It was announced this morning that Coast Realty has been bought by Royal LePage and that myself and whichever other Realtors who wish to stay will be flying the red and white banner of Royal Lepage instead of the blue and green of Coast Realty. For my clients, the only noticeable difference will be that my signs, websites and business cards will soon have a different logo on them.
For me, it will mean that I talk to a new manager when I need to and I have to change my advertising to match the new company name. I’ll still be sitting at the same desk, in the same building, selling properties in the same neighbourhoods in the same way as I always have. Apparently being part of a larger national network gives me access to some larger networking and technical resources, but none of this is the sort of thing that would be noticed by the client. I merely mention it because I want my clients to understand that I am the same Realtor I have always been and my business style will remain the same transparent, honest and diligent style it has always been. The change of company is mainly a change of colours like new paint on a home.
Being someone who grew up on a relatively small, 5 acre, hobby farm, I have a certain affinity with rural properties. Unlike most neighbourhoods rural properties generally allow you to make as much noise as you want and indulge in whatever crazy hobby you have without annoying neighbours. The trade off is that you end up being a bit farther away from amenities.
Nanaimo isn’t really all that big. You can get a rural property without having to drive insane distances to get to work, friends places or shopping like you would living in a rural area outside a city. I’ve yet to find one part of town that is more than twenty minutes from any other part of the broader Nanaimo area. If, for example, I am coming from somewhere in Cedar and need to go to the north end of town it’s still going to fit in that time frame because the parkway lets me bypass enough lights and traffic so that it’s doable. Shopping is dispersed throughout the area so even ten minutes would be a long drive for groceries. One can generally expect closer to five.
Although there are varying densities of neighbourhoods within the ‘sub areas’ on the Nanaimo MLS map there are certainly sub areas which are my go to if I have a client looking for rural properties. Cedar, Extension, Chase River, and Upper Lantzville are first to check but I may also look at lot sized and other factors. It’s not cut and dried where they are. This is why although the computer is a great tool for searching, a human mind that knows the ins and outs (like this Realtor guy named Ryan Coffey) can help you hone in on what you are looking for.
A house on a rural lot is in most ways the same as a house that is located in town. Some differences are obvious like the location and lot size. There’s also the more subtle things that you probably won’t notice right away because they don’t affect how you go about your daily life. Those things being wells and septic. They are worth considering because they do affect how you maintain the property and plan your finances. Rural properties will typically be on a septic system and might also be on a well. Both should be inspected and need specialized inspectors in addition to the home inspector you will want to have inspecting any home you buy. Septic systems have a long life of about 25 years but they are an expensive replacement at $20-30k. (There are cheaper quotes sometimes but I like to work with slightly pessimistic numbers.) They also need to be pumped out/maintained every three years or so. My observation has been that taxes on properties that don’t have the public sewage service is lower and to the point that if someone is forward thinking they can put the money they save on taxes away and save up for that new septic system that will need to be replaced someday. Wells are cheaper to maintain but need to have an eye kept on them for water quality/sanitation and to make sure there is adequate supply.
Rural areas have very different building codes/zoning bylaws from in the city. You’ll have to of course abide by whatever bylaws are in place but from what I have seen there is typically more freedom than within city limits in terms of what sort of home/buildings you want to erect.
If you want a big hunk of land for less, a good trick is to look for ALR land (Agricultural
Land Reserve). This is because it cannot be subdivided as it is set aside by the provincial government so that if needed it can be used for farming someday. This is the result of a program that was set up in the 70’s when there were big scares about world food supply. There aren’t many at a time but once in a while I see big acreages at prices that are unobtainable without the ALR restriction.
I’ve not been putting posts up lately because the market has kept me busy and I’m currently writing all the content for my Nanaimo real estate website which will soon be revamped. After that, this website will get a facelift as well.
