My individual blogs (28 Aug to 7 Nov 2011) are presented here on my website as well for ease of reference by my visitors.
Should I Sell My Comox Valley Home Myself? Posted on November 7, 2011 by Brett Cairns
Should I sell my home myself? This is a question that a number of sellers in the Comox Valley real estate market ask. When asked, most sellers who ponder this question do so in order to save the commission.
Here are a few perspectives on this issue. First, the commission. Real estate agents work on a commission basis in British Columbia. This is not by choice. It is the way the market currently works. Given a choice many agents would likely choose to bill clients by the hour for the professional services that they provide. Good real estate agents provide people with many services for which they do not get paid. They only get paid when they receive a commission. Having said this, they pay for many things, and incur many expenses, of which most people are not aware. In a future blog I will touch on some of these. For now, let’s get back to the commission.
Real estate commissions are split between the selling and buying agency. The agency is the business with which the real estate agent is under contract. The commission is then further split between the agency and the agent. If there are fees such as referral fees, they are taken off of the commission that is paid to the agent. After expenses and tax, the real estate agent is left with an amount that can be far less than the overall commission paid by the seller. Remember, the agency employs people to help with things like coordination with the local real estate board, retrieving information for agents, and coordinating with the offices of notaries and/or lawyers. While clients deal with the individual agents, other people are involved in the overall process to make sure it works as smoothly as possible. Some agents may also employ assistants who they also have to pay.
Some professionals do “pro bono” work – professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment, or at a reduced fee as a public service. To stay in business, however, professionals, like anyone else, need to be paid for the services that they provide. In the real estate profession, the type and quality of service can vary dramatically among different real estate agents. It is important, therefore, to interview several before entering into a business relationship with them.
Selling a home in a sellers’ market can be quite different than selling a home in a buyers’ market. If a seller has had lots of experience selling in a variety of markets, they will understand the differences. As well, they may be able to adjust their selling strategy and plan to the market with which they are faced to sell their home.
Marketing a home today is a different proposition than it was even 5 years ago. While some traditional methods still work, other methods are becoming less effective in the world of today, and some are expected to become less relevant in the world of tomorrow. It is important for a real estate agent to keep abreast of the changes. As a seller, I would want to know how they do this. Do they try and learn the newer, more effective methods themselves? Do they do this by self-study or by trial and error? Do they take advanced marketing courses? Do they keep current? Do they contract with professional marketing firms? Good questions to ask if you are thinking about selling a home yourself. How do you do this?
Real Estate is a highly regulated industry. There are many laws that currently regulate different aspects of real estate. While preparing for a presentation to a seller, I recall compiling a list of some of the real estate laws that could affect a real estate transaction in British Columbia. I came up with a list of 38 Acts fairly quickly. Given how frequently laws can, and do, change it would be prudent for any seller to be familiar with some of the more common laws relating to real estate. By law, sellers have obligations, for example, related to disclosure when selling a home. Clearly, real estate agents do not give legal advice. However, competent real estate agents stay current on these laws so that they are in a position to know when to recommend to a client to seek legal advice. Competent real estate agents are also trained to know how to write a legally enforceable contract. As a private seller, how well prepared are you to deal with these types of issues? When nothing goes wrong, these types of issues may not surface and become issues. When something goes wrong, however, they may surface and cause grief.
The market, marketing, and legal aspects of selling real estate are only three of 15 that I can think of that a seller who is planning to sell their home themselves should think through. If you are thinking of selling a home yourself in the Comox Valley, take a few minutes and come and talk to me. I would be pleased to share all 15 with you.
Comox Valley Real Estate – Strata Properties Posted on October 26, 2011 by Brett Cairns
The word condominium is used synonymously with strata property in British Columbia. Strata properties are very common in British Columbia and in the Comox Valley real estate market. But what exactly are they, and why are they different?
Strata properties are properties that enable an owner to own a separate part of a complex (such as an apartment building or patio home complex) together with common features of the complex. In an apartment building, common features may include items such as recreational facilities, lobbies, the roof, etc. In a patio home complex, common features may include common property that will be maintained by someone other than the patio home owner in exchange for the payment of strata dues paid on a monthly basis. The advantage is that expenses for the maintenance of common property can be shared. However, there are also some disadvantages to the strata concept. Let’s examine this concept a bit further.
