Beginning April 1, 2018, if a consumer is buying a new condominium in Alberta from a developer – an Alberta lawyer must hold the buyer’s purchase deposit in trust while the condominium is being built. Service Alberta announced this change in October 2017.
Prior to April 1, a real estate brokerage or the condominium developer could hold a buyer’s deposit in trust.
Real estate professionals who are representing buyers during their purchase of a new condominium from a developer should confirm the developer uses a lawyer who is an active member of the Law Society of Alberta, and that they operate a trust account under the Legal Profession Act. You must also ensure your clients write their deposit cheques to the developer’s lawyer, in trust, and not to the developer or a real estate brokerage.
Under this new rule, a developer who receives a buyer’s deposit must ensure their lawyer deposits it in the lawyer’s trust account within three business days of receiving it. If the developer agrees, a buyer can have their own lawyer hold their deposit in trust.
Take a few minutes to review the Condominium Developer Info Sheet from Service Alberta for more information about additional Condominium Property Act changes coming on April 1.
U.S. President Donald Trump sent shockwaves through Canada’s economy this past week, first promising punishing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, then at the last minute exempting Canada from those tariffs, at least temporarily.
It’s becoming painfully clear that Trump’s policies (or pronouncements, or whims, or whatever they are) have the potential to upend Canada’s economy, and with it, the lives of Canadians. So maybe it’s time for this real estate-obsessed nation of ours to pose a question that until recently seemed too obscure — or maybe just too weird — to ask: What does Donald Trump mean for Canada’s housing market?
It may seem counter-intuitive, but Trump’s aggressive protectionism might actually work to support house prices.
The Bank of Canada this week decided against yet another interest rate hike, and among its reasons was this statement: “Trade policy developments are an important and growing source of uncertainty for the global and Canadian outlooks.”
Analysts took that to mean the BoC is worried that Trump’s protectionist measures, such as the steel and aluminum tariffs or potential withdrawal from NAFTA, could harm Canada’s economy. And if Trump manages to scare the BoC into a more dovish outlook on the economy, it will mean fewer interest rate hikes in the months to come.
That might actually be good news for Canada’s heavily indebted mortgage borrowers, who are under increasing pressure these days. We’ve seen the BoC hike interest rates three times since last summer, and major mortgage lenders have followed suit. Meanwhile, new mortgage rules are forcing some homebuyers to scale back their ambitions.
The result is a slowing housing market, both nationally and in the two super-pricey markets of Toronto and Vancouver. And the Bank of Canada might now be getting worried about the impact of that slower housing market on Canada’s economy.
“Notably, household credit growth has decelerated for three consecutive months,” the Bank noted in its decision Wednesday.
The irony of it is that, if Trump were to abandon his protectionist measures and the BoC were to assume a more rosy outlook, it would likely mean more rate hikes ahead, and more downward pressure on housing.
All of which is not to say we should be hoping for Trump to slap Canada with massive tariffs or cancel NAFTA; a move like that would cause all sorts of economic damage of its own, regardless of housing. But if Trump pulls the trigger on his protectionist agenda, the Bank of Canada may well respond by freezing interest rates, and some analysts say it may even reverse course and start dropping them.
So a trade war with Trump’s America, while likely to be ugly, will at least help keep those property values from crashing. That may be the closest thing to a silver lining in this whole mess.
From tiny homes to laneway dwellings, Canadians are embracing an increasing range of unique and unusual abodes. But whatever you choose to call “home,” chances are a team of insurance professionals have been working on coverage specially designed to underwrite you.
Tiny homes are increasingly common, especially in urban areas where housing costs have skyrocketed, says Stefan Tirschler, CIP, product and underwriting manager, Square One Insurance Services Inc.
“In the beginning, tiny homes were lived in by a small community of people experimenting with a new way of living,” he says. “Today, we’ve seen zoning changes across the country, and that’s resulted in a wide range of small dwellings on the market. This includes anything from miniature frame homes, portable frame homes on wheels, tiny homes built from shipping containers, laneway homes—even yurt-style homes.”