I just came across this great video that explains why Japanese bathrooms are so awesome. As someone who lived in Japan for four years and as a Realtor this strikes a chord with me. The Japanese way of bathing is one of the main things I miss while I am in Canada. Don’t get me wrong, I’m way happier here and that’s way I came back but I hope to make a bathroom like this in my own home one day as I find this way so much more convenient and comfortable. Only, as we have so much more space in Nanaimo, it will be more roomy.
She doesn’t mention quite everything is this video though. A lot of the mirrors have a heating system that prevents them from fogging and then there’s the toilet seats which look like they’re made by NASA. But those are probably worth a video on their own. This girl does a variety of videos on daily life in Japan if you have further interest.
The west coast, especially Vancouver Island, has long been a favourite place for Canadians to retire. The natural beauty, relaxed lifestyle and the mild winters are a big draw for people across the country who have reached the retirement stage of their lives. Here are some of the points which experience has taught me to believe is of interest to those who are considering retiring to Nanaimo:
I would imagine this is the first thing people from elsewhere in Canada hear about that piques their interest. I was born and raised out this way but have spent a handful of winters in places like Alberta and Nova Scotia. During my travels I was quite surprised that so few people had any idea what it was like in my end of the country. I kept telling them tales of winters where most people didn’t change their tires, or own chains or have any idea how to operate a snow blower. I also talked of mountains covered with giant trees that lie next to oceans full of giant salmon. A multicultural part of the nation that is not Toronto. From the looks I often got, you would think I was from some far of exotic country and not from the same nation as they.
As for the anecdotes that describe the real experience, well saying “At least you don’t have to shovel it.” is only the beginning. You don’t have to dig your car out, worry about frostbite, use remote start to warm up your car, have exorbitant heating costs, put on and take off layers upon layers of clothing every time you go in or out and you are very unlikely to get soaked socks from pools of melted snow that lie next to the front door where you take your boots off. To be succinct, it’s as if it becomes a rainy fall that is still quite green due to all the conifers. The weather gets stuck in that mode, with only the odd snowy or icy day until the spring arrives. Then, our summers are great because it’s neither super hot or very humid, just pleasant.
Easy access to everything:
Nanaimo is plenty big enough to have everything you need for your daily life, it’s not so big however that you feel like you are in a city that is too large to feel part of a community. Due to its central location, it is a shopping destination for people all over Vancouver Island and the main gateway to the mainland via the ferries. There is also the airport and float planes which will quickly take you to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Seattle via direct flights. From those places you might want to transfer to another plane which will take you anywhere you might want to go.
If it’s bright lights and big city you crave once in a while, Vancouver is just across the water but the advantages are that our real estate prices and commute times are a fraction of what is over there and the social ills associated with that reality are toned down. Conversely, living on Vancouver Island is quieter and comes with a slower pace of life. If you want nature, it’s never far. There are plenty of beautiful parks within Nanaimo and wilderness is just beyond.
Caters to Seniors:
One of the benefits of being in an area where seniors have long been around in numbers is that there are many services, social groups and activities that cater to them. Strata complexes that have an age restriction of 55+ are fairly common and tend to be in good areas.
Access to Natural Beauty:
I once had a retiree client who referred to living on Vancouver Island as like “being in a giant park, except you get you live in it.” Whether it’s boating in the ocean, looking at the ocean, walking in the forest, seeing vistas of the forest, or having wildlife in the background of your daily life Nanaimo has it locally. In fact it’s possible to have them right on your door step if you so choose.
Here is another installment of a recent interview I did with Nanaimo Mortgage Broker Brad Rembold. In this video we discuss strategies for first time Buyers. If you are currently renting and unsure of the benefits of home ownership, you may also enjoy this post along with many others in the Buying section of this blog.
For an intro to this series on Nanaimo’s neighbourhoods, please see the first post of the series, here.
There are a lot of great homes in and around the Departure Bay area. I’ve already talked about nearby Cilaire in an earlier post, which by contrast has an easy to define geographic location and name that the locals know it by. This area, however, doesn’t have the handy moniker that some others do. The way I describe it in this post’s title, could make it get confused with a few spots. Rather than a lengthy description, let’s look at a map.