In a strata property, the part that is owned separately by an individual owner or owners is called the strata lot (also common called the strata unit). The remainder of the property is called common property. A strata owner owns the strata lot and a proportionate share of the common property. The Schedule of Unit Entitlement (UE) determines, among other things, what this proportionate share is in terms of strata fees and any special levies. The Schedule of UE is found in the strata plan.
Strata properties are governed by the Strata Property Act in British Columbia. Strata legislation applies to every type of strata. Strata legislation is self-governing, and the Strata Property Act (Section 165) gives every owner the right to apply to the BC Supreme Court to require the Strata Corporation to comply with the legislation.
When developers acquire land to develop a strata project they will either purchase the land or lease it. When purchased, the developer can then in turn sell fee simple title to the buyers of strata lot. The purchaser then becomes the registered owner in fee simple. This is commonly called freehold ownership. When leased (the developer must lease the land for at least 50 years from the public authority from which it leases the land), the developer is then able to offer leasehold ownership of the strata lots being developed.
When purchasing a strata lot, it is important to understand that the owner of a strata lot must pay the property taxes for that lot. For tax purposes, property taxes for each owner are determined from treating the strata lot and the owners’ share in the common property and taxable common assets as a separate parcel of land. Strata owners will also pay strata fees for the maintenance of common property. The Strata Corporation is responsible to repair and maintain common property.
There are two ways that a strata corporation can permit an owner to use common property as if it belonged to that owner. The formal method is to designate the area as limited common property (LCP). Informally the strata corporation can permit the owner short term exclusive use. This process is often used in strata plans where parking stalls and storage lockers are common property and they are “assigned” to individual owners and tenants. This privilege can be granted for up to a year.
In terms of parking and storage, strata plans generally have one or more of the following arrangements: the parking stall or storage area is a separate strata lot; the parking stall or storage area is part of the strata lot; the parking stall or storage area is part of the common property, or the parking lot or storage area is LCP. It is very important, therefore, to confirm the designation of parking and storage when purchasing a strata lot. This information is available in the strata plan.
Since strata owners are responsible to pay strata fees for the repair and maintenance of common property, prospective buyers of strata lots needs to be informed not only of the current strata fees, but the financial health of the strata corporation in case there are things such as planned future repairs, or some levy, fine or judgement against the strata corporation not yet factored in to the strata fees. The Information Certificate produced by the Strata Corporation containing this type of information is called a Form B.
Strata Corporations are governed by an executive body known as a Strata Council, and the owners of the strata lots are members of the strata corporation. Owners are eligible to sit on council. The Strata Property Act contains guidance on how strata corporations are managed. For example, the strata corporation must make annual contributions into a Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF) until the amount in the CRF equals at least 25% of the total amount contributed for operating expenses in the previous fiscal year. A strata corporation is permitted to raise money through special levies against owners. For example, a special levy may be made when there is not enough money in the CRF to pay for a major repair.
The Strata Property Act contains a Schedule of Standard Bylaws that apply to every strata corporation in the province. The strata corporation may amend the standard bylaws or create new ones. It takes a vote of 3/4 (after the first Annual General Meeting) of the members of a strata corporation to amend bylaws. Bylaws serve as the strata corporation’s constitution, and they govern the owner’s obligations, including the use of their strata lots and common property. For example, an bylaw may prohibit a strata unit from being rented (except to family members or under a hardship exemption) by its owner or it may prohibit pets on the complex. Another bylaw may restrict the age of the inhabitants of the strata unit.
Clearly, there are many more things that can be highlighted about strata properties. If you are looking for a strata property in the Comox Valley, there is a minimum amount of strata information that should be acquired and read by prospective buyers. As well, some strata properties such as duplexes have unique considerations associated with them. If you are considering the purchase of strata property in the Comox Valley, or the purchase or sale of any other type of property, or you are in need of real estate information, contact me and I will be pleased to set up an appointment to discuss your Comox Valley real estate needs.
Best Price Selling Tips for Comox Valley Real Estate Posted on October 17, 2011 by Brett Cairns
Every week I have the opportunity to view a significant number of homes for sale in the Comox Valley Real Estate market. Some of the homes are prepared and presented properly to sell, and they show well. Others do not show well. There are a number of reasons for this, and I will discuss some of them in this blog.
Like many other people, when my wife and I purchase a home, we personalize it to make it our own. When we add our personal touches to our homes, they often become an extension of ourselves and our personalities, and they provide us with a higher level of personal comfort. Personalization is fine provided that the home can be depersonalized when it comes time to sell.