Tirschler notes that underwriting for tiny homes tends to build on safety standards for existing homes or materials used in the structure.
“For example, a shipping container home is likely to be similar in coverage to a standard home once it’s been delivered,” he says.
Smaller prefabricated or manufactured homes have also become more common. A manufactured home is typically delivered to the site on a chassis, lifted off and mounted onto a foundation. A slight variation, a park model home, remains on the chassis, but can be lived in as a permanent residence.
“The question we ask ourselves as underwriters is, where do these homes fit and to what standard do they need to be built?” says Michael Hewett, senior product manager, leisure and lifestyle, with Aviva Canada Inc. “The Canadian Standards Association, for example, offers standards for manufactured homes and park model homes. We also look to these same standards as a basis to underwrite tiny homes that are built in a similar manner.”
He notes, however, that owners of manufactured homes should seek an appropriate amount of coverage for additional living expenses.
“A manufactured home may have lower value, but it could take up to year to order a new home from a manufacturer,” Hewett says. “We allow customers living in these homes to buy additional coverage for living expenses.”
Homes designated as heritage buildings also offer unique challenges for underwriters, says Jackie Murison, FCIP, CRM, ICP, portfolio and innovation specialist with The Commonwell.
“The policy must take into consideration when the home was built, whether someone of cultural or historical importance lived in it, or any unique building materials that must be used in a rebuild,” she says. “You couldn’t replace plaster walls with drywall or stained glass with regular glass. The homeowner won’t have a choice on that. Properly valuing those rebuilds can be a big challenge.”
She notes that the Town Hall in Lindsay, Ont., is a heritage building that happens to be two feet out of alignment because the builder shifted the surveyor’s pegs.
“If there was an insured loss, that same alignment would have to be considered,” she says.
High-value homes also require custom coverage, says Anthea McFarland, CIP, senior vice-president, personal insurance at HUB International.
“In many cases, we’re talking about homes with an average value of up to $1,000 per square foot, reflecting such building materials as the most valuable marble and granite finishes,” she says. “We send out specialist appraisers to these homes to come up with a number that covers exactly how much it would cost to replace the custom detail in these homes.”
Often, Canadian owners of high-value homes also own properties in the U.S., the Bahamas or the UK, and brokers such as HUB International work with a global network of insurers to cover all of the dwellings under a single policy.
“High-net-worth insurers also offer a range of additional policy coverage,” says McFarland. “These can cover anything from appliance failure and maintenance, kidnap or ransom insurance, and even cyberbullying insurance, to cover the services of a therapist for child victims. Some clients also request standalone insurance policies to cover specialized art collections, including van Goghs and Warhols. As a broker for this client group, we endeavour to be a one-stop shop.”
Canada’s housing market continues to evolve in fresh new ways.
“Technology continues to reduce the distance between customer and underwriter,” says Tirschler. “We’re much better positioned to take notice of customer needs and expectations and adapt and respond to them much more quickly – wherever and however they choose to live.”
This article was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of the Insurance Institute of Canada.
The Killarney project is easing regulations to allow for off-site prefabrication, and the builder believes it will be the first of many homes like it
In a backyard in the southwest community of Killarney, three shipping containers are being positioned above a two-car garage to create 480 square feet of living space for Chad Saunders and his wife, Jennifer Head. The finished residence will be the first laneway shipping-container home in Calgary.
Jeremy Johnson, founder of the Calgary-based builder responsible, Modern Huts, believes it will be the first of many.
“Since the containers were put in position a couple of weeks ago, we’ve had a lot of inquiries on costs and timescales,” Mr. Johnson says. “Killarney is a community which is pretty open to density and innovation and people are interested and excited to see something like this come to Calgary.”
“Most container companies are building laneway homes fully modular and then moving the completed units into position, which is a very efficient and economical way to build, but we’re having to site-build for this project because of the city’s inspection process. They want to see all the processes as the build unfolds,” he says.
This has meant Mr. Johnson and his team will be on site for approximately three months, rather than the five days which would be required were they permitted to complete the build off-site.
Since starting the project, Mr. Johnson says this particular inspection process has been revised and the city will allow container homes to be built fully prefabricated in future.
