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A slow real estate market and savvy buyers are helping to drive January housing sales
Traditionally, January is a slow month for real estate as most sellers choose to wait until the middle of February in the hopes of capitalizing on the early spring market. However, more and more sellers are opting to put their house on the market in January.
This presents an opportunity for buyers. Most people are reluctant to uproot their families during the school year, so that means less competition and fewer bidding wars. Lenders will not be as busy, so buyers can expect a more efficient process to get approved for a mortgage to ensure they have financing in place before making an offer. But there are things you simply wont be able to inspect during the winter.
Here are some tips for protecting yourself when making a deal during the winter months:
Spruce up the outside: Use urns with light wood branches to brighten up the exterior of your home, to compensate for any overcast day or snow on the ground. Get rid of the Christmas lights: homes that look dated on the outside give the impression that they are probably dated on the inside.
Make sure your fireplace is working during any showing, that the temperature is comfortable in the home and that any interior lighting compensates for what is usually grey lighting from outside.
Have pictures of your landscaping available from the summer and autumn, showing how beautiful your home looks year round.
Have available any inspections that you may have done on your air-conditioning unit or swimming pool before they were closed for the winter, as buyers will likely not be able to conduct inspections on these items and will have questions.
Consider inviting a company to do an environmental audit on your home in advance, confirming that there is no moisture behind the walls that could lead to mould and that you have sufficient insulation behind the walls.
If there is anything that cannot be inspected because of the winter, such as the air-conditioning system or any swimming pool, then negotiate an extended warranty in the agreement, to give you until at least May 1, to inspect and have the seller be responsible for any damages. In addition, also negotiate a holdback of, say, $2,000 so that if a problem arises, the money comes out of that fund to fix it and you dont have to chase the seller in court later.
Be careful about snow accumulating around the base of the home. It will be difficult for a home inspector to figure out whether the grading is likely to cause water problems in the basement later. Consider doing your own environmental audit to check for moisture behind any walls.
If the snow on the roof looks like it is evaporating faster than the snow around the house, it is likely a sign that there is not enough insulation in the home.
Check with your insurance company early as to whether you will have any difficulty obtaining insurance on the home; for example, by finding out whether there have been claims made in the neighbourhood about water damages or sewage backups.
Check whether snow accumulation makes it more difficult for street parking, as this may be the only parking available on certain streets. Also see how bad weather may affect your morning commute.
Check the last electric/gas bills, to determine how energy efficient the home is in winter. People tend to hibernate and stay at home in the winter, so take the opportunity to get to know the neighbours before you finalize your purchase.
By being properly prepared in advance, buyers and sellers can negotiate a safe and successful winter home sale.
Canadian home sales edge down from December to January
According to statistics released today by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales were down slightly in January 2017 on a month-over-month basis.
- National home sales declined 1.3% from December 2016 to January 2017
- Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity in January was up 1.9% from a year earlier
- The number of newly listed homes dropped 6.7% from December 2016 to January 2017
- The MLSHome Price Index (HPI) in January was up 15.0% year-over-year (y-o-y)
- The national average sale price was little changed (+0.2%) y-o-y in January
Sales activity was down from the previous month in about half of all local markets, led by three of Canadas largest urban centres: the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Greater Vancouver, and Montreal.
Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity was up 1.9% compared to the same month last year. While sales were up from year-ago levels in about two-thirds of all local housing markets including in the GTA, Calgary, Edmonton, London and St Thomas, and Montreal, they were down significantly in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
The number of newly listed homes dropped 6.7% in January 2017, the second consecutive monthly decline. New listings were down in about two-thirds of all local markets, led by the GTA and environs across Vancouver Island.
With the monthly decline in new listings surpassing the decline in sales, the national sales-to-new listings ratio jumped to 67.7% in January compared to 64.0% in December and 60.2% in November.
The ratio was above 60% in about half of all local housing markets in January, the vast majority of which are located in British Columbia, in and around the GTA and across southwestern Ontario. A monthly decline in newly listed homes further tightened housing markets that were already in sellers market territory.
There were 4.6 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of January 2017 unchanged from December 2016 and a six-year low for the measure.
The imbalance between limited housing supply and robust demand in Ontarios Greater Golden Horseshoe region is without precedent (the region includes the GTA, Hamilton-Burlington, Oakville-Milton, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Brantford, the Niagara Region, Barrie and nearby cottage country). The number of months of inventory in January 2017 stood at or below one month in the GTA, Hamilton-Burlington, Oakville-Milton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Brantford and Guelph.
In the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver, prices have receded from their peaks posted in August 2016. That said, home prices in these regions nonetheless remain well above year-ago levels (+24.9% and +15.6% respectively).
Meanwhile, benchmark prices continue to climb in Victoria and elsewhere on Vancouver Island together with Greater Toronto, Oakville-Milton and Guelph. Year-over-year price gains in these five markets ranged from about 18% to 26% in January.
By comparison, home prices were down 2.9% y-o-y in Calgary and by 1.0% y-o-y in Saskatoon. Prices in these two markets now stand 5.9% and 4.3% below their respective peaks reached in 2015.
Home prices were up modestly from year-ago levels in Regina (+3.8%), Ottawa (+3.7%) and Greater Montreal (+3.1%). In Greater Moncton, home prices for the market overall held steady (-0.2%), reflecting an increase in townhouse row units prices (5.8%) that was offset by a decline in prices for one-storey single family homes (-1.0%).
The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average price for homes sold in January 2017 was $470,253, almost unchanged (+0.2%) from where it stood one year earlier.
The national average price continues to be pulled upward by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, which remain two of Canadas tightest, most active and expensive housing markets.
That said, Greater Vancouvers share of national sales activity has diminished considerably over the past year, giving it less upward influence on the national average price. The average price is reduced by almost $120,000 to $351,998 if Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto sales are excluded from calculations.
Canadian Housing Starts Trend Increased in January
The trend measure of housing starts in Canada was 199,834 units in January compared to 197,881 in December, 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.
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 Canadas housing market. In some situations analyzing only SAAR data can be misleading, as they are largely driven by the multi-unit segment of the market which can vary significantly from one month to the next.
The standalone monthly SAAR for all areas in Canada was 207,408 units in January, up from 206,305 units in December. The SAAR of urban starts increased by 1.0per cent in January to 189,688 units. Multiple urban starts increased by 4.2per cent to 125,886 units in January and single-detached urban starts decreased by 4.6 per cent, to 63,802 units.
In January, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, but decreased in British Columbia, the Prairies and Quebec.
Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17,720 units.