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Buying or selling your home right now?



The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March. Subsequently, the number of home sales in Canada fell sharply as social distancing measures were put in place, open houses got cancelled and fewer new listings became available.

Three months on, the Canadian real estate market is no longer in free fall — sales and listings numbers are rising (though both are down significantly compared to last year), and prices have remained fairly steady — but there continues to be a lot of uncertainty for both buyers and sellers. While bidding wars are still taking place in many markets, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicts that prices will fall between nine and 18 per cent this year, and sales and prices might not be back to pre-pandemic levels even by the end of 2022.

If you’re looking to buy or sell residential property this year, you may already know that it’s a quickly moving market with many regional differences — and the process looks quite different now than it did at the start of the year or even a month ago. With that in mind, we reached out to real estate experts in four different provinces* for their market insights and best advice on everything from staging a virtual showing to getting a mortgage approval.

*Note: In Canada, real estate is largely regulated based on provincial or territorial legislation. Some information included in this article may not apply in your province or territory. 

It’s (still, kind of) a seller’s market

“There was, right at the beginning, a dramatic drop in properties listed for sale because many sellers were concerned enough to not want to have people in their house,” says Anthony Bastiaanssen, a Realtor in Kelowna, B.C., and chair of the British Columbia Real Estate Association. “People actually took their properties off the market for a period of time or delayed the process of listing it for sale.” But so far this spring, prices have remained relatively steady, despite sales falling significantly. “Prices have not, in any reports that I’ve seen, shown any significant adjustment,” says Bastiaanssen. “Most of the economic forecasts do call for a slight adjustment in pricing down in the short term, but honestly, we still haven’t really seen that.”

According to many reports, attractive properties in in-demand areas are still selling quickly, and, in some cases, attracting multiple offers. “[In Quebec], it’s a very strong real estate market for the seller,” says Anouk Vidal, a real estate broker in Saint-Jérôme, Que., and spokesperson for the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers. “We have very low inventory … [and] when a property comes on the market, there’s a lot of demand for it.”

With many regions starting to reopen their economies and loosen restrictions, there’s been an increase in real estate activity over the last few weeks. “The market is actually extremely active right now,” says Vidal. “We were on pause and couldn’t do anything for a couple of months, [so] all the people that need to buy or sell are doing it at this point.” Notably, both Vidal and Bastiaanssen have either observed or heard of an uptick of interest in their provinces for rural and countryside listings, particularly from city-dwellers looking for more space or a recreational property.

Expect virtual showings and tours, and new protocols

Because real estate is largely provincially or territorially regulated, the industry rules and guidelines pertaining to COVID-19 — which are constantly shifting as local regulations change — are slightly different in each region. For example, open houses are currently prohibited in Quebec, says Vidal, as they are in Ontario. But in Alberta, real estate professionals are starting to offer them again for vacant properties.

Still, no matter where you are in Canada, expect to see an increased reliance on technology as videos, 3D renderings and other virtual tours become increasingly important sales and marketing tools. With sellers (and many tenants) hesitant to have people going through their home right now, open houses have gone online, with some real estate professionals doing video walk-throughs with their clients. “There’s been a pretty significant uptick [in] virtual tour-type photography,” says Bastiaanssen, who notes that more serious potential buyers will follow with a visit to the property in person.

When it comes to those fewer, spaced out in-person showings, there are COVID-related guidelines that sellers, buyers and real estate professionals to adhere to. For example, in Quebec, real estate professionals will normally ask buyers (and sellers that are in the properties) to sign a declaration confirming that they’re healthy and haven’t been in contact with someone with COVID-19 ahead of any in-person visits. “[In British Columbia], very specific protocols and precautions, [created] with guidance from WorkSafeBC and the provincial real estate association and real estate council, are being taken to ensure the health and safety of both clients and Realtors themselves,” says Bastiaanssen. That could mean wearing face masks and gloves, using sanitizing wipes and giving buyers directions to avoid handling or touching anything in the home, including light switches and door handles.

With these additional precautions and guidelines in place, both Vidal and Bastiaanssen note that they are seeing mostly “serious” buyers and sellers in the market right now. “It’s a lot more complicated with all the processes that we have to go through,” says Vidal. “We’re working with people that either need [or] really want to move, that are pre-approved at the bank for their mortgage and that, if they find what they want, [are] going to be willing to make an offer.”

