Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region


Local, national and international housing
December 7, 2010, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Judita Makos, Market Conditions, Uncategorized

 

LOCAL-KITCHENER – WATERLOO

According to Kitchener-Waterloo Real Estate Board, total of 484 homes were sold in area through MLS,  which is 7.8 per cent increase compared to October 2010 and 10.9 per cent decrease to  November 2009.

 122 condominiums sold in November, which is 22 % increase over November 2009
and average price for condominium was $209,094, which is a 5.5% increase compared to the same month
last year.
The average price of all residential properties sold through the MLS® System of the KWREB last month was $282,629, a 0.4 percent decrease compared to November 2009. Detached homes sold for an average price of $322,839 last month, a 0.6 percent decrease relative to one year ago.
The most popular price range was for home selling between $200,000 and 225,000,
Consumers  favoured more modestly priced homes in November, however on year to date basis, it is amazing how the higher priced properties are driving much of the local real estate market” says George Patton, President of KWREB.
The strength of this residential market has resulted in a record breaking dollar volume of sales through the KWREB’s MLS® System, with year-to-date results for 2010 currently showing a total of $1,753,664,113, a 9.6 percent increase over the same period last year,and easily surpassing the previous record posted in 2007 of $1,619,377,742.

“In terms of total dollar volume, 2010 is poised to go down in history as our best year ever,” notes Patton.
TORONTO
Greater Toronto REALTORS reported 6,510 existing homes sales in November – down 13 % from november 2009 and the average selling price for November transactions was $438,030 – a 5% increase compared to same month in 2009.
“The GTA resale market has tightened since the summer. Healthy market conditions continued to support growth in the average selling price,” said Toronto Real Estate BoardPresident Bill Johnston.
“Sales through the first 11 months of the year were down only marginally compared to the same period in 2009. We remain on track for one of the best years on record under the current TREB market area,” continued Johnston.
CANADA
Home selling price in Canada shows decrease of 0,3 per cent in the third quarter as the market has slowed quicker
than expected. However, yar over year, prices are still up by 7.9 per cent.
Canadian economy remains a problem though. The Canadian real Estate Association has downgraded their forecast
4 times this year already. Latest forecast calls for 1.6 per cent gain in average housing prices in 2011, down from
5.4 percent previously forecasted.

According to Stats Canada  Municipalities issued $6.2 billion worth of building permits in October, down 6.5 per cent from September.
Statistics Canada blames the decline largely on drops in both the residential and non-residential sectors in Ontario and Quebec.
The value of residential permits fell 11.2 per cent in November, after substantial gains in September and October.
The value of non-residential permits remained at $2.7 billion as higher commercial and industrial construction  offset a decline in the value of building permits for institutional projects.
The total value of permits decreased in half of the provinces, led by Ontario and Quebec.
Newfoundland and Labrador had the largest increase.
INTERNATIONAL

“There is growing evidence that the global housing market recovery may just be beginning to run out of steam,” said
Liam Bailey, head of research for London-based Knight Frank in a report.

After several quarters of rising prices globally, home appreciation has slipped considerably, especially in Europe where there are fears that some countries may default on their debt.

Ireland was in last place on the list at number 48, down by 1.3 per cent in the third quarter, or minus 14.8 per cent cent year over year.

Italy was in 37th place with minus 2.5per cent growth, Greece was in 38th place showing minus 3.1 per cent growth, and Spain was in 41st place, showing minus 3.7 per cent year over year growth.

The biggest global gainer was the Asia Pacific region, up by 9.9 per cent in the third quarter
. The weakest was Europe at 0.8 per cent

Hong Kong was in second spot, followed by China in third.

“China’s key cities may avoid a significant correction in prices as local government fine tune their land supply programs,” said Bailey.

However, Frank Knight analysts still expect that prices will fall by 20 per cent in major cities cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzen next year.

Latvia was the surprise top gainer in the third quarter. It was in last place a year ago. But the country has been highly volatile. A new immigration law that relaxed residency rules for foreign investors has helped to boost house prices according to Frank Knight.

 In the key United States market, prices are up by 0.6 per cent from a year ago, with average prices dropping to 2003 levels.



My Two Top Service Picks for K-W

Automotive repair:

I was referred to Christine’s by a good friend of mine who told me a lovely story of the service he had received here. When my old car needed new brakes, I called for an appointment. I was met with a friendly voice that was able to squeeze me in and help me almost immediately for my own safety. Christine was not only trustworthy (no unnecessary “fixes” or upcharges here), but extremely knowledgeable and caring.

Christines’s Automotive

38 Hanson Avenue, Unit 2 (just south of Homer Watson and Ottawa), Kitchener

Tel. 519-772-5044

Computer Repair:

All I can say is Notebook Galaxy. I love these guys! After bringing my broken laptop into three different shops and being told three different stories of what was wrong with it, then requesting work at one shop only to be told they don’t have to parts and I would have to purchase them myself separately, I finally found Notebook Galaxy. I walked in and it was crowded, but I was greeted immediately none-the-less with a friendly welcome and inquiry into my computer’s status. One man was sitting on a couch, a computer taken apart in front of him. The other man was multi-tasking and assisting three people at once behind the desk. I figured it would take a while, but I did not want to leave my computer at another place again. So I waited. To my surprise, they moved through the crowd quickly and efficiently and I was served within 5 minutes. The man on the couch quickly looked at my computer, made a few minor adjustments, and to my surprise, said “it’s fixed”. And it was. No insane prices or elaborate labour charges. Simple fixes, in front of your face. He also showed me how to maintain my computer, get free spyware, and other handy little tidbits that I still use. They have since been the only people I trust to touch my computer!

Notebook Galaxy

347 Weber Street North, Unit B (near the corner of Weber and Columbia), Waterloo

Tel. 519-886-1112



K-W Real Estate Update

INTEREST RATES
The Bank of Canada took its first steps this week  toward returning the country to more normal interest rate levels by signalling a more hawkish tone on inflation and acknowledging the economy is performing better than expected on “vigorous” consumer demand.

The messages were conveyed in the Bank of Canada’s latest interest-rate statement, which kept its record-low benchmark rate of 0.25% as is and pledged to keep it there until July.

The rate statement emerged a day after economic data indicated the Canadian economy grew at a robust 5% annualized pace in the final three months of 2009, blowing past market expectations for a 4% gain and the central bank’s original 3.3% forecast. Economists say the fourth-quarter performance has set the stage for another robust gain, of perhaps 4% or more, for the first three months of 2010.

Meanwhile, recent data indicate that both the headline and core inflation rates have moved much closer to the 2% level than the central bank had expected. Under the bank’s forecast, the 2% level would not be reached until the third-quarter of next year.

In the statement, the central bank acknowledged economic activity has been “slightly higher” than its own projections, with the 5% gain in the fourth quarter powered by “vigorous domestic demand” and a recovery in exports.

Low interest rates are doing their job in stimulating demand — perhaps, increasingly, too well.”

The consensus remains that the central bank will wait until July to begin raising rates.  There are two more scheduled rate decisions between now and then, with one April 20 and then June 1.
Economists believes rate increases will begin in the third quarter, but  the odds have increased that the first hike will be in July as opposed to September.

How much, and how rapidly, the central bank raises rates beginning in July is up for debate, with economists estimating increases of 100 to 150 basis points in the second half of 2010.Financial Post

HOUSING ACTIVITY IN  2010

According to CMHC housing starts rebounded in the second half of 2009 and will strengthen in 2010.

Following a total of 149,081 units in 2009, housing starts are expected to be in the range of 152,000 to 189,300 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 171,250 units.
 In 2011, housing starts will be in the range of 156,400 to 205,600 units, with a point forecast of 175,150 units.

