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Kingston's real estate sector looks ahead to reopening – The Kingston Whig-Standard

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A construction crane looms over a building site on Princess Street in Kingston on June 24, 2020. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard)

Elliot Ferguson / Elliot Ferguson/Whig-Standard

KINGSTON — Known for a stable market largely immune to the wild price and availability swings in other areas, even Kingston’s real estate sector suffered the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While that stability will help with the sector’s recovery in the coming months, the ability of local real estate to bounce back will depend very much on how other areas of the economy recover. 

“The pandemic is proving to have very significant impacts on the real estate industry — both residential and commercial.  Some short-term and others long-term,” said John Andrew, a real estate professor at Queen’s University’s schools of urban and regional planning and business and environmental studies.

“On the residential side, the obvious short-term impact was real estate agents’ inability to show homes. While sales volumes fell dramatically, they are now recovering nicely, and prices have for the most part held firm,” said Andrew, director of the Queen’s Real Estate Roundtable. 

“On the commercial side, the hardest hit type of property is obviously retail. In Kingston we have seen many stores unable or unwilling to pay rent to their landlords and some stores have closed and vacated their space.”

Since the pandemic began, real estate sales in the Kingston area dropped more than 25 per cent — worth more than $500 million — from the same time period last year.

Active listings are down by more than 17 per cent.

The drop in the number of sales was partially offset by higher average prices for the properties that did sell.

The average price of a home is up 8.8 per cent from 2019, to just more than $432,000.


A residential construction site in the west end of Kingston on June 24, 2020. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard)

Elliot Ferguson /

Elliot Ferguson/Whig-Standard

“You are correct by saying that Kingston’s real estate market is different from many other markets across the country, however, when it comes to this pandemic, we are seeing similar results,” said realtor Dave Pinnell Jr., president of Kingston and Area Real Estate Association.

At the outset of the pandemic only “essential transactions” that were finalized or close to firmed up were allowed to go through.

“In the early days of the pandemic, realtors were informed by the provincial government that ‘business would not be as usual,’ ” Pinnell said. “Although the term ‘essential’ was a bit vague to the industry, it did not take long for the sellers to suspend or cancel their listings until further information about the pandemic was known.”

The chill that went through the sector affected not only real estate agents but also mortgage companies, lawyers, movers, cleaners, home stagers, home inspectors and photographers.

As the restrictions around real estate were eased, realtors did what they could to adapt to the new environment, Pinnell said.

Open houses are now offered virtually, limiting access to houses for sale to only the selling agent – wearing a mask and gloves. The homeowners were encouraged to turn on all the lights and open all the doors in the house to reduce the need for the sell agent to touch any surfaces.

Pinnell said he expects technology to continue to play a bigger role in the industry.

“There will be a ‘new normal.’ The real estate industry has already seen dramatic changes in the way that our day day business is conducted and in some ways, for the best,” he said.

“Meetings are being conducted virtually and more frequently, more technology is, and will, continue to be used to market properties. We will see the use of more videos and virtual open houses are here to stay.”

In April, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Kingston as the fourth most vulnerable city in the country to the economic effects of the pandemic, and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation estimated almost a quarter of the city’s workforce is in sectors considered highly vulnerable, including the tourism, restaurant and accommodation sectors.

For those workers, the success of local tourism strategies will determine how quickly the city’s hotels, retail stores and restaurants recover and people get back to work, Andrew said. 

With the international border closed, the local tourism sector – which in 2019 attracted 4.5 million visitors to the city and generated an economic impact of $533 million – will need to appeal to domestic visitors and even if visitors return, physical distancing rules could make business difficult, he said.


A construction site on Princess Street in Kingston on June 24, 2020. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard)

Elliot Ferguson /

Elliot Ferguson/Whig-Standard

“How does a restaurant make money if it can only operate a patio (weather-dependent) and/or only operate 30-50 per cent of its tables? Many won’t survive,” Andrew said.

Physical distancing measures may change other workplaces, too.

“Office space is the big unknown. If you need to have social distancing, most companies can’t afford to double or triple their office space,” he said.

Rental property owners, particularly those renting at the lower end of the price market, face challenges on both the supply and demand sides, Andrew said.

More student housing units are expected to become available in the coming months.

But with post-secondary classes to be delivered online in the fall semester, many students may not return to the city until January if classes in the winter semester return to an in-person format.

“Residential landlords are aware that the next six to 12 months will be very challenging,” Andrew said.

The pandemic has also forced some short-term rental owners to rethink their business plans.

“It has been pretty bad for most home-share hosts, albeit not nearly as devastating as it could have been absent federal support from the CERB program and the incredible speed at which it was rolled out,” said Airbnb host Ron Hartling.

“Some hosts have essentially abandoned the sector, including one couple who sold their principal residence and made their rental unit into their new home.”

At the height of the first wave of the pandemic, some home-share hosts with empty rooms to fill offered them to essential workers looking to limit potential exposure to their families.


