Like many others, Trevor Hickey and his partner spent a lot more time at home in 2020 than originally planned.
They had been living in their Rabbittown-area house for a while, but after months of staying at home they decided it was time to look for a bigger space in which to grow their family.
The couple did not want to hold two mortgages at once, so they decided to sell their house before buying a new one, said Hickey in an interview with CBC News.
When the couple sold their house in December, they thought the housing market had reached its peak and buying a new home would be relatively easy — but they were wrong.
“That’s when the market really started to kind of heat up,” Hickey said. “We couldn’t find a house in the interim between when we sold our house and when our house closed [in January], and since then, the market kind of skyrocketed.”
Eight months later, the Newfoundland and Labrador housing market is still hot, and Hickey and his partner are still looking for a new home.
“Everything we looked at has just gone through the roof by basically the equivalent of what a down payment was,” he said.
Hickey’s partner is pregnant, and the couple hopes to settle into a new home before the baby arrives.
‘Home is home’
The Newfoundland and Labrador housing market broke records in 2020, and this year it is breaking records again.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Realtors said real estate sales across the province in July were 25 per cent higher than July 2020, which itself was a record month.
In an interview with CBC Radio’s Newfoundland Morning, Deer Lake real estate agent Cory Reid attributed the busy market to an influx of buyers from other provinces, including Ontario and Alberta.
He says buyers are attracted to Newfoundland and Labrador because of how the province has weathered the pandemic.
“If you’re Newfoundlander you’re always a Newfoundlander, and home is home,” he said. “I think people reflected on that and felt, you know, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to consider retiring and going back to [my] roots.'”
He said the market in towns like Deer Lake is particularly hot because of their proximity to recreational activities like snowmobiling and fishing, activities which are harder to find in urban areas.
An unpredictable market
Hickey and his partner are living with family while they continue searching for a new home. They’ve placed a few bids above asking price but have still been outbid every time.
The couple looked into building a house, but the high cost of lumber made that option untenable for them too, said Hickey. They hope the market will calm down soon, but Hickey says there’s no way to know when that will be.
“Anyone who answers that question confidently is lying to you,” he said.
Reid agrees the real estate market can be unpredictable but said he expects it to die down in the fall, since people usually prefer to move during the summer.
For now, Hickey and his partner will keep looking for the right house, which they hope will show up before the baby. After more than a year under the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, they’re used to dealing with the unexpected.
“Anyone who … in 2019 came up with a plan for what they want to do and who they want to be and where they want to be in 2021, you know, that’s out the window.”
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When it comes to luxury real estate, location is key. From properties with French alpine to Pacific Ocean views, these luxury listings take advantage of their picturesque settings.
French alpine chalet
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Creek views in Colorado
Location: Aspen, Colorado
Price: $8.3 million
This ranchette home, remodeled in 2017, sits on a hillside overlooking Brush Creek Valley, the Snowmass ski area and Hunter Creek. The main home, which features antique 19th-century French Provincial/Mediterranean doors, has three bedrooms and 2.5-bathrooms. Features include a pantry with a custom wine cellar. A large outdoor entertaining area comes with a wraparound stone deck.
A two-story accessory dwelling unit, built in 2005, houses an art studio and kitchen on the first floor and one bedroom, one bathroom, and a kitchen on the second. A three-car garage comes with a full bath.
Spanish island villa
Location: Son Termes, Bunyola, Mallorca, Spain
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Historic oceanfront in Santa Monica
Location: Santa Monica, California
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Designed and built in 1910 by architect Robert D. Farquhar, this three-bedroom home sits just off the Santa Monica Bluffs, with views to the Pacific Ocean. The home has been reimagined with luxurious finishes, including white oak flooring and custom automated shades. The kitchen features custom two-tone Italian cabinetry and stone countertops and Wolf, Sub-Zero, and Miele appliances. The bathrooms include luxe fixtures by Brizo, Rohl, Newport Brass and Toto.
This home features a patio and the ground level and a deck on the second floor comprising more than 1,000 square feet of private outdoor space.
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B.C. real estate agent suspended, fined nearly $100K over 'predatory' rent-to-own scheme – CBC.ca
A Lower Mainland real estate agent has been ordered to pay nearly $100,000 in fines after being found guilty of professional misconduct in relation to a rent-to-own scheme allegedly aimed at financially vulnerable homeowners.