“Until now, you could use modular building techniques but the city was sticky on anything that was fully prefabbed and delivered, even with modular homes,” he says. “Laneway – and specifically container homes – are still very new to Calgary so the city has been pretty cautious, but we’re seeing that change now, which is good news.”
Despite the challenges, Mr. Johnson says the build, which is his company’s third container home, is going well. He expects the entire one-bedroom suite, including the two-car garage underneath, to come in around $130,000.
“The cost to build will be similar to a stick-frame build but it will be quicker, even without building off-site, more durable and will result in a far more energy efficient building. The R-values we’re reaching are really high and we’re hopeful of achieving Passive [House] standards someday,” he says. (Passive House is a standard for ultralowenergy efficiency.)
“The exterior of the suite is being left largely as metal, so will require virtually no maintenance, and we’re also generating a lot less garbage,” Mr. Johnson says. “We have eight bags of garbage on site right now and drywall starts this week. With a stick build, at the same stage, we’d have a full bin of waste leaving the site already.”
Upon completion in March, Mr. Saunders and Ms. Head will move into the container suite with their eight-year-old son while Mr. Johnson renovates their 1950 bungalow. Mr. Saunders has owned the property on the corner of 32nd St. and 26thAve. S.W. for 19 years. He bought it as a starter home but, as the years passed, he and his wife started talking about paying off the mortgage and renovating, rather than moving.
“When we started to approach builders about doing a renovation, most of them said we’d be better to knock the house down and built from scratch, but we really weren’t interested in building a monster house,” he says. “When Jeremy suggested we include the old garage in the reno, that’s when we started to think about putting in a suite. We’ve always liked the idea of shipping-container homes – what they stand for from an environmental perspective and also how they look.”
The couple have no firm long-term plans for their garage-top property yet but Mr. Saunders, who works in the arts, says they could end up letting it out to an artist in residence.
“If we find the perfect renter, then great, but we’re also considering options with organizations like Alberta Ballet which need temporary accommodation for artists from time to time. We think that could be a really fun and interesting way to use the space,” he says. “We actually hope to engage a local artist to create a mural on the side of the container which faces into the yard when it’s finished, too.”
Mr. Saunders also sees long-term value in having a second residence on the family property.
“We know from relatives how expensive care facilities can be and how challenging that is for seniors. We figure that maybe in 30 years, if our family needs a caregiver, someone could move into that house. It doesn’t hurt to think ahead and have options,” he says. “We’d rather diversify the land we have now than build a huge house that we’ll struggle to take care of in the future.”
Mr. Johnson says caregiving is one of the main motivators for clients inquiring with his company about laneway homes.
“When we finish this project, we move onto another shipping container laneway home in Silver Springs. It’ll be a four-container suite providing 640 square feet of living space and two bedrooms for a daughter and her son who are moving back onto the family property to provide care to her parents,” he says. “Silver Springs is a neighbourhood where you find a lot of retirees and we’ve had other inquiries for the same kind of project from that community.”
Other projects planned for summer include a laneway office for a client in Mount Royal and a solar-powered, hydroponic greenhouse for a client in Briar Hill who’s interested in year-round growing. Both would be fashioned from a single shipping container.
Mr. Johnson says in time he’s like to start to prefabricate shipping container suites and have them shipped across Canada. But, for now, he’s focusing on the local market in Calgary where laneway homes are becoming more common and, he says, there’s “virtually no competition for small-scale, backyard shipping-container projects.”
Good news, stressed-out, would-be homebuyers: You may not have to give up on your dream of owning a home in one of Canada’s pricey cities just yet.
For the first time in nearly three years, housing affordability in Canada is actually improving.
The National Bank of Canada’s home affordability measure fell 0.2 points in the fourth quarter of 2017, meaning that an average mortgage on a representative home was slightly cheaper than it was a quarter earlier.
That’s the first time that has happened since the second quarter of 2015, the bank said in a client note Thursday.
