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Real estate boom hits small town Saskatchewan – SaskToday.ca

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KAMSACK – As Canadians navigate uncertain times and soaring inflation, pressures from the economic turmoil have become a heavy burden on the nation. Despite this, there are a few industries that seem to have dodged much of the national stress. With an array of personal reasons driving real estate sales, small-town Saskatchewan realtors in particular are reporting a substantial increase in business.

Jodie Kowalyshyn of Community Insurance in Canora has been a licensed realtor since 2006. She said that 2021 was the busiest season she has ever seen over the span of her 15 years in the industry.

“Normally, we have close to 40 properties on the market,” said Kowalyshyn. “Currently we’re down to just 15 – and the demand is showing no signs of slowing down. We’re expecting sales to take off even more once the weather changes and the snow melts.”

With a focus on Canora real estate, Kowalyshyn said the fastest selling homes are definitely those listed under $100,000.

“Just last week, we listed a smaller house in town. We posted a sign in the front yard, and by the next day – it was sold.”

Kowalyshyn said that while her clients are looking to Canora for a variety of reasons – the most popular are affordability and proximity to Yorkton.

“Many of our clients are first-time homebuyers who want to live in a small town, but still enjoy all of the city amenities within a short commute,” said Kowalyshyn. “We have a great little town with so many events and community development projects on the go that will serve residents – especially families with children. We are also well-known for our high rate of senior citizens, and we are seeing quite a few properties come up for sale – like estate sales or people who want to downsize to live with family or move into senior housing. Older people often tell us they have grown tired of the work involved with maintaining a house – like cutting grass or shoveling snow. There are also a number of farmers in the area who are looking to retire and either sell all of their land or subdivide and sell parts they don’t want to manage anymore. Unless a property is priced way too high, it won’t last long on our listings. It’s definitely a seller’s market right now.”

Another established local realtor, Gladys Secondiak of RE/MAX Bridge City Realty, said her properties are selling so fast, she can hardly keep up with the paperwork.

“I’ve been running steady. I work seven days a week. You’d think COVID-19 would have slowed things down, but actually, it has stirred buyers up. In all my years in this industry, 2021 was the busiest year yet.”

Secondiak said that a good portion of her buyers are out-of-province and it’s not uncommon for properties to be purchased sight unseen.

“I’ve seen a huge increase in impulse buyers,” said Secondiak. “A lot of people are telling me that they want to escape. They are watching the news and they are frightened. They are worried about economic depression and it has put them in survival mode. They want to be self-sustaining, so they are looking for ways they can live off the land. Acreages are the most in-demand. People are saying they want to plant their own vegetables and even look to buy full quarters of land so they can hunt and provide their own food.”

In a strange twist, Secondiak reported that small town Saskatchewan was also affected by the Ottawa “trucker freedom convoy.”

“Well, when people started talking about the idea of Trudeau freezing bank accounts, they really began scrambling to put their cash and assets into real estate. When they looked across the country, they discovered the best prices were right here in Saskatchewan. These days, land is typically gone the minute it comes up – but only if it is priced right.”

Secondiak added that although the demand for commercial real estate hasn’t been quite as dramatic, she has observed a new trend emerging with young professionals.

“I’ve spoken with a number of real motivated and really skilled professionals who are looking to live the life of their dreams by owning their own commercial business. It seems as though the pandemic gave many people the time to reflect on their personal goals and ambitions. People are discovering that small-town Saskatchewan has viable commercial venture opportunities that are otherwise completely unaffordable in larger cities. It’s so exciting for me to help support those folks that are no longer fulfilled by their employer or jobs and want to ‘be their own boss’.”

Secondiak added that Saskatchewan’s small-town real estate market has seen its share of booms and busts, and there is no telling how long this hot market will last.

“The way things are going right now – I think this is great for our small communities. I would say for anyone considering selling a small house under $100,000 or more so $50,000 – the time to list is now. Of course, there are always unknowns – like the potential for interest rates to go up. But I do not see things slowing down at all throughout the summer.”

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Appraisal company denies claims in Epic real estate probe – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

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The appraisal company named in that report says its claims are flawed, while the prices Epic used cause wider ripples in the local housing market.

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The owner of an appraisal company that worked with a capsized Saskatoon real estate firm insists claims made in a court-ordered investigation are flawed.