Purchase agreements may include COVID-19 related clauses

In addition to typical purchase agreement clauses, such as home inspection or property inspection conditions, some individuals who are worried about losing their job or getting sick have been asking for COVID-related clauses to be worked into contracts. According to Jeffrey Kahane, a real estate lawyer at Kahane Law Office in Calgary, real estate brokerages have differing policies when it comes to these COVID-related clauses,; but ultimately, the contract terms should come down to what’s important for you as a buyer or seller. “Sometimes, it has nothing to do with getting out of the deal,” says Kahane. It could be about requiring that “the seller hire a reputable company to come in and do a deep clean on the property before possession.” For buyers doing virtual tours of properties, Kahane notes that it’s important to “put in a condition on the offer that you actually get to go in and view the property” in person.

Additionally, because of COVID-19, some provinces are currently allowing virtual signings of legal documents such as agreements of purchase and sale. “In Alberta, they have allowed virtual signings until August at least, where we can have people swear affidavits and sign declarations by video, and take ID by video,” says Kahane. “It works fine, but we’re finding that very few of our clients inside of Calgary are opting for that; they’d rather just come into the office.”

For buyers, mortgage rates are exceptionally low

One thing going in favour of buyers? Low mortgage rates. “Rates are exceptionally low relative to what we’ve seen over the past 12 to 24 months,” says Paul von Martels, vice president of prime and reverse mortgage credit at Equitable Bank. He notes that the five-year, fixed-rate mortgage remains the most popular product by far, and the mortgage-approval process isn’t taking any longer than it did pre-COVID. “We’re offering electronic signatures for all of our mortgage documentation, right from start to finish, if a client chooses to take that option,” says von Martels. “We’ve done a lot of things to enable a more remote home buying, selling and refinancing.” For example, some of Equitable Bank’s home-appraisal partners are doing virtual appraisals, “taking pictures through windows and working with clients to acquire other interior pictures.”

One thing that all buyers should keep in mind is that CMHC’s stricter mortgage insurance rules will be coming into effect on July 1, requiring buyers who want to access CMHC’s mortgage default insurance to have higher credit scores, no borrowed down payments and lower debt ratios. “All else being equal, in many cases, the changes will reduce buying power for borrowers,” says von Martels, but adds that the two other companies in Canada that offer mortgage default insurance, Genworth and Canada Guaranty, “have publicly come out and said that they will not be making the same changes that CMHC will be implementing.”

For prospective home buyers whose income might have been temporarily impacted by the pandemic, von Martels’ advice is to explore options with a mortgage broker who has experience working with a wide range of mortgages, as they might be able to guide you toward alternative products and lenders who offer more flexibility.

It might also make sense to temporarily pause your real estate search if you have a low risk tolerance or are experiencing any economic uncertainty. It’s hard even for experts to forecast what the Canadian real estate market will look like in six months, or in 2021 with confidence. “I think that it’s important for clients or borrowers to stay honest with themselves and not to rush into things because they see market activity picking up or maybe because they think that they can get a deal on something,” says von Martels.

Sellers, presenting well is still key

Homeowners with extra time on their hands should be working on landscaping and improving the outside appearance of their home right now ahead of listing their home for sale, advises Vidal. Aside from the outer areas of a home always drawing buyers’ eyes in the summer, Vidal thinks that people will place value on comfortable outdoor spaces especially now, after being stuck inside.

Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.

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2021 Could See the Tightest Muskoka Real Estate Market in Years – Toronto Storeys



“We had a [property on a] small — tiny — spring-fed lake in Muskoka, where the list-price was $599,000, and it sold in two days for $875,000,” says Ross Halloran of Sotheby’s International Realty, reflecting on the first few weeks of the year.

That’s $276,000 over list price for a two bedroom, one bathroom, “teardown” cottage. Welcome to the current Muskoka real estate market in 2021.

Closing the year on-trend with what the last several months presented, the region’s real estate scene saw record-breaking sales in both its residential non-waterfront and waterfront property categories in December.

And looking forward, Halloran — alongside Maryrose Coleman, also of Sotheby’s International — doesn’t anticipate a decline in buyers’ desires to snag space in Muskoka.

