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



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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Real estate in Mitchell has been "hot" for weeks – Mitchell Advocate



The real estate market has never been hotter in West Perth, or Mitchell specifically. SUBMITTED

With enough money saved for a down payment on his first house, and interest rates at historically low levels, everything is in place for Thomas Rowland to take that plunge.

Except there’s nothing to buy.

In Mitchell, anyway, which has been a “sellers” market for quite some time, as a confluence of factors have all come together to make it extremely difficult for first-time home buyers like Rowland.

The 21-year-old said he’s made at least three offers on various houses in Mitchell the past few weeks, all of which went over the asking price, making it a little frustrating since he’s been looking for a house, casually at least, since last September.

“It’s hard to compete when a lot of houses are going way over, that’s for sure,” he said.

After literally everything shut down over the COVID-19 pandemic, Rowland said he wasn’t sure what the market would look like now that the province has eased regulations in this region.

“I wasn’t sure if things would go down, or plateau, but they just seem to be slowly going up,” he said. “It also seems like more and more people are also itching to buy so it makes it hard to compete.”

Real estate agent Heather Ward has been trying to help Rowland find a starter home since last fall, and says he’s not the only one coming up empty.

“It is a seller’s market. We are critically low on inventory and if you’re thinking about selling, now is the time to sell,” she said.

Huron-Perth Real Estate Board statistics show that the price for houses sold in Mitchell were $50,000 higher this July than last year, from $375,000 to $425,211; and single-family homes on average were sold for $419,720 in July, more than $33,000 higher than the same month in 2019.

Also last month, the sale to list price ratio was at 107 per cent – meaning prices on average went seven per cent over the asking price. Ward said one recent house had more than 30 showings over a five-day period and of the six offers received, four were cash offers with no conditions. It went for 18 per cent over the asking price or, in this particular case, close to $60,000 higher than listed.

Historically-low interest rates and limited inventory have aided in the rise in value for houses in Mitchell. That, plus the influx of buyers from Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph has driven the prices up, as home owners have realized they can successfully work from home plus can purchase a “wonderful” home in Mitchell for that kind of money. In the city, they won’t be able to get near the home for $350,000-$400,000 they’re spending here.

Normally, there would be 35-40 listings but there’s less than 10 at the moment and has been for some time, Ward said, which hasn’t helped those seeking to buy, either.

Michelle Chessell, who’s been in real estate for 32 years, says this is the hottest the real estate market has been in the Mitchell area over that span. She said there are not a lot of viable options at the moment for the mature, senior population so they are staying in their houses longer, leaving those first-time buyers with little to choose.

“We’re definitely inundated right with out of town agents and out of town buyers,” she added, something that has crept ever westward. “Anything selling under $425,000 is really hot at the moment, and anything over the $450,000 range to me is a normal market and doesn’t get multiple offers necessarily.”

Ward said she’s not complaining about how busy the industry is at the moment, saying her phone didn’t ring from the end of March to the middle of May due primarily to COVID-19. She had a busy start to 2020, but the pandemic has done nothing to slow things down.

When she started selling real estate nine years ago, Ward said houses remained on the market for three months. Now, it’s rare they remain unsold in three weeks, especially for anything under the $400,000 price point which is all typical first-time buyers can afford. Anything worth more, from $475,000-$525,000 is not moving as quickly.

Both Ward and Chessell say COVID has also been a factor.

“I honesty wish I had a crystal ball and I knew what’s going to happen,” Ward said. “I thought maybe the COVID would drop our prices but it didn’t, it actually increased them.”

The variety of new developments currently underway in Mitchell is a good thing, with the 55-and over market at Upper Thames Village, open subdivisions and townhouses all catering to different markets, Chessell noted.

“Hopefully by having all this, the people that are in their established homes will now start picking and choosing and making a move to one of those subdivisions,” she said.

“The sad part with Mitchell is, it took a long time to get these developments going …. and all of a sudden there’s nine developments happening within a two-year time frame. If there had been a little stagger it would have been easier, because now we’re all trying for the same buyers.”

Normally in this market the busiest closing date has been June 30, coinciding with the end of school, but that has been thrown out of whack since COVID-19, too.

“June and July has been extremely busy and so far August is starting out the same way,” Ward said. “It doesn’t seem to be letting up any but I think you’ll see a slowdown in September when the kids go back to school.”

