Why Ottawa will have the best winter sales in a decade or more

sales should help “warm” Ottawa winter

Ottawa real estate normally pretty much hibernates from late November to late February but this may not be the case this year.  Buyers and sellers will want to consider the following factors and consider whether they wish to move up their buying or selling plans accordingly:

 

Listing inventory at decade lows:
The level of available properties to purchase continues to be extremely low and the number of new listings coming on the market, shows no signs of reversing this trend. Supply/demand alone would suggest that this has to put more upward pressure on selling prices.

Residential listings are currently 17.5% lower than last year, 35.5% lower than 2016 and 48.8% lower than 2015.

Condo listings are 34.5% lower than 2017, 45.5% lower than 2016 and 55.8% lower than 2015.

Even rental listings are down quite significantly, 31.6% lower than last for MLS rental listings.

Beat the price increase!  Your next house is going up $2-3K a month!

With residential prices on the way up (+5.7% through Oct 2018) that dream house is getting more expensive day-by-day.  For example:  a $500,000 property today may well be $525,000 or even $530,000 by the end of 2019 peak selling season.  That’s an increase of $2,000 to $2,500 per month and with mortgage rates also headed north, the cost of servicing a mortgage is also increasing.  The mortgage “stress test” which is typically 2% above the mortgage rate being offered is also moving upwards as rates rise thus making approvals more challenging for some buyers.

New construction price and availability:
Builders are also facing limited availability, after two record years of sales and also are facing some labour shortages and price pressure.  All of these factors will also continue to push up the price of new construction.

Mortgage rates:
Rates are pretty well guaranteed to rise a half point in the next 6 to 12 months, with an outside chance of going up a full % point.  This adds challenge to the approval process (mortgage stress test) and monthly cost for buyers and homeowners, so buying now and locking in at a lower rate will have some advantages. *new construction buyers will have to make sure they get a guaranteed rate from their mortgage broker or bank to cover them for the longer new build timelines.

Local economy is strong:
The local economy seems pretty solid regarding employment and there appears to be no signs of the Federal Government doing any significant belt tightening in advance of next year’s election. (Though one never knows?)  So our market should continue its current moderate upward path in the immediate future.

Provincial and municipal budgets:

A “new” city council in Ottawa is in place and we also have a relatively new Provincial government in Toronto.  The Provinces’ fiscal challenges are well noted and there are also signs that the City of Ottawa has its own issues.  Here are a few things that could happen that might add cost for buyers and sellers:

  1. If Ottawa council feels really in a budget pinch, is it possible that a Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT) could be implemented here? This would add $5,000-$10,000 to the typical residential purchase transaction cost here and would cause a bubble and price run up in advance of implementation.   To put this in perspective: the total land transfer tax on a $500K home would jump to almost $13,000 and $21,000 for a $700,000 home purchase.
  2. What is the Provincial government going to do to fix their huge fiscal problem? Could they raise the level of the Provincial Land Transfer Tax? Add some other “luxury” or other tax on housing?
  3. Could Ottawa raise development charges which once again adds to the cost of new construction homes and condos?
  4. What effect will “inclusionary zoning” have on costs of new construction? This principle requires builders and developers to include provision for lower cost housing in their new projects but will certainly affect the cost of new properties, as it becomes more prevalent in the near future.
  5. Do the Feds have any plans in their National Housing plan that might affect buyers, sellers or homeowners?

 

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage

613-435-4692 oasisrealty@rogers.com

Optimizing real estate transaction costs

 

does low listing inventory signal even more price increases in 2019?

Listing inventory end Oct 2018

Ottawa listing inventory is a prime indicator of our seller’s market conditions this year. Chart shows the tremendous change in October month end listing inventory over the last 4-5 years. (from a buyers’ market in 2014/15)
Residential listings are currently 17.5% lower than last year, 35.5% lower than 2016 and 48.8% lower than 2015.
Condo listings are 34.5% lower than 2017, 45.5% lower than 2016 and 55.8% lower than 2015.

Why aren’t prices up even more?
Given these figures, one almost wonders why we have not seen even more upwards price pressure, with residential prices up (only) 5.7% in 2018 to $449,005 and condo selling prices overall essentially flat with an average selling price increase of only .6% to $271,350 at the end of October.