READ: Muskoka Real Estate Closes Out Year with Record-Breaking Activity

What the pair does foresee, however, is supply struggling to keep up with demand.

A Market as Tight as Ever

“I never like to let my listing inventory drop below 30,” Halloran says. “We’re now at seven.”

Coleman reinforces the sentiment, stressing the issue their team continues to face is supply. At the present moment (and for months leading up to the present moment, too) demand is holding its own.

“It’s a really tight market,” Coleman says. “There’s very little available. And there are a ton of buyers out there trying to find the right property.”

In fact, Halloran goes so far as to call the current situation “a bit of a quandary.” Typically, considering cottage country as a whole — from Parry Sound to Lake Simcoe, and down to Bancroft, inclusive of Muskoka, the Kawarthas, Haliburton, and the like — he and Coleman will see about 100 new listings in a given week.

Lately, though, Halloran says they’re seeing far fewer hit the market.

“It was 13 listings last week… as we end this week, 22 new listings have come up,” he says. “We’ve got a stockpile of buyers, because we had so many listings we were able to engage and begin discussions with a number of buyers that had begun their journey… we’ve got what we would normally have in property inventory in buyer briefs.”

In other words, the numbers have essentially reversed themselves, leaving this Sotheby’s team spread thin.

As a result, Halloran and Coleman say they’ve needed to develop new policies for navigating working relationships with buyers. With so many people requesting their time, asking for research to be done on prospective properties, they’ve found themselves going through that whole processes only to find out — as they’re preparing to move forward with an offer — they’re actually in a multi-offer situation.

And let’s be clear: this mad dash for cottage country real estate isn’t just for multi-million dollar, move-in ready properties (though, of course, those are always a sought-after treat). Coleman says that there are “a whole bunch of people” who are looking for tear-downs or lots they’ll be able to build on, and typically, these buyers are hoping to snag spaces like this at prices much lower than those of move-in ready lake houses.

“Part of the challenge is, there are a lot of people who are very specific about what they want,” Coleman explains. “They want to be close to Port Carling, but not right in Port Carling. They want to be on Lake Rosseau or Lake [Joseph], they don’t want to be on any other lake. They need privacy, they want a boathouse.”

If these desires sound familiar, don’t fret. But also, don’t start packing up your boxes just yet.

“There are only so many properties like that,” Coleman says, “but there are a great number of people looking for them.”

Halloran says that, as such, they’re working to do whatever they can to obtain listings as spring approaches. “You are a function of how many listings you have,” he stresses.

Owners Holding On Tight

Halloran says that going forward, he expects a sellers’ market for the foreseeable future. In order to be able to participate in the year ahead, attaining more product is necessary.

“Usually in the spring — come the beginning of March — we’re usually seeing an average of 200 new listings a week leading up to the Spring Cottage Life Show. Then there’s a drop-off, after the Spring Cottage Life Show, and then probably by late-April we’re back up to 200. I think by the time the end of May rolls around … I’d see about 300 listings [across all of cottage country].”

But right now, the region is seeing about 22 listings per week, on average, while days-on-market stats are dropping and sale-to-list averages are increasing. In fact, at the moment, the Lakelands region is looking at less than 0.6 months of inventory — a record low.

As a result of all these changes, Halloran says he expects to see both individual agents and teams alike presenting with less than half their normal inventory. His personal goal? Attaining between 20 and 30 listings before spring hits.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do over the winter,” he says.

But, with ongoing queries, listing proposals, market analyses, direct correspondence, and new product continually being added, it’s safe to say the team has already hit the ground running.

Still, it’ll be “a grind” to get ahold of sustainable inventory, because people are hanging onto their properties… or perhaps they’ve just recently acquired them, and they’re still just settling in! Never mind considering leaving. After all, the last year has proven a flexibility in day-to-day navigation that many may not have considered before, which, in many cases — with consideration to working from home and online schooling — means more room for cottage country to fit in. Whether someone’s long been in the region or only just arrived, it’s understandable that Muskoka living is an experience any owner would want to hold onto.

“[What] the people that own are telling us now is: ‘Sure, I can make a huge profit, but how am I going to be able to buy back in?’” Halloran reports. “‘I may as well just sit tight for now and enjoy what I have… or renovate what I have.’”