“Canadian housing markets will benefit from improving economic conditions and low mortgage rates,” said Bob Dugan, Chief Economist for CMHC. “As well, measures recently announced by the Government of Canada to support the long-term stability of Canada’s housing market will help moderate housing activity as some potential buyers will have to save a larger down payment or consider a less expensive home.”

Mr. Dugan also noted that the existing home market has shifted from a buyers’ market, at the beginning of 2009, to a sellers’ market. The relative lack of new listings for existing homes has pushed some of the demand into the new home market, which helps explain the forecast for higher housing starts activity in 2010.

The strong pace of MLS®1 sales seen in the second to fourth quarters of 2009 reflects, in part, activity that was delayed in the previous two quarters. The pace is not likely to be sustained as pent-up demand is exhausted and financing costs increase with anticipated higher interest rates later in 2010. As a result, existing home sales will be in the range of 455,350 to 509,900 units in 2010, with a point forecast of 486,700 units, and then move slightly lower in 2011 to be in the range of 426,300 to 494,600 units, with a point forecast of 469,950 units.

With an improved balance between demand and supply, the average MLS® price is expected to remain close to the average in the last quarter of 2009, for most of 2010, and then rise modestly in 2011. CHMC 

KITCHENER- WATERLOO MARKET UPDATE – KWREB  OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE 

KITCHENER‐WATERLOO, ON (March 3, 2010) – While Canada’s athletes were racing for Olympic Gold;Waterloo region’s homebuyers were racing to buy real estate. There were  553 homes traded  in February through the Multiple Listing System (MLS®) for a total value of $153,120,645, marking a 31.7 percent increase over January’s results.
This is the most residential sales we’ve seen in the month of February in over two decades.” said, Ted Scharf, President of the Kitchener‐Waterloo Real Estate Board. “It has been an exceptionally busy start to the year.”
February’s sales included 350 detached homes (up 43.4 percent from 2009), 99 condominium units (up percent from 2009), 52 semis (up 73.3 percent from 2009) and 49 townhouses  (up 63.3 percent from 2009).
There were a total of 75 properties sold in the $300,000 to $350,000 price range‐‐ the second most popular category last month—a 150 percent increase on a year‐over‐year basis.

The most active price range continued to be homes selling between $225,000 and $250,000, with 93 sales, up 50 percent over last year.
The average sale price of all residential sales increased 12.2 percent to $276,891 compared with February 2009. Single detached homes sold for an average price of $324,631, an increase of 15.8 percent compared to last year.

 In the condominium market the average sale price in February was$173,726, an increase of 8.3 percent from one year.
“The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which takes effect on July 1 is likely contributing somewhat to the increased sales we are seeing, “says Scharf.   But the biggest factor influencing strong sales during this traditionally slower time of year according to Scharf, is the historically low-interest rates. “Consumersare taking advantage of current interest rates now before they are predicted to rise this summer.”



Do you live in Kansas City, Missouri? Here’s a sustainable technology workshop for you!
August 13, 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I just received a request from a reader asking me to tell you about an upcoming workshop they are running, so here it is. Looks like a good one!

Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Vault Home – Immersion Workshop

When: End of September, 2009 – 5 or 10 day workshop options

Where: Factor e Farm, Kansas City Area, Missouri, USA

More information: http://openfarmtech.org/weblog/?p=931

In this immersion workshop, you will be building a beautiful vault-roof structure with a living roof and solar design. We are using local soil and roof from this same soil, and aim to complete one structure. Learn the techniques for this building, and if you are curious, you have a rare chance to learn about building the brick press and tractor themselves. We are using equipment that we designed, built, and open-sourced. We are developing open source technology – because it’s good for the world. Do you want to live right but you are cash-poor? We are building the tools and techniques that can help you. Join us.

Marcin Jakubowski, Ph.D.
Open Source Ecology
http://openfarmtech.org
opensourceecology at gmail dot com
Skype: marcin_ose



Is Rapid Transit in the future for the K-W region?