More than three years after B.C.’s real estate council first suspended Kevindeep Singh Bratch’s licence under “urgent circumstances,” Bratch has also been told he’ll have to wait another year before he can apply to get his licence back.
A disciplinary committee found that Bratch committed conduct unbecoming of a real estate agent after a hearing that saw testimony from a man who claimed Bratch acted like a “saviour,” while negotiating a deal to purchase a $2.1 million house for less than a quarter of its worth.
“Bratch’s conduct … constitutes conduct unbecoming because it targets members of the public who are in stressful positions, have limited options and feel pressured into agreeing to any terms to keep their family homes,” the council said in submissions that resulted in the penalties.
“In these circumstances, Mr. Bratch was looking to make an investment and was driven by profit. The homeowners were driven by the desire to keep their homes.”
Deals ‘disadvantageous’ to owners
The case was one of the last handled by the real estate council before the introduction of a new regulatory authority in B.C. The B.C. Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) now oversees real estate agents, mortgage brokers, credit unions, trust and insurance companies and pension plans.
The penalties — which include a $45,000 fine and $50,000 to pay for the cost of the investigation — were announced on the new regulator’s website this week.
The BCFSA will handle the file going forward.
Bratch could not be reached for comment, but a spokesperson for the regulator said he has appealed the decision to the Financial Services Tribunal.
The rulings make clear that Bratch’s activities were not illegal.
The real estate council claimed they were “disadvantageous” to owners who “did not receive independent legal advice or separate agency representation, and either believed that Mr. Bratch was acting on their behalf, or were at least confused as to his role in the transaction.”
‘This is the best case scenario’
The witness who claimed Bratch came across as a “saviour” told the council that he approached Bratch after receiving unsolicited mail claiming the real estate agent was a foreclosure specialist.
At the time, the witness — whose name is redacted in the decision — was experiencing financial difficulties; his mother had passed away two years earlier and his bank had started foreclosure proceedings on his $2.1 million childhood home.
According to the decision, the two reached a deal that saw Bratch and his wife purchase the home for $500,000 and then agree to rent it back to the former owner for $4,000 a month with an option to buy back the property for $600,000 four months later.
“The language was like this is the best case scenario, this is what you have to do in order to make sure that the bank doesn’t take your home,” the witness told the disciplinary committee.
“I’m walking into this, like Kevin [Bratch], is in my corner, he is not somebody who, who is on the other side of the table in an agreement.”
The deal ultimately ended up in court after Bratch and his wife sued the homeowner, who responded by claiming the deal was “unconscionable.”
All three parties agreed to dismiss the legal action in December 2017.
‘I do wear the different hats’
The real estate council’s disciplinary committee considered evidence related to three rent-to-own deals involving Bratch.
In one case, Bratch evicted an elderly Maple Ridge couple on Thanksgiving 2017 after taking them to the Residential Tenancy Branch, over unpaid rent on a home they agreed to sell for $233,000 less than its assessed value to a company Bratch and his wife controlled .
The council faulted Bratch for failing to disclose the nature of his relationship with the company, and for failing to recommend that the couple get independent legal advice.
That situation led to the interest of local media. It also resulted in a lawsuit that was settled in an agreement that saw the couple buy their home back from Bratch for roughly the same price he originally paid them.
In the third case, the council says Bratch paid $154,000 less than the value of a property assessed at $869,000. He rented it back to the original owners for $4,300 a month.
“When we first signed this deal I expressed concern as to whether or not… [we] would be able to execute the re-purchase option after just one year, to which you assured me, and I quote, ‘I’m not a monster, I’m here to make a return on my investment, if you can’t buy it back after one year I would extent it [sic] another year,'” the original homeowner said in an email to Bratch, shared with the council.
The original owners could not buy the home back in a year and ended up renting on a month-by-month basis before moving out in December 2018.
According to the decision, Bratch now resides in the property. It was assessed at $915,000 in 2019.
Bratch represented himself at the hearing, disputing the allegations against him. He claimed he had advised the elderly couple to get a lawyer and was clear with his clients about the transactions.
According to the decision, he described himself as wearing “different hats.”
“So I provide homeowners with the different options and again I do wear the different hats,” Bratch is quoted as saying.
“So I would be wearing a mortgage broker’s hat, a real estate agent’s hat and during that time you’re allowed to be … licensed as a mortgage broker and a real estate agent at the same time.”
In addition to the penalties and suspension, Bratch has been ordered to take an “Ethics in Business Practice” course offered by the Real Estate Institute.
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