Selling your property suddenly becomes less appealing when there’s nothing else left to buy.

Renting as an Impermanent (but Still Competitive) Option

Meanwhile, those struggling to find their perfect property in the resale market — or those simply looking for a less permanent cottage country experience — tend to turn to the region’s rental market. But Coleman, who captains Muskoka District Rentals alongside her Sotheby’s role, says the sector is facing similar supply-and-demand struggles.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t renting who traditionally have rented, when they’ve gone on European vacations [and the like],” she explains. “They might have done the summer — they would rent their cottage for the two, three, four weeks they were going to be away. And that’s not happening now.”

While Coleman says there have been some recent buyers who are open to renting, there have also been properties that used to be on the rental market that have now been sold. In essence, the newly-purchased properties will merely replace those prior rentals, instead of adding to them.

There are also places that may typically be in the rental sphere, but because their owners are currently living or working there, those spots aren’t available these days. What’s more, an air of uncertainty hangs over the summer, leaving cottage-owners unsure of how they’re going to navigate 2021’s warm months. So many unknowns linger, including whether summer camps will be closed or if international travel will be permitted.

Many people who felt the pinch of these scenarios last summer, and who didn’t have a rental option, learned from the experience and booked early. In August and September of 2020, eager summer-lovers reserved their rentals to ensure they’d have something to look forward to when the warmth rolled back around.

Now, Coleman says, others are scrambling, trying to find their own place to stay.

And sure, someone really hankering for a summertime escape could hop on any given rental site to book, but what Muskoka District Rentals offers is different.

“Part of the reason people like to work with a company like ours,” Coleman says, “is they know they’ll get a higher quality of cottage, and they’re going to have available to service them, if anything goes wrong.”

Also, there’s a benefit to the relationships that are built through use of a reliable, human-centred service such as MDR. For example, if someone isn’t able to find a rental option online, a phone call with a listing agent may result in them learning that in just a couple days, the perfect property will be going live.

Ultimately, it’s looking like Muskoka’s wild ride isn’t slowing down anytime soon, regardless of whether the topic of focus is resale or rental. And, if the region’s market has reinforced any universal truth over the last several months, it’s that the more people can’t have a thing, the more they seem to want it.

But another universal truth is this: anything worth having is worth fighting for.

If you’re gunning for a place with a Lake Jo view, or one that’s perfectly poised just minutes from Port Carling, we suggest the latter mantra as the one to keep in mind.

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Real estate quiz: Which Metro Vancouver home for sale has the most bathrooms? $10-million mansion holds record –



If disaster strikes and you and 14 of your friends need to use the loo at the same time, which home in Metro Vancouver is the best place to be at?

Adam Major, managing broker of Holywell Properties, got you covered.

But first of all, Major and Holywell Properties are not selling this home, which currently holds the title of most bathrooms.

The luxury property is on the market for nearly $10 million.

The exact listing price is $9,980,000.

Rather, Holywell Properties operates, an online real-estate site that features listings, sales, and other information on properties.

To answer the question, the home that is currently on the market and has the most number of baths is 13283 56 Avenue in Surrey.

The mansion has 11 full baths and four half baths, for a total of 15.

What Major finds interesting is that the technology for the Multiple Listing Service or MLS that realtors use to post information only lets agents to list up to a maximum of 12 baths.

“That makes it hard for buyers to know that this house actually has 15: 11 full baths and four half baths,” Major told the Straight.

Major wonders if this incomplete information explains why it’s been taking a while to sell the luxury home, which features views of Boundary Bay.

“That inability to show how many bathrooms there actually are may partly explain why this house has lingered on and off the market for six years without a sale,” he said.

The 11-bed home was listed on January 21, 2015 for $12,880,000. The listing was terminated on May 7 of the same year with a reduced price of $9,388,000.

Other unsuccessful listings were likewise made in the following years and at various prices.

On December 14, 2020, the 16,398-square-foot home came on the market, with Angell, Hasman & Associates (Malcolm Hasman) Realty Ltd. as listing agent.

As of Sunday (January 24, 2021), the Panorama Ridge area home remains unsold after 41 days with its listing price of $9,980,000.