It’s largely thanks to two phenomena:
Falling house prices in the Toronto area over the past half year
“The countrywide fourth-quarter wage growth of 5.7 per cent annualized was the strongest in more than three years,” National Bank economists Matthieu Arseneau and Kyle Dahms wrote.
How much of your income you need to spend to afford an average mortgage
They say this strong wage growth is going to have to keep going to keep affordability stable, because other factors are pushing housing costs upwards — namely, rising interest rates that have led to rising mortgage rates.
Mortgage rates have risen about 0.58 percentage points since the middle of 2017, Arseneau and Dahms said.
“The most expensive markets such as Toronto and Vancouver are the most sensitive to interest rate hikes,” they wrote.
“In Toronto, the rate rise combined with the tax on foreign purchases seems to have suppressed demand. Prices were down in Q4 and are likely to continue falling in 2018.”
Vancouver, they say, is “another story.” The city is less affordable today than at any other point since the early 1980s, having recovered solidly from the introduction of a foreign buyers’ tax in 2016.
But the new provincial budget, tabled this week, increased the foreign buyers’ tax to 20 per cent from 15 per cent, and introduced a speculators’ tax on properties owned by people who don’t live in British Columbia, assessed at two per cent of the home’s value.
The National Bank economists say that “is likely to lower prices in the Vancouver market in 2018.”
In other words, both Toronto and Vancouver have a good chance of becoming more affordable this year, assuming wages continue to grow.
And that may be the best news prospective homebuyers have gotten in quite a long time.
Over the last two days we have talked about your Realtors networks and Passive vs. Active Marketingbut there are a few things that you should know about listing your home that will set you up for success when you are ready to put your house on the market!
Neat and Tidy
We know that you love your home, and you might have kids and kids can be messy, or maybe you have pets and sometimes pets smell. Realtors have homes, with all of these same things, I promise we don’t all live in pristine real estate marvels, in fact if you walk into my house I can promise you will be tripped by a hockey stick or a dog toy, BUT I cannot emphasize this enough, your home needs to be spotless for photos and for showings. it sucks, we all know this, it is hard to keep your home in show home shape, but it will not sell if it isn’t. Try and have it “show home” clean when you have your Realtor interview so that they can get a clear picture of what your home looks like on its best day!
2. Listen to your Lister
You are obviously going to have a conversation with your Realtor about the listing price of your home. Realtors have tools that they use to identify what your home should be listed at, these tools (called CMA, which we will talk about in a later post) combined with a savvy understanding of the current market conditions your Realtor can usually pin point pretty close what your home should be listed at and ultimately what it should sell for. One fatal flaw in home owners is that they don’t listen to this number, typically because they think their house is worth more. Some Realtors will push back because of knowledge and expertise, some will take the listing at a higher price tag, simply to get your listing… when this happens you can find yourself in a vortex of price dropping and haggling with offers when and if they come in. If your home is priced right (not too high or too low) it will sell. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about list price, but ultimately if your Realtor has stats to back the price point… take their advice.
3. Clear the Clutter
This is your home, of course you would have personal touches, nik naks and frames. maybe some crazy feature walls, or novelty rooster collections. We know you love these items, we do too. BUT potential buyers don’t. Most people when viewing a home cannot look past the esthetic and see true potential of their own items in a home, in fact they have the same problem with empty spaces. This is why a staged home will always sell faster 10/10 times. You can start this by packing up any personalized items and clutter. particularly toys, and collections, photos and other chachkeys that can be distracting for the potential buyer. Think of it as a head start on packing for your move out!
4. Be flexible and realistic
Thinking about upcoming showings can be overwhelming and daunting, but showings are good, they are the pass that takes you right to the touchdown, showings is where your offer will come from. The worst part; showings aren’t typically a 9:00-5:00 job. Now, this is still your home, you call the shots. It is really important that you are as flexible and realistic when setting schedules with your agent. If you have a 2 year old, maybe any showings after 7:00pm aren’t acceptable, maybe you need 24 hours notice before a showing, these are normal requests and completely acceptable! it is your home after all. Set clear expectations with your agent, but be mindful that if they call you and someone wants to see your house in the next 3 hours and you say no… that could have been the person who wanted to buy it.