Most of the homes in this area were built in the 60’s and a few in the 70’s. This area is anything but cookie cutter. Some of them are of outside of the box modern designs, some are westcoast contemporary and there are many homes which are of more typical formats of the day. Overall, they tend to be decent builds. There are a wide variety of sizes and styles of build from that era and the mix of sloping and not so sloping landscapes with many different sizes of lots make for another layer of potential uniqueness for each property. Many homes here have an ocean view and one of the perks is that the source of that view, Departure Bay and the beach that surrounds it, are only a few minutes walk away.
Something I often tell clients while we are driving through this area is that I once had a phone call from someone who wanted to sell their house in this neighbourhood. They had lived there for quite a few years but their house had become too big for them and the garden too much work to deal with as they were getting on in years. But, they loved the neighbourhood and wanted to buy another house in the same area or better yet, on the same street. Two weeks later, I got the exact same kind of call from someone else on the same street. It speaks volumes of how good of a spot it is to live in, especially since those are the only two requests like that I’ve ever gotten in my nine years in this business.
It’s an easy walk to a nearby mall known as Brooks Landing. You can walk down Departure Bay Road and find access to beaches and walking trails. You could even walk or bike to the ferry terminal if you wanted to and go to the mainland as a foot passenger which everyone out here knows is much cheaper than taking a car.
Nearby parks include Beach Estates park, which is pretty much a Nanaimo secret. It’s a path that goes down a gulley behind Cilaire Elementary and makes its way down to a spot of beach next to the ferry dock. The whole time walking down there you can’t believe you are in the middle of town. Old growth trees and only a few buildings can be glimpsed all the way down before suddenly arriving at a beach and there’s those giant boats that are so familiar to anyone from Vancouver Island. Walking north along Departure Bay Road, is what most would refer to as Departure Bay beach. Lots of space for taking yourself, your dog, or your kids for a run.
It’s so common that we have a word for it. Catching someone on it and proving that it was done is hard to do because the nature of pricing is that it is very interpretive.
A Realtor is in a state of constant competition for clients. In order to attract clients there are many kinds of strategies that one can employ. Some methods work better than others, some require more effort than others and some are more ethical than others. As in so many kinds of approaches to business, politics and just generally getting people to like you, a common strategy is to tell people things that make them feel good. A little flattery, and a dash of hope go a long way.
Clients do not know the ins and outs of real estate like Realtors do and that is after all the larger part of why they are hiring our services. What clients do know is that they have put a lot of time, money and love into their homes. To them, it’s much more than a big expensive box in which they sleep and keep their stuff. After all, the word ‘home’ is full of warm, happy, cozy nuance that I would imagine people from all corners of the world share. And in the context of life’s major financial transactions, homes are the ultimate big ticket item.
So, a Realtor with the standard package of real estate knowledge meeting a Seller with the standard package of hopes and dreams can, and fairly often does, tell them exactly what they want to hear. They can use it again and again with many different people. Not all will bite, but many will. Said Realtor can say that they can sell the home for more than the other guys or at least at a price that is pure flattery. It’s easy to convince people that something is true when they want it to be true.
There is a saying that some Realtors adhere to: “You can’t sell the listing you don’t have.” I’ve also heard “You can’t reduce the listing you don’t have.” The point being that from the (ethically grey) Realtor’s perspective, it is more profitable to have a listing that can be put up now and reduce to a sellable price later on than it is to have no listing at all. If they can hold on to that listing long enough for it to be reduced to a sellable price, then they will make money directly off the selling of the listing. If it never sells, then they still get the benefit of the various kinds of advertising that come from having a listing, not the least of which is the potential for Buyers who ask about the listing and then buy something else that is more reasonably priced. By then, the value of the property has been reduced, a pattern which I’ve written about extensively on this blog because it saddens me. Whether the Seller realizes it or not, they have been taken advantage of.