The 13283 56 Avenue home in Surrey has 15 baths: 11 full baths like this one in the image and four half baths.

One may wonder about the latest B.C. Assessment valuation of this home.

Its 2021 total value as of July 1, 2020 is $5,948,000.

The home speaks opulence. It has a pool, fireside outdoor lounge, private guest suite, home theatre, massage and spa room, professional gym, wine room, and media sports centre with baccarat and wet bar.

The property “sits majestically” on a “park-like estate” with a gated driveway and manicured gardens.

Likely because of the limitations of the MLS noted by Major, the marketing blurb by Angell, Hasman & Associates (Malcolm Hasman) Realty Ltd. made sure to mention that the home has 11 full baths and four half baths.

This $9.9-million home in the Panorama Ridge area of South Surrey has the most number of bathrooms.


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This Week’s Top Stories: Canadian Real Estate Prices Increase Over 25x The Rate of US Home Prices, and BoC Sees “Gradual” Softening – Better Dwelling



Time for your cheat sheet on this week’s most important stories. 

Canadian Real Estate 

Canadian Real Estate Prices Grew Over 25x Faster Than U.S. Prices Since 2005

Poor policy choices have led to a comically large gap between Canadian and US home prices. Canadian home prices generally move in line with US home prices, but disconnect in 2005. Instead of falling, prices accelerate in growth through to today. The result is prices have now grown over 25x faster than US home prices over the same period. Most surprising though, is half of these increases occurred in just the past 5 years.

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Bank Of Canada Sees Real Estate Softening “Gradually”

Canada’s central bank sees real estate softening “gradually” in the coming years. They believe the recent surge is due a shift in buying preferences, due to low interest rates. Sudden demand for single-family homes is due to this temporary shift. As these purchases normalize, the organization expects sales driven by the preference swap to fade. Along with the slowing sales, they expect “price growth will soften.”

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Canadians Collecting Unemployment Benefits Surges To A Record High

The number of Canadians collecting unemployment benefits surged to a record high. There were 1.24 million unadjusted claims in November, up 200.9% from a year before. The previous month represented the bulk of the increase, due to CERB ending. That means the bulk of these claims were a result of unemployment earlier this year. However, the fact that it’s still rising indicates there’s still more people getting hammered by this recession.

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Bank Of Canada Index Shows Real Estate Is The Most Affordable In Years. It’s Wrong

The Bank of Canada’s affordability index shows real estate is the most affordable in years. No one’s buying that narrative, so what gives? The index shows households require 31.5% of their disposable income for housing in Q3 2020. The past two quarters have been the lowest since 2015, raising some eyebrows. It has to do with how it’s calculated, and the CERB driven boost to disposable income. In other words, the indicator is broken during the pandemic.

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Canadian Real Estate Markets Are Low On Inventory, As Pandemic Slows New Listings

The pandemic is encouraging people to stay put, but the BoC is encouraging people to buy. The combination is leading to very high demand, in a low inventory market. Small cities like Trois Rivieres, Sherbrooke, and Gatineau are seeing inventory sell almost at the rate it’s listed. Western Canada is still slower than the national average, but are still unusually busy for this time of year.

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Ontario’s Most Popular Real Estate Market Is Now Rural, While People Flee Toronto

Ontario’s most popular real estate market isn’t a new hip urban area, it’s the country. Outside of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) saw a net intraprovincial increase of 10,392 people in 2020. The rural increases were unusual, until the surge of young people exiting Toronto over the past few years. Toronto’s net loss of population to other parts of the province works out to 50,375 people in 2020. This is the largest net loss in decades of data, and possibly goes back much further. Despite the pandemic contributing to the trend, it actually started a few years ago. Right around when home prices took off.

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Vancouver Real Estate

Vancouver Residents Were Moving To Rural BC, And Abbotsford Before The Pandemic

The pandemic has Vancouver residents seeking more space in rural B.C., but the trend goes back further. There were 45,481 people that left the Greater Vancouver region in 2019 for other parts of Canada. Rural B.C. is the number one place for those migrating, which saw a net inflow of 5,751 of residents. The trend is believed to have accelerated due to the pandemic, which has led to a distinct surge in rural home sales. It didn’t start during the pandemic though, with the trend going back a few years now, to when home prices took off.

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