Friday 29 January 2016

Seller's Market to Continue in 2016

(January 29, 2016 - Hamilton, Ontario) The REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB) expects to see much the same real estate market in 2016 as in 2015.

'Continued low interest rates, a favourable employment outlook and a continuing low inflation rate bode well for the real estate market," said RAHB CEO George O'Neill.  'The same factors that contributed to the strong market over the past few years should continue to have a positive influence in the coming year."

The high cost of housing in the GTA will continue to drive first-time buyers and young families out of the GTA, and the Hamilton-Burlington market continues to offer attractive alternatives for home buyers.  With expanded GO service throughout the region, it will be easier to work in Toronto and live in communities south-west.  A strong culture supporting entrepreneurs has also proven to attract new residents to the area.

The new mortgage rules coming into effect next month will have a small impact on some of the more expensive areas of the market, but the graduated nature of the new down payment requirements is expected to minimize this impact for most of the Hamilton-Burlington market.

For the coming year, RAHB expects to see 20,000 residential listings, 15,000 residential sales and an increase in average sale price of about four per cent.  The sellers' market will continue.

Results from 2015 show that all property types listings and overall sales increased over the previous year, with the average sale price up by 8.3 per cent.  Total dollar volume from the sale of all property types was $7.378 billion, a 20 per cent increase over 2014. 

The residential market saw similar increases over the previous year, with new listings up by 6.1 per cent, sales up by 11 per cent and the average sale price up 8.9 per cent over 2014.  Average days on market dropped from 39 to 34 days in 2015. 

The strong seller's market from 2014 continued throughout 2015, with all-time sales records broken in April, then again in May and again in June.  Five monthly sales records were broken through the last months of the year.

While the average sale price of residential listings showed an 8.9 per cent increase over 2014, the average remained relatively stable throughout 2015.

'We saw a jump in average sale price early in the year, and since then the average price has been pretty constant.  It looked as though we kept seeing big increases every month, but that was only in comparison to the previous year," noted O'Neill.  'There's no doubt we've seen an increase over last year, but we didn't see big changes from month to month throughout the year."

O'Neill cautioned home sellers and buyers about using the RAHB average sale price as an indicator of the price of their own home or one to purchase.  'Every neighbourhood in RAHB's market area is different," said O'Neill, 'and each has its own characteristics and influences on price.  I highly recommend  buyers and sellers use the services of a local professional - a RAHB REALTOR® - when they are buying or selling a home."

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Some common minor issues found in home inspections

When you're buying a home and having a professional inspection, you're definitely looking for any major issues that come up.  Leaky roofs, damp basements, structural issues are all things you hope not to find.  But between changing standards over time, wear and tear, and the occasional DIY errors there will almost never be a home inspection report that comes back with nothing at all identified as wrong.  Here are some pretty common items in home inspection reports that are usually not very big problems to fix:
Reverse polarity on electrical outlets
Most home inspectors have a handy little tool with lights that they stick into electrical sockets to test them.  The two things they are look for are grounding and polarity.
It is not uncommon at all to find some electrical outlets with "reverse polarity".  In many cases, it is probably a simple mistake by whoever was wiring the electrical outlet.  The "hot" and "neutral" wires are simply placed on the wrong terminals.
Alternating current found in electrical outlets is a form of electrical transmission where the current moves first in one direction and then in the other - this is why it is called alternating current (AC).  Simple electrical devices like lamps and fans will not really notice the difference because the current is simple moving back and forth.  As a result, polarity was not always top concern for electricians or homeowners wiring an outlet.  However, many modern equipment, and electronic devices in particular, like to have the cycle of the electrical current properly timed.  Reverse polarity can cause damage to this equipment, potentially creating a fire or shock hazard, so it is worthwhile to get these outlets fixed.
Fortunately, it is usually a simple matter of having the two wires switched to their proper terminals. As long as there are no other issues and there is a proper length of wire in the outlet box, a qualified electrical contractor should be able to fix this in a matter of minutes.
Railings loose or missing
This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Anywhere that you have stairs, you should have a handrail that can support you.  Often we find railings in homes that have come loose and would not support your weight at all if you lost your balance and had to depend on it to catch yourself.  These should be securely re-attached to the structure of the home, whether that is the wall or steps.  And of course, if there is no railing at all on a staircase, the inspector is bound to identify this as a deficiency that should be corrected.
Breaker panel knockout covers missing
Another electrical issue that is a pretty simple fix.  On breaker panels, there are knock-out covers that you remove to leave an opening for the breaker.  Sometimes, whether because the wrong ones were knocked out, some got knocked out by accident, or panel configuration has changed, you will have some of these covers missing where there is no breaker.  This leaves an opening into the panel.  Really, it's not particularly dangerous unless you stick your fingers blindly into the hole, but technically this is a safety hazard.  And it is so easy to fix, there's little reason not to. Filler plates are available in varying styles from most hardware stores for a couple dollars, or an electrical contractor should be able to provide them easily.  They just pop in to the space to fill it. Voila, no more open hole.