On the good news front, new listings appearing on a monthly basis are starting to level off somewhat, so the listing inventory situation does not appear to be getting any worse.  Many buyers however, are finding it very difficult to find and secure the property they want.  Low listings and quicker selling times have resulted in more multiple offers which typically generate a selling price above the listing price.

Now is great time to be planning a purchase or sale for 2019, as one can only see more scarcity and perhaps even higher prices in 2019.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record

Oasis Realty Brokerage  613-435-4692

Ask about our amazing 2% exclusive listing fee!

 

Trends in legal services for real estate closings

Lawyers play a critically important role in closing real estate transactions and providing advice to buyers and sellers along the way.  At a recent legal seminar presented by Mark Weisleder of realestatelawyers.ca, we got a short update on several new trends in the closing process that are focused on making life simpler for both consumers and realtors.

Some lawyers will now come to you:
There are more than one lawyer around offering mobile services but it is certainly a great option for many buyers and sellers.  Having the lawyer (or representative) come to your office or home can be a time saver and very convenient.

Electronic funds transfer:
Lawyers can now do electronic funds transfer more readily in both accepting deposits and closing funds plus disbursing proceeds.  Super time saver for all concerned.  Saves trips to banks for certified cheques or bank drafts.

In the case of realtors, we receive commission funds immediately upon closing, along with notification that the deal has actually closed.  Age old system has relied upon lawyers mailing a commission cheque upon closing and the listing agent brokerage processing that cheque through their own banking network, while also cutting a paper cheque to the co-operating brokerage. Sellers of course, had to make another trip to the lawyers’ office to pick up a cheque for any net proceeds of their sale.

Multi-site closing locations:
Though interaction is minimal on real estate closings (1-2 meetings) many lawyers are now offering closing services in multiple locations across the city (or in the case of realestatelawyers.ca, at 35 locations across the Province)

House Key Management:
A cute and interesting timesaver for buyers and sellers, is that realestatelawyers.ca provides a lockbox to a seller which they install on or before closing day with a set of keys inside.  Once the transaction has closed, the sellers’ lawyer provides the lockbox code to the buyer and their lawyer and the buyer can gain immediate access to the property without having to drive to the sellers’ lawyers’ office or other physical location to pick up the keys.  The lockbox is gifted to the buyer, thus saving the necessity of a representative returning to the property to retrieve it.

Condo Status documentation package available electronically or on a rush basis:
Condo status certificate review is a critical function of a lawyer on a condo purchase.  Property Management companies have 10 days by law to produce these docs for a lawyer representing a buyer at a fee of approximately $100.  This is typically quite a pile of legal docs and schedules that have been photocopied numerous times but finally, these are being made available electronically.  (although most here in Ottawa still seem to require paper and a physical pick up or courier charge to get these to the buyer’s lawyer.

The 10 day allowable timeline for Property managers to produce the docs (though most are done within 5 business days) does drag out the conditional sales period for a condo sale.  This is not advantageous for a seller, as their property is pretty much “off the market” or suspended while awaiting these condo docs. Many property managers will provide an expedited service (24-48 hours) for double the typical fee (ie. Therefore $200) which becomes the buyer expense.

Condo docs good for 90 days:
We think a better idea all around, is for sellers to order the condo Status documentation package at time of listing and make it available to buyers and their agents to review when in advance of making an offer to purchase and thus shortening the need for an extended conditional period.  These are normally 5-7 business days for residential properties and 10 business days for condos. Condo status document packages are good for legal purposes for 90 days from date of issue, so as long as closing is within 90 days of the package date, they are very useful.

Multiple offers:
Having condo docs immediately available greatly facilitates multiple offers.  In Toronto, approximately 50% of sellers invest in condo doc package at time of listing, although it is still fairly rare here in Ottawa.  Some are doing it but probably less than 5%.  This is an idea worth pursuing for anyone selling a condo.  Buyers will want to make arrangements with their lawyer to review these docs ahead of making a purchase, as what is contained in those docs may determine whether or how much they wish to offer for the condo.

Fees and Disbursements:
A reminder for both sellers and buyers to be sure to ask for the cost of legal fees (the lawyer fees)  and disbursements necessary to process a specific transaction.  These fees include land transfer tax, mortgage registration, title insurance, courier fees, govt fees and other services necessary to complete a transaction.

Fees are usually slightly higher for a buyer than a seller. (+$200)

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Oasis Realty Brokerage
Ottawa 613-435-4692

oasisrealty@rogers.com  oasisrealtyottawa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conditional sales falling like autumn leaves

As most know, we have a seller’s market here in Ottawa as we close out 2018.  Sales and prices are up and listing inventory is pretty scarce in most market segments.
One statistic that seems almost out of line with the strength of the market and lack of listings is the number of conditional sales that are terminated by buyers and do not go firm.

The numbers: (such as are available) 
We don’t have a regular report mechanism on the amount of such sales but for the last 12-18 months, this ratio has more than doubled from 4-5% of sales to as much as 10-15%.  We offer as evidence a current 7 day period where new listings have been 406 and conditional sales 304 and firm sales 370.  The number of “back-on-market” listings during this period is a significant 74 or almost 20-25% in relation to the sales.  This is extraordinarily and we feel the overall level is probably in the 10-15% range noted previously.

So what is causing this massive number of sales cancellations?
There are several reasons why sales fall through in any market, these including: Inspection, financing and good old fashioned buyer remorse.  All 3 of these factors are enhanced in the current market.

Inspection:
Sellers feel they are in a strong position in this sellers’ market, so may not be as amenable to making price adjustments or fixing issues identified by inspectors, knowing there are a lot more buyers out there for their home.

Buyers accordingly, are often buying at their maximum and often feel they are paying a premium (even over paying) and therefore, some may try to renegotiate the deal price wise, without reciprocity from the seller.

Financing:
Mortgage rates have risen and the new mortgage “stress test” may still be catching some buyers unawares thus resulting in buyer inability to obtain satisfactory financing.

Hurried purchase decisions:
Buyer remorse can always be a factor in the termination of conditional sales.  Often caused by either irrational enthusiasm by one or more of the buyers or most likely where one buyer loves the property and the other merely likes it.

In the current environment of listing scarcity and multiple offers, buyers don’t get as much time to research a property (many only get a chance to see it once, before having to decide on an offer) and then once they have longer to think about it, they are not as enamoured with it as originally thought.

Unfortunately, a hasty purchasing decision in a rushed and stressful environment, leaves plenty of room for error and many buyers may be re-thinking the suitability of the property or re-evaluating the purchase price being paid or both.  Conditional sales agreements are written in way that favours the buyer significantly and that conditional period can often end up being a “cooling off period” and buyers can be pretty subjective in their decision making on whether to firm up the deal or not.

Sellers are adversely affected by such cancellations, as they may lose some of the other buyer interest during the conditional sales period when their property is pretty much “off the market” while a buyer does their due diligence and attempts to complete their conditions.  Other buyers may wonder if “ something is wrong” with the property and may therefore lose interest in it.  Still others may have gone on to buy something else.

The best solution to this problem is for buyers who are well prepared and well coached with appropriate financing in hand and a good knowledge of current market value.  If all of these are in place, we can hopefully optimize the current high level of sales cancellations.

Gord McCormick
Broker of Record
Oasis Realty Brokerage
Ottawa  613-435-4693
oasisrealty@rogers.com

April 2018 poised to break monthly sales records?

3rd largest sales month:
April is typically the 3rd largest unit sales month of the year and this year looks to be no exception.  Despite an ever lingering winter, sales have been strong through the first 3 weeks of the year.
Our totally unofficial numbers suggest a sales increase that will be at least in the 10-15% range for the month which would take us over the 2,000 mark for combined residential and condo monthly sales.  (last year there were 1,795 properties sold in April and the 5 year average was 1,613.)

New listings:
April is typically the 2nd largest month for new listing activity and listing activity looks pretty strong this year also and should be equal to or greater than the number of new listings in April 2017.  Given our very tight listing inventory situation, this would be some good news for buyers, as new listings have trended down for much of the last 18 months, but with sales trending strongly up, sellers’ market conditions are expected to continue.

Total listing inventory:
Our current overall listing inventory is not even enough to cover sales for two months, when normally a balanced market would be 4 or 5 months of listing inventory, so no respite foreseen from our current tight inventory with the number 1 (May)  and #2 (June) sales months next up.

Sales to new listings this month:
Again unofficially, our numbers show that the ratio of sales to new listings (and key performance indicator in real estate) is 70.4% during the month of April thus far.  For reference: a balanced market is said to exist when sales: new listings is between 40-60% and a buyer’s market when the ratio drops below 40%.

