It’s a book chronicling 140 years of real estate calamity, colossal greed and even “skulduggery,” yet its name is Land of Destiny.
When explaining the title, author Jesse Donaldson’s voice straddles between black humour, disbelief and a faint touch of hopelessness.
Land of Destiny, as it turns out, was how the city was marketed to newcomers in a 1910 magazine clipping.
“It looked no different than the stuff you’d see in real estate brochures today,” Donaldson said. “It was fascinating to go back through all of this stuff over 130 years and seeing the same kinds of things being said, not just about affordability, but the rhetoric around the real estate industry.”
The recurring themes that pop up throughout Land of Destiny are the worst of the worst: Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) employees amassing vast wealth through deception and insider trading, outright lies and political corruption spanning decades.
So what’s different now?
“I was fascinated by how little things have changed,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson’s book covers the time period spanning 1862 — the time of the first land sale in the West End — up until Expo ’86 with good reason. As Donaldson explains, the forces of corruption and greed that led up to 1986 are still very much at play today.
“Politically, we were naïve at best about what happens when you let rich people do whatever they want, and that’s what happened during the recession in the 1980s,” Donaldson said. “That’s permeated every element of our society here.”
It took Donaldson about a year to write and research the book, and when asked for the most obscene nugget of greed he uncovered, he paused.
“That’s a competitive category,” Donaldson replied.
The 37-year-old settles on the story of how the CPR made its way to Vancouver, despite many believing and investing in the fact that the rail line would end in Port Moody.
According to Donaldson, the skulduggery began in 1881. Word of the line ending in Port Moody got out and investors quickly scooped up and subsequently flipped that land for huge profits.
Angered by the fact that others were making money and not them, CPR officials quickly swooped in and began their backroom dealings with provincial and city officials.
The terminus ended up in Port Moody, but the trunk line — where all the goods and people ended up — was extended to Coal Harbour.
Lies, cover-ups and vast sums of money kept enough mouths shut for the plan to go off without a hitch.
“Nobody saw this coming,” Donaldson said. “Suddenly, the CPR built this railway line to Port Moody, everybody was celebrating and then they said, ‘Just kidding, we’re actually going to keep going.’ It ended up in court for years and all the investors in Port Moody lost their shirts and all the friends of the CPR executives made an obscene amount of money.”
Donaldson says he’s been asked numerous times about how to fix what plagues real estate in Vancouver, to which he responds “the answer is so unsexy.”
New policies and regulations around rent controls, better housing projects that serve more people and strong legislation around money laundering and asset disclosure are a good start, Donaldson said.
All three levels of government need to first agree on the scope of the problem, and then collectively act on it.
“The challenges we’re facing aren’t new, they’re just bigger,” Donaldson said. “The volume has been turned up and the velocity has gone up but it’s all the same kinds of people doing the same kinds of things.”
Donaldson’s book is available now through Anvil Press. A book launch party is slated for 6 p.m. tonight (Dec. 19) at Resurrection Spirits, 1672 Franklin St.
Sales trend below average in qathet: real estate board
Real estate home sales dollar values in August 2023 dropped off from the previous year in the qathet region.
“Sales activity was about on par with levels from August 2021 and 2022 and continued trending below the average for this time of year,” said Neil Frost, president of the Powell River Sunshine Coast Real Estate Board. “New listings, on the other hand, have been coming in very strong and have kept overall supply from moving back towards historically low levels. Our market remains in balanced territory and prices continue to ease from last year, making this a more opportune time for potential buyers to wade back in and test the waters.”
In the single-family residence category, in August 2023, there were 20 homes sold, valued at $13,281,150, compared to 29 units sold, valued at $22,802,350, in August 2022.
There were three sales in the mobiles and manufactured homes category, valued at $817,000, in August 2023, compared to three sales, valued at $663,900, in August 2022.
In the condos, apartments and duplexes category, there were six sales, totalling $2,422,900, in August 2023, compared to three sales, valued at $1,303,500, in August 2022.
Totals for residential sales indicate 29 units sold, valued at $16,422,900, in August 2023, compared to 35 units sold, valued at $24,769,750, in August 2022.
On the nonresidential side, there were eight vacant land properties sold in August 2023, valued at $1,678,000, compared to three properties, valued at $734,030, in August 2022.
In the industrial, commercial and institutional category, there was one sale, valued at $2,800, in August 2022, and none in August 2023.
Totals for nonresidential were eight units, valued at $1,668,000, in August 2023, compared to four units, valued at $736,830, in August 2022.
Grand totals show 37 units sold in August 2023, valued at $18,199,050, compared to 39 units, valued at $736,830, in August 2022.
In terms of average monthly selling price in the single-family homes category, the value in August 2023 was $664,058, with an average of 74 days on the market, compared to $786,288, in August 2022, with an average of 37 days on the market. This is a 15.5 per cent drop in average price.
Regarding new listings, on the residential side, there were 59 new listings, and on the nonresidential side, 12, for a total of 71 new listings in August 2023. In terms of active listings at the end of the month, there were 173 residential listings and 85 nonresidential listings.
According to statistics from the Canadian Real Estate Association, on a year-to-date basis, home sales totalled 190 units over the first eight months of the year, which was a large decline of 21.2 per cent from the same period in 2022.
“Home sales are starting to settle back into a trend of below-normal activity following an unexpected surge in the spring,” said British Columbia Real Estate Association chief economist Brendon Ogmundson. “However, sales are in a much stronger place than expected given current mortgage qualifying difficulty.”
Why experts say predictability is returning to Ontario’s real estate market
Before the days of bidding wars and bully offers, the real estate market used to be cyclical and fairly predictable.
There was a spring market, which was typically the busiest time of year, and there was a fall market, where the action typically picked up following a quiet summer.
However, over the past decade, the pace of the real estate market picked up and realtors were forced to quickly adjust to the rapidly changing market, especially when the pandemic hit, and interest rates were at rock bottom for a lengthy timeframe.
Things changed again last year as interest rates slowly began to creep up, leaving realtors across Ontario trying to advise their clients as best they could in a constantly shifting landscape.
In January, many believed the Bank of Canada was done raising interest rates and the market began to heat back up in the spring, prompting rates hike in June and July, Robert Hogue, RBC’s assistant chief economist.
“We’ve seen in July and August with the most recent numbers and especially August, that home retail activity has come down,” he explained.
After the interest rates went up, sales slowed across much of Ontario, which was a sign to some realtors that we may be seeing a return to old real estate ways.
“I think we’re starting to see a bit more predictability in the market versus volatility,” Kitchener realtor Tony Johal explained about a return to real estate markets past.
Ottawa realtor Nick Kyte explained that traditionally, the summer market has been slower as people have been away.
“If they haven’t purchased a property by July, they tend to take August as their vacation months or going to the cottage or just kind of enjoying summer activities. And then they come back to the market in the fall,” he said.
Much like the rest of Ontario, it was a slow summer in Toronto, and over the first week of September, people began listing and looking again.
“Honestly, we were all sitting on our hands the last couple months going, ‘Geez, I hope this changes in the fall’ and it does feel like it is,” said Toronto realtor Brendan Powell.
He noted that some clients were still looking in Toronto this summer, but were unable to find properties to meet their needs.
With the real estate market appearing to approach a more traditional market, many of the realtors Global News spoke with believe there will be a bit of a bump in sales during the fall months as people return from summer vacation.
“There’s going to be a little bit of a spike right now in the fall market,” Hamilton realtor Rob Golfi said.
Johal was also cautiously optimistic about expectations for the fall market.
“I don’t think we’re going to hit spring’s numbers. The interest rates are staying put, and I do believe that will have an influence over pricing and overall activity,” he explained. “I do foresee the fall market leading all the way to closer to Christmas as being fairly consistent and strong.”
Hogue shared Johal’s cautious view of what will happen with real estate in Ontario when the fall approaches as he says the seasonally adjusted numbers for the summer were well worse than sales in the spring.
“Once you take that into consideration, the traditional slowdown, even then the July and August numbers of of this year were a slowed down relative to what we saw in the spring,” the economist explained.
He also noted that the rebound from the spring appears to have been reversed, offering a sign of things to come in the fall.
Buyers were cautious in the fall of 2022 and they remain so in 2023, especially with the potential for another rate hike in November if inflation persists.
“Buyers are acting like they did last fall, and last fall is when we saw continuous rate hikes,” Kyte said. “So therefore, if buyers were going to purchase, they had you know, they want to make sure that the home was in good shape, that it was what they were looking for.”
Hogue says that RBC believes that at most, there may be one more rate hike to come from the Bank of Canada, but the current rates are likely high enough to keep most first-time home buyer on the sidelines.
“It might take a month or two for the market to come to that conclusion,” Hogue said of the idea of the end of rate hikes. “And then you might see some people jumping back in. But the thing is, affordability is still a big issue, especially for first-time homebuyers.”
The economist also noted that if unemployment rates rise, that could keep people out of the market.
“It is also our view that the Canadian economy has already started a very mild recession,” he said. “So that is likely to potentially take the confidence of some people.”
Kyte looks back at how sellers reacted last year as an opportunity to explain how they might act in the fall of 2023.
He said if homes are priced correctly, then they will move but if not, they will make adjustments.
“Some sellers decide to status quo, others decide to adjust their price downwards to elicit some new buyers that may want to purchase before winter occurs,” the realtor said of the Ottawa market. “And some others just decide that maybe now’s not the right time for them to be on the market.”
The Ottawa realtor noted that if that was the case, then some sellers pulled houses off the market and relisted in the spring, which is traditionally a busier time in real estate.
In Toronto, Powell says the slowdown has created a more balanced market, which has allowed for conditional offers to return to the marketplace.
“There’s a lot more caution and we’re seeing mostly conditional offers, which is kind of what it should be,” he said.
“Conditions are a normal, smart part of a balanced market as people do their due diligence right and protect themselves from risk.”
That does not mean that the bidding wars have vanished entirely.
Johal says about half the homes that hit the market are being priced for bidding wars while the others are priced for market value.
While many buyers remain squeamish about the idea of a bidding war, Johal believes most are now expecting to see the price built into listings.
He explained that if several homes in one area were priced for bidding wars at $600,000 and one was priced at $700,000, some buyers might assume that the house with the higher sticker price might be set for a bidding war at a higher cost.
“The problem is they’re going to look at your listing and think you want $800,000 and completely avoid it in many cases,” he said.
“While we are still seeing some bidding wars erupt these days, we are also seeing buyers place conditions on homes when they make an offer. I think that the last year of uncertainty has really made a lot of people stop and think about of a real risk and real volatility,” Powell said.
He noted that five years ago, conditional offers became rare as people were fighting over a scarce market.
“People threw caution to the wind sometimes and I think that the last year has reminded everybody that there’s real risks involved in any kind of market like this,” he said. “While the buyers are out and are out looking, people are more cautious than they would have been, say, two years ago.”
He said those cautions include people making conditional offers as it should be.
Golfi said that while this might scare off some sellers, they probably should sell sooner rather than later.
“It’s going to take longer to sell a house I think (going forward). In the next 12 months it will take longer days on market will grow and grow,” Golfi said.
While the realtors expect homes which are prices accordingly to move fairly quickly in the fall as they traditionally would, hey also expect the market to slow in December which may be a good time to buy.
“I think the best month out of the year as a buyer. December and even January, those are the two best months,” Golfi said. ”If you’re going to buy a house and you want to get a super deal but inventory might be a little bit tough sometimes in those two months.”
Kyte also said that the price might be right for buyers when the holiday season approaches.
“If you’re looking at purchasing, you want to buy when not everyone else is buying because that’s when you can get a good deal, which is traditionally the fall into the early winter market,” he said.
Real estate price growth in Halton Region since 2013
To say the growth in real estate prices in Halton Region over the past 10 years is staggering would be an understatement.
According to sales data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, the average sale price for all dwelling types combined in Halton Region was $1,230,389 in August. In August 2013, that average was $572,934 — 114.7 per cent increase over the past decade.
Despite falling from record-high average prices set in early 2022, prices over the past 10 years have seen huge gains across Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville.
When looking at year-over-year average sale prices for the month of August between 2013 and 2023, the combined average price of real estate in Burlington is up 94.5 per cent from $553,175 to $1,075,897.
Over the past 10 years in Halton Hills, the average price has increased 163 per cent from $475,462 to $1,250,700, while Milton saw its average for all dwelling types combined increase from $476,599 in August 2013 to $1,083,812 last month — or 127.4 per cent.
The combined average sale price in Oakville was $1,492,687 last month compared to $707,606 in August 2023, representing a 110.9 per cent increase over the same period.
The graphic below breaks down the average price for detached homes, semi-detached homes and apartment condos for the month of August dating back to 2013.
Here’s how much the average prices for detached homes, semi-detached homes and condo apartments in each community have increased percentagewise since 2013. There is insufficient data for semi-detached and condo apartments in Halton Hills for relevant statistical comparison due to low inventory and sales.
Detached homes: $639,168 (Aug. 2013) to $1,406,473 (Aug. 2023) — +120 per cent.
Semi-detached: $446,580 (Aug. 2013) to $965,714 (Aug. 2023) — +116.2 per cent.
Condo apartments: $301,967 (Aug. 2013) to $668,446 (Aug. 2023) — +121.4 per cent.
Detached homes: $511,505 (Aug. 2013) to $1,344,305 (Aug. 2023) — +162.8 per cent.
Condo apartments: N/A.
Detached homes: $569,278 (Aug. 2013) to $1,350,202 (Aug. 2023) — +137.1 per cent.
Semi-detached: $418,713 (Aug. 2013) to $1,053,375 (Aug. 2023) — +151.6 per cent.
Condo apartments: $288,333 (Aug. 2013) to $635,406 (Aug. 2023) — +120.1 per cent.
Detached homes: $860,975 (Aug. 2013) to $1,989,978 (Aug. 2023) — +131.1 per cent.
Semi-detached: $472,577 (Aug. 2013) to $1,167,500 (Aug. 2023) — +147 per cent.
Condo apartments: $418,118 (Aug. 2013) to $824,568 (Aug. 2023) — +97.2 per cent.
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