The need for a Central Transit Corridor that would link the three cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge was first identified in 1976 and it seems that an active plan is finally underway to start to really connect them. The region is currently connected by a bus system or by hopping on one of the many roads, highways or walkways. The growing population makes congestion a real issue as nearly three quarters of a million people are expected to be living within the K-W  in the next 25 years.

The region has proposed a light rail transit (LRT) route starting at Conestoga Mall in Waterloo (and possibly extended along King Street to St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market) all the way through the city in a southerly direction to the Ainslie Street Terminal in downtown Cambridge. The system will possibly also feature a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Think of the LRT system like the streetcars in downtown Toronto. The LRT vehicles use rail technology that travel in dedicated lanes, using overhead electric or on-board diesel/hybrid propulsion to make their way through the city. It would be quicker than a bus, but services a smaller, and more direct line. The BRT system uses buses that travel in a dedicated laneway. It would mean there would be an extra lane on the streets with the BRT system dedicated solely to the bus route, allowing it to move much more rapidly through heavy traffic.

The benefits these systems are to be weighed and evaluated and on June 24th, the Preferred Rapid Transit System will be presented to the Regional Council for consideration. If passed and incorporated it would mean another alternative to get around and within the three cities (Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge) without having to use a car.

There are many advantages to these types of systems from an environmental standpoint. A single LRT train could reduce the traffic of nearly 200 vehicles, severely curtailing traffic, congestion and idling within the city. This would mean less smog, and less pollution. If made affordable, an expanded tranist system could also be a cheap option for many people to get to and from work.

I currently ride the #8 bus on almost a daily basis to get to where I need to go during the day. Unfortunately, I still need a car for my business, but I try to use the bus for social events, or many other things I need to do during the day. It comes almost just outside my door at most every 15 minutes and at worst every 45. Depending on the time of day and where I am on the line, the bus can be completely overcrowded or almost completely empty.It’s easy. It ‘s fairly cheap. It gets you where you need to go.

My biggest complaint with this type of system is that they do not run completely responsibly. A service that is carrying people across locations should be accessible when people need it. There is currently almost no service earlier than 5:30 in the morning or 12:30 at night. For someone starting work very early in the morning, tranit is not a good option. It also leaves little option for late night party-goers  to choose a responsible way home. I have been saying this for years:  If you want people not to drink and drive– give them a cheap and reliable way to get themselves home! Keep the buses running an extra 2 or 3 hours or add a few late night options to get people across the cities.

If we are beefing up the transit between the tri-cities, we should also seriously consider beefing up the transit options between cities like Toronto, and London with the K-W. The current round-a-bout system of buses, or trains from Kitchener to Toronto makes inter-city travel between these two cities a tedious and rather costly affair. If the government wants to encourage people to use transit instead of cars, they should subdidize transit to be more affordable. If a ticket from Kitchener to Toronto costs more than the gas to get there and takes at least 2 times as long to get there– who wants to take it?

Do you think the proposed LRT is a good idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



New tax credit available for renovations!
February 22, 2009, 7:16 am
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Some great news for those who are interested in renovating this year! You might qualify for a temporary incentive announced in the new Federal budget. This incentive provides Canadian homeowners or home inhabitants to receive up to $1,350 on eligible expenses over $1,000 up to a maximum of $10,000 in the form of the tax credit. The tax credit is available to any household (1 credit per household only) for work done, or goods bought after January 27, 2009 and prior to February 1, 2010.

(Up to $10,000 – $1,000) X 15%= $tax credit. This means that for $2,000 worth of renovations, you can qualify to receive up to $150 back. So keep your renovation receipts for tax time!

Eligible expenses include: renovating a kitchen, bathroom or basement, building an addition, deck, fence or retaining wall, interior and exterior painting, new sod, driveway, flooring, furnace, air conditioning and water heater. Purchases of appliances, furniture, electronics or tools do not qualify; neither does routine maintenance such as carpet cleaning, furnace tune-up, snow removal, lawn care and pool cleaning.