Consider the following scenario. All of the homes in a specific neighborhood are 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom ranchers with 1400 to 1700 square feet of finished living space. One newly built home in that same neighborhood is a two-story Cape Code style home that is 4400 square feet. Will this home stand out like a sore thumb? What will happen when the home is placed on the market? Will mainstream buyers consider it? Will this home hold the same value as it would if it was located in a neighborhood of similar homes?
Mainstream buyers often look at neighborhoods that are fairly homogeneous. When they do they may not even consider a home that stands out markedly compared to the rest. While a seller of such a home may eventually find a buyer for this type of home, it may be more difficult to sell, take longer to do so, and the sale may not result in the best price.
What if you are planing to extensively renovate your existing home? Are you renovating in order to derive enjoyment from the new features or are you renovating in order to sell the home at an increased price? Unfortunately, not all renovations are equal. The Appraisal Institute of Canada maintains statistics on the value of many different types of home improvements. These statistics show that the return on investment of some home improvements can approach 100% while other “improvements” can actually result in a loss.
Besides considering the reasons for the investment in home improvements, it is also worth considering the the subjective part of the improvement. For example, a home owner is considering having their home painted and the kitchen re-done before selling it. The kitchen and master ensuite are two areas that are often the focus of home improvements in this situation. Done appropriately, they often result in a more saleable home and one that brings a better return on investment. However, just as is the case with the Cape Code home standing out like a sore thumb, home improvements can sometimes be over done. If all of the homes in the neighborhood have moderately priced kitchens in them, does it make sense to invest in high end improvements if the motivation is to sell the home? This is a difficult question to answer and one should be considered carefully before making such an investment. It is possible to “over improve” a home in some situations. When this happens, the return on investment can be not what is expected.
Personal taste also comes into play. If you love orange paint and you paint your house orange to sell, you may be disappointed by the response from potential buyers. Neutral colors are often a better choice if you want to appeal to main stream buyers. Personal taste is just that – personal. If your tastes are eclectic, your choices will be less appealing to buyers than if they were more mainstream. If your purpose is to sell, you may be more pleased with the results when you consider your choices from the eyes of potential buyers.
Conformity is also important when it comes to features. If most homes in your neighborhood have 3 to 4 bedrooms but your homes only has two, it may lose appeal in the eyes of many mainstream buyers. It is important, therefore, to know what the norm is in your neighborhood, especially if you are considering a major home improvement investment.
Consistency is another important consideration. Does your home flow well? By this I mean is it consistent in terms of its style and finish. If it is a mash up of all sorts of colors that do not belong to the same color group, or of different styles, its value in the eyes of buyers may suffer. For example, there is a white refrigerator in the kitchen right beside a stainless steel stove. When colors and styles do not go well together the impact is obvious to most people.
There are a number of other things that can affect the value of your home when it comes time to sell. If you have real estate in the Comox Valley that you are thinking of selling contact me for a market value assessment of your home. I would be pleased to go over these and other factors with you.
Gratitude on Thanksgiving Posted on October 9, 2011 by Brett Cairns
I was away on an advanced marketing course in Vancouver last week and one of the topics covered near the end of the course was a Gratitude Exercise. This topic was both timely (just before our Canadian Thanksgiving) and appropriate (my wife and I were visiting our daughter, son-in-law and first grandson while I attended the course). While visiting, we remarked just how lucky we were to be grandparents of such a terrific grandson who is loved immensely by his parents.
The Gratitude exercise asked us the following questions:
What am I grateful for in my life?
What am I proud of in my life?
What am I happy about in my life?
What am I committed to in my life?
Who loves me?
Who do I love?
What can I do to make a difference in someone’s life today?
In each case my answers focused on my family, pets and friends. Perhaps this is because of my upbringing. My parents used to tell me “It is not what you do in life that is important, but who you are in life and how you treat other people”. This is what is truly important in life, and it is for what you will be remembered.
To test this on yourself, write down the names of the last five Nobel Prize winners. What are the names of the last five Oscar winners? Who are the five most wealthy people in the world? Do you know who all of them are? In contrast, do you remember the name of the person who did you the most recent kindness? What were the names of people who made a difference in your life and development as a person?