Chessell agrees, saying “your house is worth what your house is worth” and the market eventually will correct itself.

Rowland, who’s at home living with his parents outside Mitchell when he’s not away for work, says he’s using the delay to continue to save. The fact that he can offer no conditions is in his favour, but still nothing has shaken loose. He knows he needs to remain patient.

“At least I’m able to save and not being pushed out the door or anything like that,” he said. “But it would be nice to get my head in there anyway when I can because who knows what’s going to happen. It’s so unpredictable.”

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B.C. residential real estate market heats up for summer – BCBusiness




Credit: Chris Thorn, courtesy of Sunshine Coast Tourism

Percentage-wise, Powell River was the top price gainer in July 

The average MLS price for a home in the province climbed almost 13 percent year-over-year in July

As many other sectors of the B.C. economy suffer, the residential property market keeps rebounding from its COVID-19 slump.

The province saw 10,090 residential unit sales in July, the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports, a 26.6-percent jump over the same month in 2019. At $770,810, the average MLS price gained 12.9 percent year-over-year. Sales dollar volume hit $7.8 billion, up 43 percent compared to July 2019.

“Increased demand for more living space combined with an undersupplied market is producing significant upward pressure on home prices, particularly in the market for single-family homes,” BCREA chief economic Brendon Ogmundson said in a statement.

A decline in active listings—which fell 13.9 percent year-over-year in July, to 35,853—helped push prices higher. However, strong demand for single-family homes has skewed average prices in some markets, the BCREA notes.

Year-to-date through July, dollar volume for B.C. residential sales climbed 8.4 percent, to $32.5 billion. Unit sales dipped 1.4 percent, to 43,718, while the average home price rose to $754,842, a 10-percent gain.

When it comes to average prices in July, the top three by real estate board were Greater Vancouver (up 8.1 percent year-over-year, to $1,045,495), Victoria (up 25.1 percent, to $816,427) and Okanagan Mainline (up 16.4 percent, to $624,429). 

Proportionally, the top three price gainers by real estate board were Powell River (up 30.7 percent on average, to $450,882), Victoria and B.C. Northern (up 16.5 percent, to $356,045).

By dollar volume, Greater Vancouver finished first with $3,347,674,000, a 33.9-percent gain over the previous July. Fraser Valley (up 67.6 percent, to $1,655,466,000) took second place, followed by Victoria (up 74.9 percent, to 764,992,000).

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WE Charity registers as lobbyist, lays off staff, looking to sell real estate – Toronto Star



OTTAWA—WE Charity registered Thursday as a lobbyist of the federal government — months after it began talks with federal officials about potential programs to help Canadian youths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization’s executive director, Dalal Al-Waheidi, disclosed the registration during testimony before the House of Commons finance committee, which is probing the controversy surrounding the Liberal government’s decision to pay WE Charity up to $43.5 million to administer a now-abandoned student grant program.

The controversy has triggered investigations by the federal ethics watchdog into potential breaches of conflict of interest rules by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, both of whom have close family ties to WE Charity.

And it was blamed at least in part for WE Charity’s announcement earlier Thursday that it is scaling back its operations, making dozens of layoffs in Canada and the United Kingdom, while also looking to sell some of its real estate holdings in Toronto.

WE Charity said its financial position has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and “recent events,” prompting it to shift programming and reduce staff.

In its filing to the federal lobbyist registry, WE Charity disclosed 65 communications with federal officials or ministers in 19 different departments or federal institutions, dating as far back as January 2019.

It lists 18 individuals, including Al-Waheidi, as in-house lobbyists for the organization. Craig and Marc Kielburger, the brothers who founded WE charity, are not listed even though they have talked to ministers.

Youth Minister Bardish Chagger’s office immediately reported at least one other inaccuracy in the registration to the lobbying commissioner.

Chagger has testified she had a phone conversation with Craig Kielburger on April 17 about an unsolicited WE proposal for a youth entrepreneurship program, which was ultimately rejected by the government. She said no one else from her office was involved in the call. The charity’s report says her chief of staff and others were there.

The Lobbying Act requires an organization with in-house lobbyists to register within two months of the time when at least one full-time employee spends at least 20 per cent of his or her time in lobbying activities.

