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Sarnia-Lambton real estate sales up 10.5 per cent in 2019

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Total annual real estate sales broke through $600 million mark for the first time in Sarnia and the rest of Lambton County in 2019 but the president of the Sarnia-Lambton Real Estate says she wasn’t surprised.

Sarnia-Lambton real estate
New homes are being built on Gianluca Avenue in Sarnia. The city issued a total of 58 building permits for new single family homes in 2019. That’s down from 83 the previous year.

Paul Morden / The Observer

Total annual real estate sales broke through $600 million mark for the first time in Sarnia and the rest of Lambton County in 2019 but the president of the Sarnia-Lambton Real Estate says she wasn’t surprised.

“It’s natural,” said Donna Mathewson. “Every year we set a new record, and we have been consistently for five years.”

The $608.6-million total for 2019 was up 10.5 per cent, compared to a 9.3 per cent increase the previous year.

Mathewson said the number of properties sold locally in 2019 was 1,843 – an increase of just one per cent.


Donna Mathewson, president of the Sarnia-Lambton Real Estate Board, talks about year-end local market statistics released Friday. The total value of local property sales in 2019 increased 10.5 per cent over the previous year. (PAUL MORDEN, The Observer)

Paul Morden /

The Observer

The board said there were a total of 2,547 properties listed for sale during 2019, compared to 2,421 the previous year.

Many areas of Lambton remain in a “high demand, low supply” situation when it comes to homes on the market, Mathewson said.

She said that has been the case for two or three years locally.

Real estate is cyclical and traditionally has peaks and valleys in the market, she said. “We have been on this peak for quite a while.”

Mathewson said the local economy remains strong and she expects the “steady growth” in real estate to continue this year.

2019 ended with a busy month of December, thanks to the mild weather, Mathewson said.

“We were still showing houses the 24th of December . . . the grass was still green.”

The average local home price was $336,354 in 2019, which is also up over last year, but the “hottest” segment with the most sales has been in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range, Mathewson said.

“First time home buyers are buying $200,000 homes now, and they didn’t used to,” she said.

She attributes that to low interest rates and high rents.

Bungalows were the most popular style of home sold in 2019, but Mathewson said that’s in part because bungalows make up most of the new homes being built locally.

“We had a lot more bungalows on the market, than anything else.”

New homes are still “helping drive our market,” Mathewson said.

“We still have development within the city, as well as the county.”

Sarnia-Lambton real estate

New homes are being built on Gianluca Avenue in Sarnia. The city issued a total of 58 building permits for single family homes in 2019. That’s down from 83 the previous year. (PAUL MORDEN, The Observer)

Paul Morden /

The Observer

Wyoming, Petrolia, Enniskillen Township and Corunna in St. Clair Township are some of the communities outside of the city seeing the impact of new home sales, she said.

Building permits statistics from Sarnia’s City Hall note the number of new single family home building permits issued in the city in 2019 totalled 53. That’s down from 83 the year before.

Ken Barros, chief building inspector with the city, said that may be because installation of some new streets and services to open up additional building lots in the city happened later in 2019.

Those streets are now in place and their lots are expected to fill quickly.

He noted the city has recently seen more activity with multi-unit residential building projects.

That includes a $28.5-million permit issued by the city in December for a Tricar residential tower under construction on Front Street. The London company’s plan is for a 15-storey building with 123 to 125 units.

By the end of 2019, the city had issued building permits for a total of $110.3 million in construction, up from $92.9 million in 2018.

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Real estate deals stalled according to Altus Group report – Daily Commercial News

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Webinar panellists asked for their reading of the real estate sector across the country during a recent session billed as a pan-Canadian “pulse check” suggested the prospects of recovery in the industry are fraught with uncertainty.

The May 25 Urban Land Institute webinar began with analysis of first-quarter real estate market statistics as well as second-half 2020 market forecasts by Altus Group executive researcher Raymond Wong and his colleague Patricia Arsenault, an executive vice-president in research consulting with the firm.

Wong reported that a survey of clients showed over 50 per cent of respondents said all real estate investment transactions were currently on hold. Broken down into sectors, 50 per cent of office deals were on ice and 58 per cent of retail transaction were on hold, as were 51 per cent of industrial transactions and 53 per cent of residential.

Arsenault addressed the supply side of housing, noting COVID-related uncertainties influencing investors and builders included future low immigration and flat employment numbers.

“Most but not all new project launches planned for spring were pushed off,” Arsenault said. “Most of the delayed projects could be brought to market fairly quickly but that is only if there if was evidence of sustained pick-up in demand.

“As well, I suspect there will be many project postponements for a longer time period as proponents re-evaluate their projects’ viability.”