After more than 35 years life experience as a professional I can certainly agree with what my parents instilled in me. While I have accomplished many things in life as a professional, nothing has made me happier and more content than what I have done for other people, and the love that I have received from my family.
I recall one young man trying out for a baseball team that I coached years ago. He was only 17 at the time and he had no parents (one left when he was young and the other passed away). His 18 year-old sister had custody of him. As he came to tryouts, his raw athletic ability was obvious to me. What concerned me was his grades in school (bordering on failing) and his lack of passion for life. He did not have a job from which to make spending money and his future seemed dim.
I got together with the other coaches and we agreed that we would arrange to find a part time job for him. We also agreed to develop his ability on the team. Without going into all of the subsequent details, he made the team and the following year his grades had risen significantly. He went on to be offered, and accept, a college baseball scholarship. It was a great feeling to know that I had a small part to play in his development and subsequent success.
A second young man trying out for the team had ADD. He was effectively written off by the coach of the varsity team (I coached the junior varsity team at the time) for lack of talent as a pitcher. I disagreed and worked with the young man during the entire off season. We worked on his focus and his mechanics. His fastball went from a low 60 mile per hour fastball to one in the mid 80s by the following spring. Nobody previously had taken enough interest in him to show him how to improve his mechanics. A year after I left the area (offered and accepted a new job in a new location) I heard that he not only made the varsity team, but he was one of their best pitchers. He is now a successful working professional. Once again, it was a great feeling to know that I had a part to play in helping someone develop into the person he is today.
In life, it is often the little things that can make such a difference. As I have heard many times before, when you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves. While it took me longer to learn, I now know that if you are thinking of someone, tell them. If you love someone, remind them. Don’t assume that they know just because you do things for them. I have a lot to be thankful for in life and this long weekend is a great opportunity to reflect on all of this. I have a wife of more than 30 years who is my rock. I have two loving and tremendously talented and successful daughters, a tremendous son-in-law, and I suspect that I will soon have a second. I also have a grandson who brings me great joy. Happy thanksgiving Canada, and wishing that you have as much to be grateful for as I do.
Comox Valley Real Estate Market – Prices and Sales Posted on October 1, 2011 by Brett Cairns
By definition, statistics involve the organization, analysis and interpretation of data. The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) collects and organizes data for home and property sales in the Comox Valley. But who analyses the data and then interprets it for the home buyer or seller? Some real estate agents do this.
As with any data, statistics can be meaningful or they can be dead wrong. It depends on how they are used, and within what context and situation. Let’s briefly discuss an example. Often newspapers will report on the average sale prices of homes within a particular area in order to make some point about a real estate market. However, within the context of a neighborhood, median sales prices are more relevant. What is the difference?
Average sale price is just that – a mathematical average of the prices of homes that sold in a specific area over a specific period of time. For example, consider the following sale prices of 10 homes (expressed in thousands of dollars): 200, 225, 235, 245, 250, 255, 260, 340, 400, and 600. The average sale prices is $301,000.
The median sale price is based on the middle price in a list of sales prices when there is an odd number of sales, and the middle pair of prices in a list of sales prices when there is an even number of sales. Since we have 10 homes, we find the middle pair. The highest price of the five homes at the bottom of the price range is 250 and the lowest price of the five homes at the upper end of the price range is 255. the middle pair is 250 and 255 so the median is the average of the two at $252,500.
Clearly, there is a large difference between the average and median prices for this list of homes. The average price is much higher because of the influence of the two higher priced home sales. In a neighborhood where only a small number of homes sell, the average selling price may not be that relevant if there is a wide range between the prices. The median price is more representative of the more typical selling price. A rise in median price may mean that the market is strengthening, but it also may mean that homes priced in the lower end of the market are selling and leaving the market. This is where analysis and interpretation is important.
Another statistic that is often used is “Days on Market”. This figure tells us how long all active listings, in aggregate, have been on the market. “Time to Sell” refers to only those properties that actually sold. What happens when a property enters and leaves the market?
Consider a home that was on the market for 100 days and did not sell. It was taken off the market and placed back on again a month later. It was on the market another 120 days and did not sell. It was taken off again, its list price reduced and put back on. It sold in 34 days. Was the “Time to Sell” 34 days or 254 days? Also, how did this relate to the median time to sell versus average time to sell for the neighborhood?