Sales cancellations continue on the higher side:
Typically, about 5-6% of conditional sales fall through and do not “ firm” up and result in a completed sale.  Our current run rate on this stat is more like 10-12% or double the normal.  Financing and inspection issues are the principle cause but good old fashioned buyer’s remorse may also be a factor in a hot market where buyers have little time to consider whether to purchase or not.

What to expect?
Expect to see a lot of exclusive and “coming soon” listings, offer dates, “ bully”  offers and multiple offers. The next few weeks are also the main time for out of town buyers (mostly military, RCMP and other government employees relocating) to be in the market, so activity will be fast and furious.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage
613-435-4692 oasisrealty@rogers.com

How overuse of exclusive listings undermines MLS®

 

Given our existing low listing inventory situation, many Realtors are convincing their buyers to “try” an exclusive listing to sell their property. While anything a seller and listing agent choose to do is up to them, it does have some consequences for the overall market, including that particular seller.

These exclusive listings are often flagged with sign toppers that say “exclusive listing” or “Coming Soon…” and we believe many listing agents wish to cash in on the listing scarcity for their own marketing and prospect generation purposes. What better way to entice a buyer to contact them than to offer something they may not be able to access otherwise?

Seller cannot be sure they actually get full market value for their home/property:
Selling to a small subset or “VIP” audience of buyers does not necessarily generate a full market value offer. Full market value can only be obtained by the widest possible exposure of a listing to the full MLS® market over time and this does not happen with these grey market listings.
The bottom line is that if the seller is happy with the price they get…then so what? …but just like the seller who sells quickly and then wonders “ should I have listed higher?” the exclusive listing seller may wonder the same thing.

No oversight on “exclusive” listings:
These listings are not on MLS® and therefore not subject to the extensive policies and processes administered by our Ottawa Real Estate Board to ensure fairness and equal access. The Board has no authority to investigate such listings and the 63 pages of OREB MLS® rules do not apply, so though not probable-abuses are possible.  Ie. Might a listing agent choose to give preferential access to their exclusive listing to their own buyers?  Or to their own small circle of Realtor friends or preferred Realtors?  One of the reasons MLS® works so well is that it is available to all 3,000 plus Ottawa Realtors and their buyers with equal access.

Loss of listing inventory may artificially inflate demand in the MLS® marketplace:
Further limiting supply in the listing starved MLS® market, will only enhance demand and potentially push prices higher. Our Ottawa market has been successful over the years by being steady and not as subject to the peaks and valleys of some of our Canadian neighbours.  Spiking demand and driving prices up to double digit increases, risks a longer and flatter market when demand eventually does level off.

Loss of listing data hurts buyers, sellers and Realtors:
By selling a property on the open non MLS® market, the MLS® system gets no data capture from that transaction and that information cannot be used by future buyers and sellers (and their agents) to assess their own buying and selling plans. MLS® data (and photos!)  is critical to helping the marketplace judge what market value should be and losing out data makes that process more difficult.

Searching listings for buyers is a real challenge in this marketplace and the more places a buyer or buyer agent has to sift through to find new listings, makes the search process that much more difficult and frustrating.

MLS® listings should not be “old news”
If a large % of listings get advance marketed as “exclusive” listings for 2-4 weeks and then ultimately get listed on MLS® for full exposure then MLS® listings run the risk of being deemed “old news” which is not good for the credibility and integrity of MLS® as “the” place to go for new listings.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should:
Just because online marketing and social media presence make it easier and more immediate to market properties today than in the dark printed past, doesn’t mean one should short circuit the central MLS® system.

While many coin operated Realtors may choose to find the shortest, quickest way to a closing and a commission cheque, most will realize that continuing to utilize the MLS® system and protecting its integrity, is still the best way to market listings. Trying to short circuit the system for marketing advantage ultimately weakens our MLS® system and makes losers of us all.

Why is the listing agent proposing an exclusive listing?
We are clearly not in favour of the widespread use of exclusive listings and we certainly didn’t see too many of them when we had a buyers’ market back in 2015 or 2015. So most sellers should have the discussion with their listing agent and try to really understand what it is they are selling and why.  Ultimately, whatever seller and listing agent agree is fine but both parties should be aware that they could be missing out on “top dollar” by not marketing the property first on the full-fledged MLS® system where all buyers and their agents can easily find and consider the property on an equal access basis with well-defined policies and procedures in place.