A residential construction site in the west end of Kingston on June 24, 2020. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard)

Elliot Ferguson /

Elliot Ferguson/Whig-Standard

As restrictions are lifted, Hartling said new requirements about intense cleaning and sanitizing rooms will make short stays of a less than three nights uneconomical to provide. Instead, hosts are likely to offer stays of about a week at least.

And with the border closed, visitors from the region will be the market for many hosts for the foreseeable future.

“Visitors from still-infected areas are the most likely vectors for such outbreaks in our area,” Hartling said. “That leaves me torn between welcoming a tourism re-start, which could provide relief hosts who are hurting from their loss of income, and jumping in too soon before we can reliably gauge the likelihood and severity of new outbreaks.”

COVID-related restrictions hit this area just as progress was being made to address the ongoing housing shortage that has strained the affordability and availability of rental housing.

In January, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation put the rental vacancy rate in the Kingston Census Metropolitan Area — which includes Frontenac Islands, Loyalist and South Frontenac townships  — at 1.9 per cent in 2019, the first increase in five years and a more than threefold increase from 2018’s record low rate of 0.6 per cent.

The increase put Kingston close to Ontario’s average rental vacancy rate of two per cent.

Housing construction was permitted during all phases of the pandemic and to keep new supply coming, the city supported those projects as best it could.  

“Some projects have experienced minor delays due to provincial pandemic restrictions, so the city is expecting new rental units to be coming online more gradually than originally expected. But a number of already permitted projects have seen continuous building activity,” said Andrea Gummo, the city’s manager of policy planning, planning services.

By the end of May, the city had issued permits for 406 residential units, including 239 multi-unit residential units and 45 secondary suite units.

During the same period last year, 516 permits had been issued, although 2019 saw an unusually high number of building permits issued.

Efforts to ease the housing crunch had already started to show results and Andrew said until the Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College students return to the city en masse, and until the borders reopen allowing international students to come back, there may be too much supply in the housing market.

It could be a year before a true picture of the city’s housing market can be seen again.

“I believe the housing shortage was gradually coming to an end anyway, especially in student housing due quite a few new, large apartment projects now underway, especially in the Williamsville District,” Andrew said. “We will soon have a surplus of space , again at the low, student-end of the spectrum because some students won’t be renting places and some of those that have won’t be paying rent for a place they aren’t occupying.”


A construction crane looms over a building site on Princess Street in Kingston on June 24, 2020. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard)

Elliot Ferguson /

Elliot Ferguson/Whig-Standard

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Fraser Valley real estate sales surges in June after COVID-19 slump – CBC.ca

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Property sales in the Fraser Valley bounced back in June as buyers and sellers adapted to COVID-19 measures, according to the region’s real estate board.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board says it had 1,718 sales in June, more than double the number of sales in May.

Over the last few months, the pandemic nearly brought the real estate market in the Fraser Valley to a standstill.

“It’s never happened in the board’s history that we’ve had an increase of that much from one month to another, from one May to one June,” said Chris Shields, president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.

Daniel Planko is finally ready to sell his mother’s large Cloverdale home now that some COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted for weeks. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

According to Shields, there are three factors at play: historically low interest rates, pent up demand, and buyers and sellers who are feeling a bit more comfortable operating in a post COVID-19 market.

“During the lockdown period with COVID-19, there were a lot of people who were planning on buying or selling and put their plans on hold,” Shields said.

“Because we’re deemed an essential service, only the people who had to buy and sell were coming out during those months.”

The president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board Chris Shields is cautiously optimistic that the market is stabilizing under the new normal of COVID-19. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

Daniel Planko is one of those people who put plans on hold when the pandemic began, but he’s finally ready to sell his mother’s house.

“When we were ready it was the middle of the lockdown,” he said. “Stay at home was the messaging we were getting, so we just stayed at home.”

Surrey Realtor Lucky Gill agrees the real estate market has completely turned around since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s definitely a seller’s market right now. We’re seeing a lot of demand on the buyers end so we have a lot of organic, multiple offers happening.”

However, Gill is still urging some caution.

“Any buyer that’s entering into the market needs to do all their homework and make sure that the financial stability, job security, everything’s there. They need to do their due diligence before entering. It’s a calculated risk.”

Surrey Realtor Lucky Gill is warning buyers to make sure their finances are in order before venturing into the real estate market. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

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London-area real estate sales jumped in June – CTV News London

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MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. —
After two months of steep declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, June home sales have not only rebounded, but come close to setting a record.

The London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR) says sales were up 13.8 per cent over the same month last year.

LSTAR President Blair Campbell added in a statement, “In fact, this makes last month the second best June for home sales since LSTAR began tracking data, back in 1978.”

Middlesex County and Strathroy did have their best June ever, while St. Thomas, Elgin County and London were either above or on par with recent averages.