Speaking of sales, let’s consider the following examples. Home one is placed on the market well above market value, stays on for 120 days and does not sell. Home two is placed on the market above market value, the price is reduced after 30 days and it sells in 50 days. Home three is placed on the market just below market value and it sells in a week. No buyer is found for home one, a real estate agent other than the listing agent finds a buyer for home two, and the listing agent had a buyer for home three before obtaining the listing and the buyer made the seller an offer shortly after the listing contract was signed. The point to be made here is that it is important to understand the circumstances in order to interpret what actually happened and why.
To summarize. To properly analyze and interpret statistics, it is important to understand the market, the neighborhood of concern within the market, and the circumstances of a specific situation. To do anything less increases the risk of dealing with a less than meaningful statistic.
This blog just touches on how statistics can provide buyers and seller meaningful information, or not. Proper analysis and interpretation of the data is required if the statistic is to be meaningful in a specific circumstance. If you are a buyer or seller in the Comox Valley real estate market or you are considering buying or selling in this market and want to know more about the type of our real estate market and a specific neighborhood, contact me. I would be pleased to discuss your Comox Valley real estate information needs with you and provide you with meaningful information that will meet your needs. I would also like to hear from you. What real estate market statistics are most important to you as a buyer or seller? Join the discussion and post a comment on my Facebook page. Click on the discussions tab.
Four Facets of our Lives Posted on September 25, 2011 by Brett Cairns
Today I thought that I would blog on something a bit different. How many times have you encountered people who declared they had rights but did not believe that their rights came with responsibilities? Have you dealt with people in positions of authority who did not understand that their authority also came with accountability?
Why do I bring this up? While I was swimming today I noticed a young lifeguard sitting in observation chair reading a book – seemingly disinterested and unaware of what was going on around her. Perhaps nobody had discussed the responsibilities of the position with her. A few nights before a young lifeguard was sitting in a chair fixated to her smartphone. How aware was she and how much immediate help would she be able to offer if a swimmer suddenly had a heart attack and started to go down to the bottom of the pool?
Perhaps laws such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are partially to blame? The Charter establishes democratic, mobility, legal and equality rights for Canadians. For example, this document states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. But what about our responsibilities? If I have the right to not be harmed (security of the person), then others must be responsible not to harm me. If they do not have this responsibility, then how can I be assured of this right? Then there are the issues of individual rights and collective rights. Since most of us do not live alone on an island, we must co-exist with other people around us. Is there a point at which my right to do something is extinguished by my societal responsibilities?
So what exactly are rights? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy rights dominate what actions are permissible and which institutions are just. Rights structure the form of governments, the content of laws, and the shape of morality as it is currently perceived. To accept a set of rights is to approve a distribution of freedom and authority, and so to endorse a certain view of what may, must, and must not be done. Clearly, rights, then, have boundaries. These boundaries involve obligations that could also be called responsibilities. With rights come responsibilities.
What is authority? By most contemporary definitions, authority is the legitimate power granted by some form of governance structure that is exercised by people over other people. This power is given with an expectation of good results while avoiding bad circumstances. In practice, the exercise of this power will often result in some limitation imposed on the freedom of the other person. Consequently,whenever someone exercises power over someone else in our society there is an expectation that the person given the power will be answerable for their decisions, direction, and actions to someone else. When we are given authority we should expect to be accountable for the exercise of that authority.
The same is true in most positions of authority. Many of us will have been selected for, licensed for, or appointed to some position of authority. As a licensed real estate agent I have been given the authority to write contracts that are used to transfer property rights. Yes I did say rights. In Canada, when we talk about owning land, “ownership” involves control of the right to use land (in terms of who and how) and control of the decision to transfer all or a portion of these rights to others. The only real “owner” of the land is the Crown (the government). The authority given to me under license as a real estate agent involves the most expensive investment of most people – their homes. Given the importance of the authority given to me, I must be accountable to someone for my actions. I am. I am accountable to my local real estate board and to the Real Estate Council of British Columbia.
As a professional for more than 35 years I understand the necessary linkage between rights and responsibilities, and the corresponding linkage between authority and accountability. Unfortunately, just as common sense is not all that common, this understanding is not always commonly understood.
So back to the lifeguard example. A lifeguard is given some limited authority over me as a user of the pool. For example, according to the pool rules I am supposed to do what the lifeguard says in specific situations. Clear the pool when I hear three whistles, etc. While I do not extinguish any of my individual rights when I agree to abide by the pool rules and swim in the pool, there could be some minor limitations placed on my freedoms when I have to follow the directions of the lifeguard. However, the lifeguard also has some limitations established by the responsibilities assigned to her by her employer. When she fails to discharge those responsibilities, there is an expectation that she will be accountable to someone for her actions. Any thoughts on just how much of this those young lifeguards understand? How many similar situations have you observed in the past year? Who should be reminding us all of the linkages between rights, responsibilities, authority, and accountability? Post your thoughts on my discussion board at Comox Valley Real Estate – Brett Cairns. I would like to here from you. Have a great day!
Preparing to buy Comox Valley Real Estate Posted on September 18, 2011 by Brett Cairns
An often asked question lately is “Is it a good time to buy a home in the Comox Valley?” While there is no general answer that will apply to all specific situations and circumstances, there are a few tips that may help you decide for yourself.
First, do you currently own a home or do you rent? If you rent find out just how affordable buying can be given your personal financial circumstances. Why rent and pay someone else’s mortgage if you can afford to buy and pay your own. You cannot build up equity in a rental but you can in your own home.
Second, why are you buying? Are you an investor? Are you buying a home to live in? Do you have to buy in a specific amount of time? These are a few of the questions that I will ask clients to help them answer this question. Motivation to buy is a very important element.
Third, what is the market doing? I addressed this issue in previous blogs. Contact me for information on this topic and be prepared to discuss your needs and wants as well as your location and price range preferences.
Fourth, what are mortgage rates doing? Visit www.brettcairns.ca for historical mortgage rate information. The chart on my home page shows that we are at or near 50 year lows. Some people appear to be waiting for the “bottom”. This may not be the best approach in a number of circumstances. Why? How does anyone predict the bottom? Based on my experience, market predictions are often not any better than weather predictions when one needs some exactness in the prediction. If you are an investor you may wish to gamble a bit. If you are looking to buy a home to live in, other factors such as features, price and location may have more relevance to you.
Fifth, what do you plan to spend, can you afford to spend, and how much per month do each of these amounts represent to you based on current mortgage rates? What is the impact of interest rates rising a percent or two? Getting financially prequalified is an important first step. Getting pre-approved is the next step. Offers can, and do, collapse over financing. By getting these things done before you start looking for a home you will know how much you can afford to spend. Don’t forget to consider the other expenses associated with the purchase of property in BC. Also, be aware that even though you may be pre-approved for a mortgage, once in a while a specific property may not qualify. Your real estate agent and financial expert can help you address these issues.
Sixth, if you do not already have a great real estate agent, find one. Do not be afraid to talk to several and interview them. All real estate agents are not equal in competence. Moreover, real estate law in BC is not confined to a single Act. Real estate agents are not lawyers and they do not give legal advice, but they are responsible to write legally enforceable contracts. They also should have the knowledge and competence to provide you with information on many different issues relevant to the real estate purchasing process. Can you afford to trust your most important investment – your home – with someone who just “meets the standard”? This does not mean that you should merely seek out the agent who makes the most money in your area. Some agents may be more concerned about making a sale and making money than providing you with the service, information, and the personal attention you need for you to be fully informed, comfortable, and confident making decisions related to the purchase of your most important investment. If your agent misses something because they are too busy, you may be in for a surprise. When surprises appear after decisions are made, the result is often not good.
If you are buying, or thinking about buying a home or property in the Comox Valley, and you are not currently working with a real estate agent, contact me if you would like to obtain a copy of the “6 Common Mistakes of Home Buying”. If you would like some information on how I can help you, make an appointment to meet with me and I will provide you with my personal brochure.
The Comox Valley Real Estate Market – Approaching the Fall Posted on September 12, 2011 by Brett Cairns
Summer 2011 is nearing its end, and we are rapidly approaching the fall season in the Comox Valley. As we do, what is happening with our Comox Valley real estate market?
To answer this question, let’s start by looking at some forecasts. On 16 Aug 2011, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) stated that national resale housing was stable, and in line with the 10-year average. CREA revised their BC 2011 sales forecast slightly higher in recognition of homes sales appearing to have bottomed out sooner than anticipated. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA), on 25 Aug 2011, announced that while residential sales are forecast to increase by 3.8% in 2011, and a further 3.6% in 2012, overall sales will remain below their 10-year average through 2012.