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According to an Ernst and Young report into Epic Alliance Inc. released earlier this month, the company bumped up prices on its housing while doing minimal renovations. The company raised more than $200 million from investors, as appraisals typically assigned a value “well in excess of its original purchase price,” the report stated.

David Lazeski of Associated Appraisal — the appraisal company named in the report — disputes the claims.

Epic imploded earlier this year, when company founders Rochelle Laflamme and Alisa Thompson told worried investors that there was nothing left from the seemingly thriving company. That caused around 120 investors to turn to the legal system to find out what happened to millions of dollars.

Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench ordered Ernst and Young to delve into the company’s practices and to prepare a report. The probe found spotty record-keeping and “that accurate electronic accounting records of Epic Alliance were not maintained prior to 2019.”

As well, the report stated, “(from) the Inspector’s review of appraisal documents, it appears that, despite their appraised values significantly exceeding their purchase price, many of the homes had not received significant renovations.”

According to the report, appraisals for Epic “were performed almost exclusively by Associated Appraisal Co.”

Lazeski, in an interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, said his company only started doing appraisals for Epic in December of 2019. Epic opened for business in 2013. He said others were doing appraisals for Epic as well.

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The investigator never reached him for comment about the claims in the report, Lazeski said.

Lazeski, who said he did not personally work with Epic, said in an interview that the appraisals were typically conducted one year after Epic purchased the homes. The time elapsed between purchase and appraisal may contribute to the price difference, he said. Another factor may be Epic finding deals on the market, he added.

“Buying that number of houses, during the pandemic, I’m assuming (Epic) probably got some good deals,” he said.

“When we’re doing an appraisal and establishing market value, it’s based on current sales. That’s really the biggest factor.”

Epic bought at least 700 properties, mostly through its “fund a flip” program under which homes were acquired in low-income neighbourhoods in Saskatoon and North Battleford and were then supposed to be renovated for sale.

Once renovations were complete, Epic would bring on an appraiser. Those properties were then sold as part of the “hassle-free landlord” program and Epic leased back the properties to be rented or used for short-term accommodation, such as Airbnb.

The Ernst and Young report compared the total mortgage on each property with the appraisal commissioned by Epic. It found that the average property’s appraised value was $11,325 over the total mortgage.

The report cited one case in which Epic hired an appraiser one year after it bought a property. Photos of the interior “showed outdated appliances, countertops, and cupboards which were not indicative of a renovation occurring. Pictures of two bedrooms had carpet that was visibly stained,” according to the report.

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The home’s appraised value was $260,000 — which is $62,000 over its original price, according to the report.

Kari Calder, a Saskatoon realtor, says the price bump on Epic homes affected her business by undermining trust with clients.

She warned clients that the company offered low prices to find “desperate sellers,” then added new paint or flooring before listing the home at higher than market value. One seller lost her faith in Calder when her home sold low only for it to sell again at a higher inflated price, Calder said.

Calder won back the client’s trust by explaining the pattern she saw, but it’s a slice of a broader issue.

“I learned through a lot of trial and error that almost every Epic listing that came up as a comparable threw my evaluation off,” she said.

Calder used the example of four recent sales valued at roughly $250,000 to $265,000. If one sold for $315,000, she would include it in talks with clients to explain the overpricing of some homes on the market.

Former Epic homes may be entering the market if their owners see they’ve lost money on their investors. That could create a challenge for second-time buyers looking to sell their home for something bigger, Calder said.

“I suspect that the current owners of many of these flipped homes will be the ones taking the financial hit as they are the ones who unwittingly overpaid for the houses,” she said.

The Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan and Saskatoon police are conducting separate investigations into Epic.

  1. Epic Alliance Inc. founders Rochelle Laflamme and Alisa Thompson appear in a January video call to explain the company had collapsed. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix).

    Police investigating complaint against Epic Alliance

  2. Alisa Thompson cofounded Epic Alliance Inc., a Saskatoon real estate investment firm that collapsed in January, sparking a court-ordered investigation. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Friday, January 31, 2020.

    Court probe offers look at collapsed Saskatoon real estate company

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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What’s Next for the Real Estate Industry?

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Real Estate Industry

The real estate industry has never been static, but things have changed here more than normal on several fronts. The skyrocketing cost of housing is not the only major difference.