Opposition parties last month asked lobbying commissioner Nancy Belanger to investigate whether WE Charity violated the act.

“It’s an incredible coincidence that your organization has suddenly registered to lobby all of these months after all of the lobbying happened,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre told WE Charity representatives at the committee.

Al-Waheidi, who as executive director was the person responsible for registering, said that had WE Charity considered it necessary to register before now, it would have done so. In previous years, she said the organization spent “minimal” time lobbying the federal government, estimating the cost of such activities at one to three per cent of its budget.

More than half of the group’s reported communications took place from April to June, primarily with officials in Employment and Social Development Canada and Morneau’s office. The reports accompanying each communication do not go into details, other than to say “employment and training” was discussed.

Ministers and federal bureaucrats have testified they had some discussions with WE Charity in April about an unsolicited youth entrepreneurship proposal the Liberal government ultimately rejected.

From late April to the end of June, communications were presumably about the doomed Canada Student Service Grants program, which was supposed to encourage students to volunteer for community service related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reports include a May 5 communication with Rick Theis, director of policy and cabinet affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Sofia Marquez, former head of government and stakeholder relations for WE Charity, told the committee Thursday that communication involved a 30-minute phone call in which she updated Theis on the progress in setting up the grant program.

Trudeau said he didn’t learn of the charity’s involvement in the program until May 8, when he asked bureaucrats to conduct further due diligence as to whether the organization was the best vehicle for delivering the grants. Cabinet approved the agreement May 22.

Trudeau and Morneau have both since apologized for not recusing themselves from the cabinet decision.

During her testimony, Al-Waheidi said the controversy has had a “devastating” impact on the charity.

“It is easy to tear things down,” she told the committee. “But I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not easy to build.”

Over its 25 years, she said the charity has “made it cool for kids to care,” inspiring more than one million Canadian youths to volunteer 70-million hours of their time to more than 3,000 causes. It has also helped build 1,500 schools and classrooms in poor countries, where more than 200,000 children have been educated.



The controversy over the student grant program has put all that in jeopardy.

The organization announced hours earlier that 16 full-time employees at its Toronto headquarters will be laid off. Another 51 employees working on fixed-term contracts with the charity won’t have them renewed when they expire at the end of the month.

WE Charity’s U.K. operations will be centralized in Canada, which means 19 full-time and contract employees in London will be laid off.

The changes come after weeks of intense public scrutiny of WE Charity, its affiliated for-profit organization, ME to WE, as well as the family ties between the WE organization and Trudeau and Morneau.

Last month, WE Charity voluntarily suspended all of its Canadian corporate and school board partnerships after many announced they were cutting ties with the organization.

The charity has also cancelled all “WE Day” activities for the foreseeable future and is shifting its WE Schools learning programs to a digital-only format.

Al-Waheidi said in a statement that the resulting hit to the charity’s financials, coupled with the effects of the pandemic, has prompted a need for change.

“We believe now more than ever in the importance of the work that WE Charity is focused on and have confidence that by streamlining our operations in this way, and renewing our focus on international development, we will find a path forward.”

The charity plans to keep its headquarters, known as the Global Learning Centre, on Queen Street in Toronto, but other real estate holdings will be assessed by the organization to determine which ones could be sold.

This includes a number of buildings on a block near Moss Park in Toronto acquired by the charity as part of a 25th anniversary plan to create a “campus for good,” that would have provided free space for youth-led not-for-profits and social enterprises.

The government had budgeted $912 million for the program but the agreement to have WE Charity administer the program pegged the cost at $543 million. WE Charity was to be paid up to $43.5 million under the agreement, which stipulated that the organization could not make money on the deal.

WE backed out of the deal on July 3, citing the controversy dogging the program, but not before government had paid the organization $30 million for its services.

Scott Baker, WE Charity’s chief operations officer, told the committee that the organization has given back $22 million and is in discussions with the government about returning the remaining $8 million as quickly as possible. He said all the money was put into a separate bank account and was never touched.

Al-Waheidi said WE Charity began working on implementation of the grant program on May 5, more than two weeks before its involvement was approved by cabinet. She said the charity understood the risk it was taking in trying to get a head start but believed time was of the essence.

She added that WE Charity is not asking the government to reimburse it for any of the eligible expenses incurred.

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