To put the BCREA forecast in perspective, their 15 June 2011 press release stated “BC Home Sales Edge Lower in May”, their 14 July 2011 press release stated that homes sales were relatively unchanged in June compared to last year, and their 11 Aug 2011 press release stated “BC Home Sales Edge Lower in July”. Their 30 Aug 2011 press release stated that the BC Commercial Leading Indicator Edges Lower in the second quarter of 2011 and mentioned some challenges to the BC economy that could lead to “softer commercial activity in the coming quarters”. This statement was balanced by one which stated that “an almost unprecedented decline in long-term interest rates may help to stimulate investment activity and soften the impact of slower economic growth”. Even against this backdrop, BCEA forecast the growth in home sales mentioned in the second paragraph above.
Having mentioned interest rates, where are they headed? Cameron Muir, the BCREA Chief Economist had earlier predicted steadily increasing interest rates throughout 2011 and 2012. In the 16 Aug 2011 press release, Gary Morse, the CREA president mentioned discussion of potential rate increases, but he added that interest rates have actually come down and are expected to remain low for the remainder of the year. Time will tell which organization is correct but one thing is for sure – mortgage interest rates are at or near historical 50 year lows (see the long-term mortgage interest rate chart at www.brettcairns.ca).
Back to real estate at a more local level. According to the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB), the average selling price of a single family home in the Comox Valley was $347,383 in Aug 2011 compared to $325,369 one year ago. Note, however, that the average price for the last six months (see the chart at www.brettcairns.ca) is similar to the spring/early summer of 2010 (six month period). Another pertinent statistic is the number of days to sell in August. For single family homes in the Comox Valley this increased from 66 days last year to 93 days this year. While these statistics may provide some sense of where the market is headed, they are not sufficient for decision-making in any specific circumstance. Contact me if you would like to discuss your specific circumstances concerning Comox Valley real estate and I will be pleased to help and answer your questions.
West Coast Fishing Posted on September 6, 2011 by Brett Cairns
The Labour Day long weekend has now passed, and once again I was reminded why I enjoy living in the Comox Valley. I joined my fishing buddies on Friday night, and we left for Tahsis to fish the West Coast.
Early Saturday morning, we left the dock shortly after sunrise and enjoyed the 45 minute boat run out to the fishing grounds. On the way out we watched salmon jumping, seals swimming around enjoying the beautiful sunny day, and sea lions feeding on salmon. We also enjoyed breathing the clean, fresh, Pacific air and looking at the spectacular scenery.
Shortly after arriving at our first fishing spot we were battling a bright Coho salmon that later weighed in around 12 pounds. The scream of the reel, as the fish made several runs, was a familiar sound. Shortly thereafter, another fishing rod tip was reacting to a salmon strike and the fight was on. A second salmon was boated, and it was followed shortly after by a ling cod and a red snapper.
More salmon, ling cod, and red snapper followed. After a short while, we decided to go fishing for halibut. As the day progressed we continued to enjoy light winds, bright sunshine, and comfortably warm temperatures – perfect fishing conditions.
In the early afternoon, we heard a familiar sound. We looked behind us to see a large whale surfacing and diving. No matter how many times you see such a sight, you still enjoy seeing this mammal traveling in the West Coast waters.
After fishing off of the coast we decided to move to inside waters where we could fish for salmon in shallower water. While we were fishing, there were many other boaters enjoying the day around us. While most of the boats were of the powered variety, there was also a group of kayaks that gently paddled by us. They were taking photos of the scenery and wildlife, and one of them was casting a line out, presumably fishing for salmon as well.
After a full day of fishing we traveled back to the dock to tie up and clean our fish. Afterwords, we enjoyed a snack and a drink at the marina’s floating restaurant. A nice way to cap off a great day on the water.
We fished another day and enjoyed fishing in several different locations. The weather remained good until later in the afternoon when a fog bank rolled in off of the coast. We adapted, and moved to inshore waters to fish where the conditions remained good.
Our two fishing days passed quickly. Monday morning we headed back home through the back country and spectacular scenery we had enjoyed on the way out to Tahsis. Several hours later we were home packaging and freezing our catch.
This past weekend gave us more great fishing memories to store for later discussion at a social gathering. We now look forward to the next time we can head out in the boat and enjoy the best of what Vancouver Island has to offer. What a great life out here on the West Coast!