I’ve long hoped that I would gain a loyal following by being the Realtor who speaks plainly and honestly enough so that people understand there is integrity in my business style. Some people recognize that, but then again some people use me for a bit and then use some other Realtor who puts more effort into selling themselves than the home itself.
Once in a while I take a break from being serious on this blog and put up something fun. This made me laugh and I thought it might make you laugh too. As the person who posted the video on youtube said, “Always wear your PPE.”
Rather than again go through an explanation of my belief of why timing the market right isn’t as important as timing your own finances and other personal factors I will give you a couple of links to posts where I go through that in detail. I am writing this post because it is topical and because it is always something that the public wants to hear about. This post is geared more towards real estate investors than the kinds of readers I generally write for which is homeowners.
So, homeowners or investor, if you are under the impression that whether the market is going up or down right now is the be all and end all of making your purchase and selling decisions, please give me a chance to burst your bubble (no pun intended but I’ll take it) and let you know where I am coming from before I give you the info that I know you want to hear:
All that said… at the end of last year I had noted that the Nanaimo real estate market seemed poised for change. If you only look at the statistics you would think that prices had started going up early last year but although average sale price is the best statistical indicator that I’ve seen of what prices are doing, they are not the same thing as value of actual homes. Average sale price statistics measure what people are spending on houses overall but it’s not quite the same as what the value of properties are. The best way to suss out what is actually going on with property values is to watch what is available and what is selling in what patterns on a daily basis for years on end. That’s a core skill for a Realtor like myself and really pretty hard to do unless you are working in my or a related industry. You can get some idea of things by fervently watching listings on the MLS regularly but it’s not the same as actually going into those properties often and seeing the dynamic between Buyer and Sellers up close.
What you can tell from looking at these average price stats is the broader shape of what prices do. They do not tell a perfect story but they do have the general scope of things right. If you pay enough attention to them over time plus take other solid information into account you build an understanding of certain broader patterns. I have seen stats from the mainland that go back a few years earlier to 1977 that follow the same pattern as above. For some really long term perspective items outside of the confines of these statistics have a look at some of my historical MLS finds that I shared on this blog from 1981 here and from local newspaper ads in 1961 here. Also worth mentioning is that over the years I’ve picked the brains of many Realtors who are/were much older than myself who in some cases have been in business since the 70’s and in once case 50’s. Canadian real estate guru Ozzy Jurock also has some very good info on real estate market patterns. There are certain conclusions I’ve drawn about the real estate market cycle based upon all of these things.
One of the conclusions is that there appears to be a 6-7 year cycle. The cycle being that things are slow for six or seven years which is when we experience a Buyer’s market and busier for six or seven years which is when we experience a Seller’s market. The rises in the Seller’s market outdo losses during the Buyer’s market even when you take inflation into account.
Here is the part you were looking to read: Now is a time when the markets are starting to pick up and if the above observation holds true then we should have another six or so years before the media outlets find something to make everyone panic about again making it all snowball into the next Buyer’s market.
How to make money with this information? I consider flipping homes in the short term to be pretty risky in any market unless you are a seasoned contracting professional but if you are looking to buy a property for investment that could use a little polishing, willing to rent it out for a couple of years while you accumulate equity and then fix it up and sell it for a nice profit… this is a great time to start that plan. It’s always a good time to start that plan if you have the patience, know how and income to support it but now is looking like a really good bet for the market helping a plan like that work out. Prices have just started to show solid signs of going up and mortgage interest rates… well they’ve been ridiculously low for a couple of years now but now they’re just… I don’t know how long that money is going to be available for so cheap. Everyone I speak to in my industry and the lending industry is amazed by it, doubly so if they were around during the early 80’s when there were mortgage out there for 17-21%. The historical average is around 8% last I heard so it would stand to reason that these rates are temporary.