On the housing demand side, there was bad news and better news, Arsenault said.

The poor economy won’t necessarily mean housing demand will switch from ownership to rentals, she explained.

“Rather, household formation rates tend to go down, younger people will stay at home longer, they will move back in with parents, singles double up, couples delay splitting up, all those factors…will impact housing demand levels,” Arsenault explained.

But the burden of unemployment has not been borne equally, she said, with layoffs hitting people on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum more than the more wealthy.

“Many of those could choose to buy right now,” she said. “Or they could still choose to wait and see what’s going on in the short term.”

But eventually, Arsenault said, that group represents potential future pent-up demand.

The presentations by Wong and Arsenault were followed by a panel discussion of real estate and construction prospects across the country featuring development experts from Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Jeff Thompson, Alberta-based vice-president with Ledcor, a constructor active in many sectors, noted there was a lot of “tire kicking” going on in the housing sector.

“Everybody still has lots of projects that they want to proceed with,” he said. “They don’t know when exactly. They have to figure out what the metrics need to look like.”

But still, across the country, the pipeline of potential projects is full, though there is regional disparity, he said. He said the dip in productivity felt during the pandemic might continue for a couple more months but then production could return.

Brian McCauley, Vancouver-based president and CEO of Concert Properties, which has a busy portfolio in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, said construction productivity in his province was returning to normal after cratering in the first weeks after the start of the crisis in March, with 85 to 90 per cent of the construction workforce now back on the job, but costs raised potential alarms.

“We don’t know how trade contractors will price this uncertainty or these hiccups that are related to COVID’s new safety precautions,” said McCauley. “That is not only causing some delays on the production side, but it is also a point of uncertainty moving forward.”

He said he doubts the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s warning that housing prices could drop by up to 18 per cent in the next year. He said given supply constraint and continued demand, it is likely prices will remain high, especially in Vancouver and Toronto.

Key factors to rebuilding homebuyer confidence, McCauley said, are jobs returning in a stable economy, resumption of immigration and low interest rates.

Meanwhile, McCauley said there could be a “seismic shift” in the public-oriented retail market, including restaurants and bars. It was a point introduced by panel moderator Duncan Wlodarczak, Vancouver-based chief of staff with the Onni Group, who said he heard from one U.S. commentator recently that 80 per cent of restaurants might go under.

“Some of them might not survive going forward but we are doing everything we can to keep them active and engaged,” McCauley said.

Panellist Lesley Leech, a Toronto-based director with office and retail developer Cadillac Fairview, acknowledged the retail market was hit hard. She said her firm is working constantly to help tenants survive their months-long shutdowns. Leech was asked if the developer was working on a strategy to repurpose some of its retail portfolio.

“Our investment team and development team is strategizing on all our current plans out there and we will wait to see what the trends are,” she said, adding Cadillac Fairview would wait to obtain more information before making such “major decisions.”

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Muskoka Real Estate Red-Hot as Buyers and Renters Turn to Cottage Country – Toronto Storeys

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With travel restrictions tightly in place, the cancellation of events, and shuttered patios throughout the city, the return of the sweet smell of spring just didn’t evoke the same collective sense of joy for Torontonians as it has in the past.


As it became apparent that summer 2020 would look drastically different in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also became clear that having access to any outdoor space was a luxury many city residents did not enjoy (if even just a balcony). The lucky ones this summer are those with backyards, while the really fortunate ones complete these yards with pools.

But those who find themselves on a whole other level of fortune this summer are the ones with access to a cottage in Ontario’s pristine – and very pricy – cottage country.

Photo by Basil Thomas on Unsplash

Nearly three months (and counting) of quarantine mode has rendered most Torontonians stir crazy at best, especially those confined to small spaces typical of the Toronto core. Facilitating cravings for both a change of scenery from the restraints of the sweltering concrete, and to reconnect with nature and its many benefits, the cottage country real estate market is red-hot right now.

And this has realtors north of the city breathing a collective sigh of relief.

READ: Toronto Homebuyers Looking to Buy in Cottage Country During COVID-19

“It was looking like we were going to have a catastrophically bad year in March and early April. On the rental side, I was looking at half a million dollars of cancelled reservations from people who lived in places like Europe and Australia,” said Sotheby’s Realty sales representative Maryrose Coleman, who is based in Muskoka’s Port Carling community and is also a co-founder of luxury cottage rental company Muskoka District Rentals. “The cancellations just kept coming in. On the real estate side, the Cottage Life Show had been cancelled in March, and many visitors actually come to that show looking to purchase a cottage. We always put a lot of time and effort into it, getting our listings and materials ready so that we’re there for prospective buyers.”

A second blow to the cottage country rental market came with Ontario’s COVID-19-inspired restrictions on short-term rentals that went into effect on April 4, banning any units in the province from attempting to rent for less than a 28-day time period. “We had to go and proactively change all of our rentals that were booked until the end of June,” says Coleman. Right now, the restriction is in place until June 25, but Coleman suspects it could be extended throughout the summer.

Towards the end of April and in early May, things started to shift, says Coleman, as eyes turned north to cottage country. “People were thinking about their summer plans and realizing that they weren’t going to travel, and we started to get a lot of rental inquiries,” says Coleman. “Many people were actually looking to book for one month, two months, or three months – which is not unusual – but normally those people book a lot earlier, like in the August or September the year before.” The cancellation of overnight summer camp heightened this demand. “I was literally slammed,” says Coleman. “I had 27 phone calls within an hour and 300 emails.”

Muskoka
Sagamo Estate, Lake Joesph, Muskoka – for sale for $6,995,000

The demographic of cottage-seekers – both buyers and renters – includes everyone from double-income/no-kid millennial couples and young families, to retired couples looking to share a slice of Ontario’s north with their children and grandchildren for the summer months.

Usually, Jason Burke takes his two kids to an Ontario Park in the summer and rents a cabin. “This year, I want a little more privacy and don’t want to use shared facilities in light of the ongoing pandemic,” says Burke. “So I’m going to be looking for a private option, as opposed to the Ontario Parks choice. What I think I’ll do is rent a cottage that’s close to a provincial park, so I can still benefit from the offerings of the park, but stay with my family in our own space.”

Toronto resident Tristan Mackay entered the cottage market this season with his wife and 9-month-old son. “We started looking for a cottage given that we’ll likely travel a lot less for the foreseeable future,” says Mackay. “Plus, as everyone gets older and has families, the cottage invites are inevitably a lot less frequent, and more difficult to facilitate. So this seems like the right time, especially now that we have our son.” Mackay noticed right away that many of the most coveted cottages – those with the best views and exposure – are getting quickly snapped up. “The places that we recently visited have already sold,” he says.

The common theme among cottage-seekers for 2020, say realtors, is a sense of urgency to secure a piece of lakeside real estate for the summer – something that’s a contributing factor to the slim pickings for prospective buyers. “Looking at this year compared to last year, the inventory is low, and there are more buyers,” says Ruthann Brown, a realtor at Muskoka’s Engel & Volkers brokerage. “My thought is that there are would-be buyers who now don’t want to sell this year, because they want to get out of the city too. If they sell now, they’re stuck in the city. Then, of course, there are new buyers looking to get out of the city due to changes in potential travel plans and cancellations of summer camps.”

This urgency is so high, says Brown, that prospective buyers are opting to rent while they search for the right cottage just to lock in something for the summer (something that also clearly affects the dwindling rental supply). It’s also reflected in the amount of dollars cottage-seekers are willing to drop. “The prices have not gone up, however, there’s less willingness to negotiate down right now because of the limited inventory available of what today’s buyer is looking for,” says Coleman. “There’s a clear willingness for buyers to pay more for the right property than they would have before just to get something locked in. Anything ‘nice’ by today’s criteria – the urban lake house aesthetic – sells before making it onto the market.”

Muskoka
Acton Island, Lake Muskoka – for rent starting at $1,600 per night

Not surprisingly, the most affordable properties are in incredibly high demand. “Anything under $1-million is flying,” said Joshua Chisvin, a sales representative for PSR Brokerage, which has a location in Bracebridge. “A lot of cottages under $750,000 are getting multiple offers and bidding wars, and anything under $2-million on the ‘big three’ (Lake Muskoka, Joseph, and Lake Rosseau) is also beyond busy.” He notices a similar demand in the rental market. “Many properties are seeing double the rent offered in 2020 compared to 2019,” says Chisvin.

The high-end Muskoka market – that obtainable to Toronto’s one per cent – has also been bustling, says Chisvin, very possibly in direct response to COVID-19. “The luxury market has seen an increase in attention from buyers and renters, ranging from $4-million to $20-million for purchase, as well as rentals starting at $45,000 per week,” says Chisvin. Given the probability that the restrictions on short-term rentals will last throughout the summer, that rental figure jumps to a cool $180,000 for the 28-day minimum in what we can only assume is a Muskoka mansion.

For renters with deep enough pockets, renting a cottage for 28 days takes little convincing. After all, while the office may remain closed for many, the workday continues remotely. For cottagers, “working remotely” could mean creating presentations on the dock or answering emails from a hammock – something that sounds pretty appealing after months of working from home workspaces in the city. “Tellingly, the biggest question I’m receiving is about internet quality,” says Brown.

The 28-day minimum – and the current uncertainty as to whether or not it will be extended – makes renting a cottage a little trickier this year, especially for those simply seeking a week or two-week long outdoor fix. Not to mention, social distancing measures mean that groups of unrelated people are out of the question (so, you may have to reconsider that annual ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ cottage weekend this year). “I’m now reaching out to my renters saying ‘this is what I see happening, this is how I see this playing out,’ and offering less expensive cottage options for the 28-night minimum, a refund, or a deposit towards next season,” says Coleman.

It should be noted that all of Coleman’s cottage rentals are undergoing extensive cleaning measures in light of COVID-19, and will sit vacant for three days between guests. Renters are also required to undergo health screenings and follow proper social distancing measures so long as they are at the cottage.

For renters, the lure of going “under the table” and renting from a law-breaking end user for a week on the lake is admittedly somewhat tempting. Coleman, however, warns that some people have not been able to get their money back when they’ve had to cancel a private booking. “It’s riskier to rent from an end user during these times than from a company that can more easily withstand the blow of the cancellations of a bunch of rentals,” says Coleman. For those in the market to buy this season, she recommends that you work with a local agent who knows the ins and outs of cottage country and its properties.

Either way, if you’re seeking a slice of lakeside cottage country real estate this summer, the time to act is now.

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Vancouver Real Estate Prices Slide, With Typical Home Dropping $7600 Last Month – Better Dwelling

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Greater Vancouver real estate is still adjusting to the pandemic, but buyers seem to be more deterred than sellers. Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) data shows the price of a typical home made a significant monthly decline in May. Inventory fell from last year’s levels, but didn’t drop nearly as much as sales did.

Great Vancouver Real Estate Prices Dropped $7,600 Last Month

Greater Vancouver real estate prices are up from the same month last year, but not much else. REBGV reported the benchmark price for a home reached $1,028,400 in May, up 2.9% from last year. In the City, Vancouver East’s composite benchmark reached $1,089,000, up 3.5% from last year. Pricey Vancouver West saw the benchmark reach $1,283,000, up 4.2% from last year. Looking at the benchmark price chart, you may have noticed this isn’t the first impression.

Greater Vancouver Composite Benchmark Price

The price of a typical home across Greater Vancouver, in Canadian dollars.

Source: REBGV, Better Dwelling.

The year-over-year rate of growth is higher than last month, but prices are down using monthly or peak numbers. The 2.9% annual increase for May is higher than it was in May 2019. However, prices are down 0.73% from April 2020 – about $7,600 lower over the span of a month. Prices are also down 6.88% from peak, whereas they were down just 6.19% from the month before. A lot of odd dynamics created by the monthly price change falling almost twice as fast as last year, but the takeaway is prices are lower from peak, and last month.

Greater Vancouver Composite Benchmark Price Change

The annual percent change of a typical home across Greater Vancouver.

Source: REBGV, Better Dwelling.

Greater Vancouver Home Sales Fall Over 43%

Greater Vancouver real estate sales slipped, although this was largely expected due to the pandemic. There were 1,485 home sales in May, down 33.9% from a month before. This represents a decline of 43.7% when compared to the same month last year. Once again, the drop in sales was expected due to the pandemic. However, sales coming in 54% lower than the 10-year average for the month is a tough pill to swallow regardless.

Greater Vancouver Composite Sales Vs. Listings

The number of homes sold vs total inventory in Greater Vancouver.

Source: REBGV, Better Dwelling.

Greater Vancouver Home Inventory Fell, But Not As Much As Sales

New listings for Greater Vancouver homes didn’t fall quite as much as sales. REBGV saw 3,684 new listings in May, up 59.3% from the month before. This represents a 37.1% decline compared to the same month last year. The smaller decline for new listings helped prevent total inventory from completely drying up.

Total inventory, a.k.a. active listings, climbed higher across the board. REBGV reported 9,927 active listings in May, up 5.7% from a month before. This represents a decline of 32.4%, when compared to the same month last year. Once again, total inventory didn’t quite fall as much as sales, which actually led to a lower ratio of sales to listings.

The sales to listings ratio (SALR) slid from last year. The SALR fell to 15% in May, down from 18% during the same month last year. Generally, analysts believe prices fall when the ratio drops below 12%. Prices are expected to rise when the SALR is above 20%, and considered balanced between 12% and 20%. The market is still in balanced territory, but a little closer to seeing prices fall, compared to last year.

The pandemic is slowing things down, but buyers appear to be more deterred than sellers at this point. Price growth did still accelerate on an annual basis, which is considered a bullish indicator. However, the mechanics are somewhat broken, considering prices fell on both the month and from peak.

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