As technology evolves, disruptors are leveraging platforms to help people make more informed purchasing decisions. They’re also removing pain points along the journey, so buying a home doesn’t have to be a murky, slow, and excruciating process.

Let’s check out some of the technology in today’s real estate market.

Prop-Tech

Innovators like Regan McGee have made open digital marketplaces where homebuyers, especially millennials, can enjoy transparent data working for them. Compare qualified and verified local real estate agents based on their pricing, service, reputation, and experience level. Then, pick the agent who works best for you.

On a platform where agents vie with each other for your business, prospective homebuyers get further incentives like cashback or improved services, which are likely to be very appreciated given housing costs. As McGee explained to Toronto Life, “People think buying and selling real estate is complicated, but that’s a way for agents to justify their fees.”

Prop tech helps people entering the housing market for the first time learn what questions to ask so they don’t find out hard lessons after it’s too late. Homebuying doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking, drawn-out process if you rely on today’s leading technological support.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

While the development of virtual reality tech predates the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for remotely viewing property was only made more acute. Pictures and even videos of the property up for sale don’t give prospective buyers granular control over what they’re viewing.

Exploring a property using virtual reality lets you delve deeper into the home itself. Imagine looking at a picture of a home and wondering what’s around a certain corner you can’t see. Virtual reality lets you step inside the pictures and even the video and roam freely.

Facebook, now known as Meta, has people spending fortunes buying a virtual property you can’t actually live inside.

Short-Term Renting

Airbnb was originally meant to allow homeowners to rent out their space while they were away on vacation or for whatever other reason. In the years since, people have purchased property for the sole purpose of renting it out short-term on Airbnb.

Such practices have driven up the cost of living, and not every community is supportive. Local battles between long-time community members who resent living in ghost towns and short-term landlords who aren’t breaking any laws are increasingly common.

Each jurisdiction responds differently, but technology has created possibilities that didn’t exist even a few years ago, and that is definitely something to watch.

Technology has evolved so much in the past decade or so that it’s hard to think of a sector it hasn’t affected. From prop-tech platforms, developments in augmented and virtual reality, and apps that increase your property’s value, real estate is presently different than ever. In a way, the future of real estate is now.

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Canada real estate: When the appraisal falls short – CTV News

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The red-hot housing market over the last several months pushed many buyers fighting through bidding wars to put in unconditional offers at high prices.

But now that the market is cooling, some are ending up with mortgages that can’t cover the full cost of their home following an appraisal.

Toronto-based mortgage broker Mary Sialtsis says there are “very few options” for these buyers.

“In the last couple of years, but especially in the last couple of months, I’ve had a few different clients that have dealt with this situation,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday. “Unfortunately, there are very few options when you’ve purchased a property with no conditions and no financing conditions.”

Nationally, home prices fell 6.26 per cent between March and April 2022 after peaking in February, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. That’s meant some buyers are ending up with mortgages that are more than $100,000 shy of what they need.

In some cases, especially when the down payment from the buy is 50 per cent more, Sialtsis says the lender may just move forward with the mortgage based on the original price of the home, even if the appraisal is a lot lower.

“It’s a case-by-case situation,” she said.

Another option may be to get a second mortgage from a private or alternative lender. But if no other option works, buyers can try and negotiate a mutual release, which usually means forfeiting the deposit.

“For most, they end up going to the bank of mum and dad,” said Sialtsis. “I highly recommend if anyone is in this situation, reach out to your mortgage professional immediately.”

Sialtsis warns that putting in offers without any financing conditions puts buyers at a huge risk, as the buyer is legally bound to close the deal regardless of whether they’re able to get a sufficient mortgage.

“I really don’t think buyers fully understand the impact of those unconditional offers when they submit an offer to purchase a property,” she said. “It becomes a legally binding contract and that buyer is expected to close on the closing date. So, that’s one of the reasons why there’s very few options for this.”

But the cooling housing market isn’t all bad news. For those looking to buy a home, Sialtsis says now is a good time to jump in as buyers have a lot more leverage to negotiate.

“For many Toronto-area buyers, where often we’re dealing with multiple offers… it might be a good chance for you to get in and get a decent property with less competition or no competition and the opportunity to actually include a financing condition,” she said.

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