If you wish to discuss this or any other residential real estate matter with us, we are happy to do so! Feel free to give us a call at 613-435-4692.  You can also follow other items of real estate interest on our website, blog and social media below.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage
www.oasisrealtyottawa.com   http://blog.oasisrealtyottawa.com/

https://twitter.com/OasisrealtyOTT   https://www.facebook.com/oasisrealtyottawa/

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Are Realtors sabotaging MLS® with “grey market” listings?

We have experienced a relatively strong market over the last 18 months and listing scarcity has become an issue, as many areas have only a month or two of listing inventory. Listings in 2017 were down approximately 25% from the previous year (35% over 2 years) and with healthy sales, this made things difficult for buyers and their agents, especially those with an existing property to sell.

“Grey” market listings abound: (non MLS®)
In the face of dwindling listings, many Realtors (and their sellers) are getting creative about how they plan to market the listing to the best advantage of seller and Realtor. This includes the use of “exclusive” listings, “pocket” listings and future sale listings.  In most of these types of listings the listing agent does not publicize the listing widely/openly on the MLS® system.  (or at least initially) Instead these Realtors market via social media and a variety of 3rd party online sites.   Have you seen those “Coming Soon” or “Exclusive Listing”signs on front yards in your neighbourhood?  This is most likely an indication of a grey market listing.

How is this advantageous? (and to whom?)
Realtors do this for a number of reasons in our opinion:
-Realtors leverage the listing to potentially generate other buyer or seller prospects
-Realtors have a chance of “double ending” the listing, if they are able to find a buyer without having to pay another Realtor.
-The listing agent in many cases will have used these marketing concepts, combined with a lower listing commission to help close the listing in the first place.
-Realtors may be able to avoid the cost and time involved in some steps of the listing process ie professional photography, staging and also get to a sale sooner.
-are all the above consistent with the Realtor pledge of “first duty to client” or is the Realtor’s own marketing and prospecting activity subverting their principal duty to their seller client?
-some sellers may prefer not having a “wide open” MLS® listing where everybody and their brother are free to book random appointments to see their home.

So what’s the down side?
-these “ secret” listings become a bit of a holy grail and many Realtors really play this up:  Ie “ deal with me and I will get you the inside scoop on all the new listings, so you get to consider them BEFORE they hit MLS®.  Nobody, has access to all the “secret” listings, no matter how strong they may be in the neighbourhood.  The fairest and most democratic way is for all listings to make their way to MLS® where they can be considered by all buyers and their agents.
-all buyers do not get to consider the property and therefore demand is generated by only a small portion of the overall market.
-Buyers may be encouraged in to making a more impulsive offer, given the relative scarcity. This can result in buyer’s remorse and more conditional sales falling through which has been a factor in our market.
-these grey market listings that do not get to MLS®, also then further diminish the level of listing inventory available to MLS® buyers and therefore enhance the supply shortfall and help cause prices to rise.
-MLS® in recent years even includes most of the FSBO listings, so it is a fantastic central repository and marketplace. By withholding listings from MLS®, Realtors are not doing their seller, buyers or Realtor colleagues any favours.  Think for a moment if there was no MLS®?  Would you want Google or facebook to decide what listings you got to see?  MLS® is still ad free, too!
Do you want to have to scour hundreds of websites daily to find and stay on top of new listings in the marketplace?

Selling scarcity is nothing new:
Realtors, buyers and sellers will always adapt to scarcity and attempt to find ways to take advantage and this is no different, unfortunately, it can also lead to further scarcity in MLS® listings and possibly further demand spikes and price increases which is not good for buyers. It also removes some credibility from the MLS® system, if “ new”  listings are deemed to be old news by the time they are published on MLS®.

Seller choice:
A seller may find a deal without having to go through the full-fledged MLS® prep and marketing process and if they are happy with what they get, then so be it. Clearly, however, the best market value is to be obtained with the widest possible exposure to all buyers and their agents and that only happens with a listing on MLS®

Proponents will argue that they are only “getting the best deal” for their seller client but in many cases, we believe Realtor marketing and differentiation are the principal reason for use of these “grey marketing/non-MLS®” listings and that on balance this is not good for the overall market as it fractures and weakens the  central source of MLS® supply and exacerbates already existing supply problems.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage 613-435-4692  oasisrealty@rogers.com www.oasisrealtyottawa.com

12th year in business as a lower cost brokerage