For more details please check out http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/bdgt/2009/fqhmrnvtn-eng.html



What duties does a Realtor owe you?
January 13, 2009, 2:58 am
Filed under: Buying, Rebecca Sargent, Selling, Uncategorized | Tags:

People are often concerned about what Realtors are actually supposed to do for them.

In Canada, Realtors are licensed and regulated by the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) and governed under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA), which carries certain liabilities and expectations of service. These structures are in place to protect both you (the buyer or seller) and the Realtor.

Let’s say you walk into an open house, and you ask the Realtor at the property some questions? What can they tell, what can’t they tell you, and how should they act? Do they have to tell you the truth? In this situation, regardless of whether you are in a contract or not, the Realtor owes you honesty, fairness and due care in answering questions. As  skilled and licensed professionals, Realtors are expected to provide sound real estate advice that a person can rely on. They are not allowed to willfully or negligently misrepresent information, or assert themselves as experts in an area that they are not familiar with. They may not be able to provide you with all the information they have on a transaction unless you are in an agency relationship, as a protection to their clients, but they are NOT permitted to provide you with faulty information.You should not tell the Realtor in this situation anything you do not want them to directly reveal to the other party. The Realtor’s primary obligation lies with their contracted clients.

If you decide to sign an agency contract with a Realtor, they owe you added duties, including accountability, confidentiality, competence, good faith/full disclosure, loyalty and obedience. Accounting means the agent must keep accurate records of all funds they receive and that all transactions must comply with provincial regulations. Canada’s FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada) requires all Realtors to check your identification for all financial transactions. They are also required to report any suspicious activity (which includes any large cash transactions) to federal authorities by law. Confidentiality requires that the Realtor should not disclose any information relating to your transactions to anyone else without your consent. This means they can’t tell the other party that you are motivated to move, your financial situation, or any other detail about you without your consent. This does not apply to any known material facts of your property (including defects), which a Realtor is obligated to disclose under the general honesty regulation owed to all people.

Competence means that your Realtor must have sufficient knowledge and skill to carry out the transaction. Realtors are obligated to discover certain facts about the property that a reasonable Realtor should be able to ascertain, and have been given training to do this. They are instructed to refer their clients to a third party if they are unable to adequately answer a question. A licence in real estate does not mean the Realtor is licenced to do home inspections, appraisals, or answer legal questions. All homes should be inspected by a licenced inspector for your protection, and a Realtor should not advise you otherwise.

Good faith/full disclosure means that the Realtor must disclose all information they have that relates to the transaction. This means they must tell you everything they know about the property, including any profits they may gain for the transaction from referrals or other reasons. Dual agency, when a Realtor represents both the Buyer and the Seller, is a slightly different situation, as the Realtor must protect the interests of both parties. In this situation, the Realtor should explain the situation to you and get your permission in writing. The Realtor may not tell the Buyer or Seller the price the other party is willing to accept, the motivation of either party, the price the Buyer should offer, or the price the Seller should accept.

Loyalty means that the Realtor should place the interests of their clients above all else except the law. They must act in the best interest of their clients at all times. Obedience means that in a client relationship, the Realtor must follow their client’s lawful instructions whether they agree with them or not.

What is the best way to ensure you are receiving the care and treatment you deserve from a Realtor? Inform yourself of what to expect, and interview a couple of Realtors before you hire one. Ask them what services they are willing to provide you with for their services and get it in writing. Keep copies of all your communication or documents. You always have the option to fire the Realtor if they do not meet the contract. Be aware that most agency contracts have holdover periods which may obligate you to pay commission to them for certain services. If you don’t know, ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question, and your Realtor should make an effort to answer you- that is what you pay them for. 

If you feel that a Realtor has not performed their prescribed duties under their licencing, you should contact CREA or the provincial governing body. The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) handles all complaints in Ontario (ccd@reco.on.ca).

A good Realtor is worth their commission, unfortunately a small handful give the rest a bad name. It is in your best interest to protect yourself by knowing what to expect in the process!