Average home prices were also up 17.8 per cent over last June, and rose in all of LSTAR’s areas, with Elgin County seeing the biggest rise at 32.6 per cent.

The number of listings was up 3.4 per cent over June 2019, but the number still active at month end dropped by 1.3 per cent, the lowest in 10 years.

“The 78.5 per cent sales-to-new listings ratio recorded last month demonstrates, once again, how firmly anchored our market is in sellers’ territory,” Campbell explained.

He added that while the numbers may seem surprising in light of COVID-19 measures like physical distancing and no open houses, it shows how desirable local properties are and how much technology is helping.

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These are Burnaby's biggest real estate 'bargains' right now – Burnaby Now

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When we use the word “bargain” in relation to Burnaby real estate, don’t laugh.

There are a few out there based on a certain metric. This month’s roundups of Burnaby’s bargain listings by roomvu, are listed well-below government assessed value, most are under $1 million, and fresh on the market. It’s the cream of the crop of home deals.

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How it works is the B.C. government analyzes and gives a price based on each property’s factors like size, layout, shape, age, neighbourhood, the condition of the property and more.

When listing prices appear lower than as compared to government value, these value-for-money homes set off alarm bells, demanding to be seen and bought.

7012 GRIFFITHS AVENUE: $899K (5% below assessed value)

This is a 3 bedrooms, 3 bathroom Townhouse is listed for sale by agent Dennis Liuof Royal Pacific Realty (Kingsway) Ltd. They are asking $899900 while the assessed value for this property is $944000 .

This property features:No Strata Fee! Great location, close to Highgate, Metrotown, Crystal Mall, Library, skytrain stations. Minutes away from deer lake, SFU and BCIT etc. Quality 3 level heritage style Four Plex with great floor plan Liv/Din, Powder room, kitchen on the main floor, 1,400 sq ft 3 bedrooms & 3 bathrooms w/insuite laundry in 2nd floor, master bdrm w/ensuite on 3rd floor, open sundeck with view. Granite counter top in the kitchen & marble granite in all the washrooms, white kit cabinet. BEST corner unit w/view. BONUS – includes stainless steel appliances, full size washer & dryer, blinds & screens all in & secure garage.

 

4001 4900 LENNOX LANE: $849K (4% below assessed value)

This is a 2 bedrooms, 2 bathroom Condo is listed for sale by agent Melissa Dhuu PREC*of Top Vision Realty Inc. They are asking $849000 while the assessed value for this property is $885000 .

This property features:The PARK in heart of Metrotown. This spacious 2 bedrm 2 bathrm 915 sf newly built condo is on the upper level facing south west with water, mountain, and city views. Steps to the mall, SkyTrain station and recreation centre. Easy to show.

 

6560 IMPERIAL STREET: $1.5M (1% below assessed value)

This is a 6 bedrooms, 4 bathroom Semi-detached is listed for sale by agent Mick McLennanof RE/MAX All Points Realty . They are asking $1590000 while the assessed value for this property is $1601000 .

This property features:Attention Builders – This must be Sold with the 6544 Imperial address. With the movement of the property line, it will have the potential for 2 Duplex Lots. Under R5 Zoning, the property must have 60′ frontage & 7200 sq ft lot size. The present Duplex is currently tenanted with 1 side at $1600.00. The duplex is in good condition + there is a triple garage with lane access & a attached carport. The 2 properties (6544 & 6560 Imperial) together have a total of 15,063 sq ft & approx 147′ on frontage.

 

950 4825 HAZEL STREET: $650K (1% below assessed value)

This is a 2 bedrooms, 2 bathroom Condo is listed for sale by agent Darin Germyn – PRECof Macdonald Realty (Surrey/152). They are asking $650000 while the assessed value for this property is $654000 .

This property features:Imagine waking up each day to a made-in BC experience of the sunny North Shore mountains smiling back at you. A large 2 bedroom bright corner unit with oversized windows in almost every room, offers gorgeous views of the bustling Metrotown area, North Shore Mountains and the valley showing nearly all of Burnaby. Featuring 2 patios, dedicated laundry room, generously sized bathrooms and all located in a well maintained rain-screened building. Just steps away to everything Metrotown has to offer including world-class shopping at BC’s largest shopping mall, every type of food/restaurant imaginable, transit and more.

 

1507 6088 WILLINGDON AVENUE: $899K (1% below assessed value)

This is a 3 bedrooms, 3 bathroom Condo is listed for sale by agent Zhong Liuof Sutton Group Seafair Realty. They are asking $899000 while the assessed value for this property is $903000 .

This property features:

LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! Residence at the Crystal, right above Crystal mall, convenience, mountain views, bright spacious floor plan, you can have it all. Featuring 3 bedrooms (2 ensuites), 3 full baths and a large den with windows which can be used as a 4th bedroom. Every bedroom including the den has mountain & city views. Amenities include indoor pool, hot tub, gym, and a caretaker. 2 side by side parking spots, and a storage locker.

 

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