5. Be patient, and communicate
If you have questions about your listing, the market, the last showing… the weather you need to know that you should be asking! Your agent should be keeping you informed about your listing, but if you’re not getting what you need, call them! Some agents even have review software that will generate feedback immediately following a showing, really good agents follow up with the buyers agent to try and close a deal, or at the very least find out why they didn’t choose your home, and the Great agents bring in their own buyers… from that network we talked about!
How important is marketing in Real Estate you ask? In short… it is incredibly important, in fact it can mean the difference between a sale and you sitting frustrated on your property for months, it can also be the difference in your listing becoming stale in the market because it sits for too long with little to no exposure.
I like to think that every Realtor has their own tips and tricks that they use to generate business, employ smart marketing techniques and do the very best for their client. The truth is, at the end of the day it breaks down to two types of agents. Active and Passive Marketers.
Every Realtor does this, and some pawn it off as highly effective marketing tools, but at the end of the day they are waiting for the business to find them. Waiting for the buyer to call. Passive marketing is listing the home on MLS, putting it on a website, (that may or may not generate google ad words). There is nothing wrong with passive marketing, and every Realtor should do it because there is always the online buyer who shops around and can and will find you on MLS, but it isn’t exceeding expectations and it isn’t going above and beyond.
Active marketing is when the rubber meets the road. We talked in my previous post about SELRES_9462f936-7d9e-4c3b-a82d-5fcb73a642d1NetworksSELRES_9462f936-7d9e-4c3b-a82d-5fcb73a642d1and this has a lot to do with that. Active marketing is when your Agent is actively searching the market for a buyer for your home. They can do this through their network, through lead capture services that they can deploy through various social media channels, and their website. Your Realtor should create a brand for your home. Does your Realtor use a professional photographer? are they a professional photographer? do they do home staging? what do they charge for home staging? All of these tools tie together and make your home sale something extra special, not just another MLS number on the proverbial YYC Real Estate shelf. Now, marketing costs money! The right kind of marketing costs lots of money! This is why you hire a Realtor, so you don’t have to navigate this alone. Always make sure to ask what the price tag is attached to any marketing plan when you are discussing commissions, offering photos and home staging is great, but ensure you know what that will cost you in the end. We will talk about where your money is going in a later post!
Kevin D’Costa Fun Fact! Did you know that I am an accredited staging professional RE. Did you also know that I offer this service to all of my clients? The best part, you rarely have to run out and buy thousands of dollars worth of furniture, usually just some minor esthetic and décor items are enough!
The point I am trying to make is this; When you’re interviewing a Realtor do not be afraid to ask them what exactly they are going to do for you? how are they going to market your home? Now that you know if you get the “I have a great webpage and I will list it on MLS” are the wrong answers, you can ask for more. expect more!
January activity was down in three-quarters of all local markets and virtually all major urban areas.
Canadian home sales fell 14.5 per cent between December and January, marking the lowest sales level in three years as the housing market was hit last month by a double whammy of tighter mortgage rules and lending rate hikes.
Data released by the Canadian Real Estate Association Thursday suggested that January activity was down in three-quarters of all local markets and virtually all major urban areas, especially in Ontario’s hot spot in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The decline was less significant on an annual basis, with sales falling 2.4 per cent.
Sales climbed to a record monthly high in December, according to CREA’s figures, ahead of the stress test that requires all potential buyers qualifying for a mortgage to show that they can manage interest rate increases.
“The decline in January sales provides clear evidence that the strength in activity late last year reflected a pull-forward of transactions, as rational homebuyers hurried to purchase before mortgage rules changed in 2018,” said Gregory Klump, the association’s chief economist.
The federal banking regulator introduced tougher rules for uninsured mortgages beginning Jan. 1 that require a stress test for borrowers with a more than 20 per cent down payment. They now have to prove that they can service mortgage at a qualifying rate of the greater of the contractual mortgage rate plus two percentage point or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.
The monthly decline “is largely payback” for buyers rushing to sign deals in the last three months of the year, ahead of the new rules, said Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a note.