Downspouts going to weeping tiles
This one is a relatively common issue with a simple fix, but can have some more serious repercussions if left unremediated.  It was common practice many years ago to take downspouts from the eavestroughs below ground to the weeping tiles.

Weeping tiles are a system of pipes around the bottom of the foundation designed to take any ground water near the foundation out to the municipal drainage system.  The problem is that the old weeping tiles were most often made of clay and can break down over years of use.  When this happens, if you get a heavy rainfall and water being put into those pipes, you can end up with water seeping into the basement.  There has been a return to this practice in modern new construction because the weeping tiles are made of plastic and thus more or less impervious to the kind of breakdown clay pipe is susceptible to (although last I checked, Hamilton's by-laws prohibit this practice to reduce water flow through an aging drain system). 

So, while the weeping tiles may still be doing the job or getting the water away from the house, most home inspectors will advise disconnecting the downspout, closing off the pipe going down to the weeping tiles, and directing the downspout out and away from the house.  While this is sometimes tricky depending on placement of the downspout and obstacles or walkways, it's basically a matter of cutting off the downspout and using downspout piping available from most hardware stores

Saturday 16 January 2016

You don't even know what you don't know

It's not easy being in real estate. It's a very competitive business and there's no guarantee you'll make any money.  Many don't make it past a couple years in the business. 

And of course before you get started, you have to finish the education.  Well, actually you never finish the education because there is a constant continuing education program that you have to do before your license renewal every two years. 

There's more to know than you realize.  You're looking at real estate courses to learn about contracts, disclosure requirements, agency law, and all the various rules and regulations around the business. 

And when you finish all the courses, you'll still have a lot more to learn - from municipal by-laws that affect property ownership and development to ongoing changes with provincial and federal policies and programs in place.  It's a steep learning curve and initially you don't even know what you don't know.

That is one of the reasons that selling a property on your own can be a difficult experience. You don't even know what you don't know. 

Here's just one example:  you drive around Hamilton and you see certain for-sale-by-owner directional signs at the corner of intersections all over the city basically saying "house for sale this way."  You see far more of these than you see for real estate agents.  Do you think that means those particular companies are doing more business than traditional real estate agents? Taking a big chunk of the market? 

You'd be tempted to think that.  But actually, no.  The reason you don't see many of those signs for real estate agents is because they are illegal in Hamilton.  Yea, you read that right.  They're not allowed.

Open house directional signs are permitted but only on the day of an open house, but For Sale directional signs are prohibited by the City of Hamilton's sign by-law. 

Most local real estate agents know this and don't use them.  But when you're selling your house on your own, you get them as part of a generic package with some companies and of course you want to use them.  I really can't say whether those companies give the private sellers any warning about local rules, but we do know we see the signs around. 

Here's the big problem with that.  You're the one selling your house and you put the sign up.  If Hamilton's Municipal Law Enforcement comes knocking, it's YOU that could be paying a fine.  Do you know how much that fine is?  Is it a single fine or per sign?

So maybe you should ask yourself, what else don't you know?

Monday 11 January 2016

December 2015 Housing Starts in Hamilton CMA

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Jan. 11, 2016) - Housing starts in Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) were trending at 2,525 units in December compared to 2,591 units in November, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The trend is a six month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts.

"The trend in Hamilton CMA total housing starts decreased slightly in December 2015, reflecting lower level of single-detached housing starts compared to the previous month," said Abdul Kargbo, CMHC's Senior Market Analyst for Hamilton and Brantford CMAs. "Overall, economic and demographic factors remain supportive of housing demand. The decline in new home construction in 2015 reflects inventory management by builders."

CMHC uses the trend measure as a complement to the monthly SAAR of housing starts to account for considerable swings in monthly estimates and obtain a more complete picture of the state of the housing market. In some situations, analysing only SAAR data can be misleading in some markets, as they are largely driven by the multiples segment of the markets which can be quite variable from one month to the next. The multiples segment includes apartments, rows and semi-detached homes.

The standalone monthly SAAR was 2,193 units in December, down from 2,431 units in November. December's decline in the SAAR measure was primarily due to fewer apartment starts compared to the previous month. Meanwhile, townhouse starts were up and partially offsetting the decline in apartment starts.
As Canada's authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers objective housing research and information to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry.