a seller may not accept any offers, along with suggestions aimed at enhancing transparency in the transaction process.
For example, the report advises that key strata documents should be made available when a strata property is listed. The province could also require buyers to disclose to sellers any other active offers they’ve made, it suggests.
The report also recommends ending blind bidding and exploring an open bidding process used in many Scandinavian countries.
Homebuyers pressured to take ‘unreasonable risks’
The B.C. government introduced amendments to property legislation in March. Finance Minister Selina Robinson tasked the independent regulator with consulting the real estate industry on the parameters of a cooling-off period and other potential measures.
Robinson says the province is reviewing the report, and her aim is to move “relatively quickly” with the bill that passed its third reading last month, but the real estate industry also needs time to adjust and adapt to the changes.
The province has heard in recent years about homebuyers feeling pressured to take “unreasonable risks,” such as waiving home inspections, which has led to “horror stories,” Robinson said at a news conference on Thursday.
“I’m eager to move on these elements. I do need to have more discussion with [the B.C. Financial Services Authority] and others around what time frame is needed to act, certainly around the buyer protection period,” Robinson said, noting there’s a “whole range” of other recommendations.
Aims to increase transparency, consumer protections
Blair Morrison, CEO of the B.C. Financial Services Authority, said at a news conference there would be “adjustments” to the current real estate transaction process to bring the homebuyer protection period into force.
In developing the report, Morrison said the authority hosted 20 consultation sessions with more than 140 people from across B.C.’s real estate sector.
“We think this is core, basic, good consumer protection that should apply throughout British Columbia,” he said.
“We want to make sure this works for the sector, for the real estate [agents], for the lawyers and other parts of that process,” he added.
He said the review was not intended to address housing affordability in B.C.
The report also considers “blind bidding,” a common practice in which sellers are not compelled to tell prospective buyers about competing offers.
That lack of transparency can “skew the perception of market fairness and potentially lead to distrust in the real estate transaction process,” it said, pointing to concerns about inflated valuations or buyers overpaying for a home by offering a price that significantly exceeds the next highest offer.
The regulator looked at open-bidding alternatives, advising B.C. to consider options such as live auctions and anonymous disclosure of other offers.
Calgary retains commercial real estate team to revive new arena – CTV News Calgary
The City of Calgary has recruited three people from the commercial real-estate sector in an effort to get a new event centre to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome.
CBRE executive vice-president John Fisher, director of strategic initiatives with NAIOP Calgary Guy Huntingford and Ayrshire Group executive chairman Phil Swift have been retained to engage both the city and the and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) to reach a new deal.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the city’s planning and development manager Stuart Dalgleish told committee members the group has already begun their work.
“We are at a stage where our third party is having discussions with both the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and the City of Calgary, with a view to determining whether there is interest in discussions toward a new event centre, and a new deal towards the new event centre,” Dalgleish said.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek is optimistic the team will be able to break the impasse between the city and CSEC.
“Today’s news is good news, and we need to be patient with what comes following this,” she said.
Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp, who chairs the event centre committee, says naming a third party to assist in negotiations is a big step to seeing a new arena rise from the ashes of the failed deal.
“I’m very satisfied. There’s been a lot of work been put into this to get to where we are today,” she said. “Everybody wants an event centre built.”
However, sports economist Moshe Lander says it might not be such a great deal for most Calgary taxpayers.
“The issue about who should pay for it is something that goes on in every city, more or less, anytime there’s an arena or stadium discussion,” he said.
“In almost every single case, the public sector blinks first and ends up throwing money at a project that’s not going to recoup its costs.”
“Really, it’s just an issue at this point of how much money does the City of Calgary want to throw at this project, understanding that it’s not going to get it back? How much does it want to sell to the taxpayers that this is what you’re going to be on the hook for, even though the vast majority of residents in the city are not going to use that arena in any capacity?”
CTV reached out to CSEC on Wednesday to ask if the owners still had any interest in reviving the deal. There was no response by publishing deadline.
The original agreement was signed in December 2019. In it, the city and CSEC agreed to split the cost of the $550 million project. When the price tag jumped to over $630 million, the Flames ownership group balked and cancelled the deal. It officially expired New Year’s Eve 2021.
Earlier this month, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with CSEC to discuss the arena, among other topics. At the time, he told reporters he remained hopeful a deal could be struck.
“I’m always optimistic,” said Bettman. “There’s nothing going on right this second to report that would indicate there is going to be a solution immediately, but my hope is that everybody can figure this out.”
Bettman also warned without a new arena or an updated Saddledome, Calgary would miss out on significant NHL events such as All-Star games.
The Saddledome is the second-oldest NHL arena behind only New York’s Madison Square Garden.
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