January sales on par with 10-year monthly average
The January market also dampened due to the Bank of Canada’s decision to raise interest rates to 1.25 per cent, up from one per cent. It was the bank’s third increase since last summer, following hikes in July and September.
The central bank’s interest rate increase impacts variable rate mortgage holders, but those who opt for fixed mortgages also saw a rise in the five-year fixed rate amid rising bond yields and a stronger economy.
CREA noted that January home sales are on par with the 10-year monthly average and that a large decline in new listings prevented the market balance from shifting in favour of homebuyers. The average price of a home rose by 2.3 per cent when compared with last year at just over $481,500.
Interestingly, new listings plunged.
The national sales-to-new listings ratio was 63.6 per cent in January. A ratio reading above 60 per cent generally indicates a sellers’ market.
The number of newly-listed homes was at the lowest level since spring 2009. About 85 per cent of all markets had fewer listings. The Greater Toronto Area led the decline, with large percentage drops also in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan region, as well as parts of Ontario.
“Interestingly, new listings plunged,” Kavcic said, highlighting a 21.6 per cent drop in listings from December 2017 to January 2018 that he said allowed the market balance to tighten up at the national level.
The highly anticipated report confirmed expectations for how the market would react to the new mortgage rules, Michael Dolega, a senior economist with TD Economics, wrote in a note.
He expects some near-term volatility to continue as buyers and sellers absorb the fall out from the new rules and rising rates. But, Dolega said “some stabilization” should occur by the middle of the year.
“Thereafter we expect activity to remain weighed down by rising interest rates, but with markets largely in balanced territory prices should remain well supported,” he said.
The new mortgage rules created uncertainty and confusion for homebuyers, said CREA President Andrew Peck in a statement.
“At the same time, the changes do nothing to address government concerns about home prices that stem from an ongoing supply shortage in major markets like Vancouver and Toronto. Unless these supply shortages are addressed, concerns will persist.”
I have always received these questions, periodically, but lately it seems like almost daily I am asked “how do I choose the right realtor to sell my home”. I have always been an advocate of interviewing agents and ensuring that you have the right fit for you. You should never choose a Realtor without knowing and understanding how they are going to work for you! I am writing a part mini series that will include some insider tips on what to look for in a Realtor and very specific things to ask while you’re interviewing. Choosing someone to sell your home is a very important choice, I want to make sure you know what to look for!
A Realtors network is like a golden ticket. Most might think “The bigger the team and the fancier the website the quicker the sale” This isn’t necessarily true. Your realtor should have a network of potential buyers, sellers, Realtors, Mortgage professionals, lenders and brokers that work as a team to get the job done. Ask your Realtor about his or her professional network, you very well could be interviewing a Realtor that has a client just waiting to put an offer in on your home, they were simply waiting for that special something to come along. Real Estate professionals can’t work in silos, the biggest key to success in Real Estate is to have a respected group of people who you connect with regularly.
I recently did a study on first time home buyers in Alberta. 23% of those who responded said that they were not in the market to buy a home. The top reasons being 1. down payment and 2. Mortgage approval. As the study continued it became glaringly obvious that for MOST of this 23% home ownership was actually attainable, they simply were not educated or up to date on what options are available to them. My point here is this; Take **John and Susie for example. Looking for their dream home which is a 1200sq ft. front attached garage home in Windsong. They believed they would never qualify so they were waiting and saving… waiting… and saving. I had the opportunity to list a 1300sqft home in Windsong that would be PERFECT for this growing family. You guessed right… Because I have a trusted network of professionals we had their down payment sorted out, had them Mortgaged (with a pretty great rate to boot) and into this home. Their Mortgage payment is less than they were paying in rent and they OWN it! All of this they originally thought was unattainable. Now, This is a stellar example because Bob and Betty were able to sell their home before it even hit MLS for 24 hours and John and Susie were home owners, but not unrealistic with the right opportunity and the right network of Real Estate wizards working together! Every thing is impossible if you don’t try! Your Realtor should always try! with everything they have got! So when you’re interviewing, ask them this; “What does your professional network look like, and how are you going to step up to the plate for me?”