Integrity in Real Estate Posted on August 28, 2011 by Brett Cairns
When I ask clients what qualities are important to them in a real estate agent, the word “integrity” is often voiced. But what is integrity ? Ask 10 different people to provide you with a precise definition. You may be very surprised with the results.
Anyone who wants to become a real estate agent in British Columbia must first take and pass a real estate trading services course. The licensing course manual mentions the word integrity once within the context of a brief discussion of the REALTOR ® Code produced by the Canadian Real Estate Association as follows “As REALTORS ® , we are committed to absolute honesty and integrity in business dealings” . However, the word is not mentioned in the index, nor is it defined in the glossary or anywhere else in the manual.
The Residential Trading Services Applied Practice Course is taken shortly after one obtains a real estate license in BC. The word integrity appears once in the course manual second chapter in a section entitled ethical, legal and privacy issues when it states “licensees must use this information with integrity”. The word also appear twice in connection with a discussion of honesty in the chapter on legal and ethical issues . No mention is made of integrity in the glossary or index.
Unless I missed it, the word integrity is not defined, and in fact, not even mentioned in the Real Estate Council of BC Professional Standards Manual. Nor is there any mention of the word in my local board regulations under Professional Conduct. As mentioned in the second paragraph above, the REALTOR ® Code makes mention of the word once.
If integrity is important in real estate, why is it given so little attention by the real estate organizations that govern real estate agents and real estate transactions? Moreover, why is the word not even defined by them?
Why is it important to define the terms that we use? Words and the meaning that they convey are important to facilitate effective communication, and to convey complete and accurate understanding. For me, communication is a three part process: message sent; message received; and message understood as intended.
When the word integrity is applied to people, the reference is to their general character. The character of a person is important because it embodies who they are, and what they believe. Character also affects how they act. Attributes, morality, and values are ingredients of character.
Attributes are the foundation upon which character is built since they represent who a person is mentally, physically, and emotionally. We are borne with attributes and we develop them through the education, training and experience of life.
Morality should be considered the framework around which character is built since it concerns the ethical principles that can be used to choose and/or judge between right and wrong (legally and morally). Some professions establish moral codes of conduct that are expressed through ethical principles and obligations. Integrity is an often cited ethical principle.
Values should be considered the glue that holds character together since they provide the basis for judgements, and they are the beliefs about conduct that guide actions. People develop basic values of their own through experience, and they develop values from a variety of other sources during their lifetime. Organizations may espouse values that they believe are of core importance to who they are and how they act. Integrity can also be a value.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines integrity as wholeness; soundness; uprightness; and honesty. Dictionary.com defines integrity as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; and honesty. Based on more than 35 years of education, training and experience related to the practice of integrity, I believe that these lexical definitions are too general and limiting.
Consider the following definition and discussion of integrity from the book Duty with Honour. To have integrity is to have unconditional and steadfast commitment to a principled approach to meeting your obligations while being responsible and accountable for your actions. Accordingly, a person of integrity calls for honesty, the avoidance of deception, and adherence to high ethical standards. Integrity insists that your actions be consistent with established codes of conduct and institutional values. It specifically requires transparency in actions, speaking and acting with honesty and candor, the pursuit of truth regardless of personal consequences, and a dedication to fairness and justice.
Why is integrity important to me in real estate? When I buy and sell a home for myself as a real estate agent, I will use the services of a real estate agent just like anybody else. If a real estate agent is going to be entrusted to represent my interests in a real estate transaction that involves my most expensive investment, I have to know that I can trust them.
My trust in a professional relationship is affected by the character and competence of the professional. My trust develops over time based on what I discover about their integrity, motivation, values, words, and actions.
I believe that integrity is absolutely fundamental to success in life, business, and to real estate. To me, success stems from who we are in life, and how we treat other people. We will often be remembered more for the type of person that we were, and how we treated and helped other people, and less for what we did and accomplished in life.
Over the years, I have witnessed people placing their own interests ahead of others, and then using those other people merely to get ahead in “what” they do in life – often for position, power, or wealth. How will these types of people be remembered? I know how I remember them. Will they be remembered for their integrity?
Confucius had this to say:
“Meet the virtuous and think about how to be their match, meet those not virtuous and examine yourself.”
“I know not what a man without trustworthiness may accomplish.”
“I used to take a man at his word and trusted that he would act accordingly. But now I listen to his words and note his actions.” and
“Conduct guided by profit is cause for much complaint.”
Confucius was revered by many as a person of wisdom. Perhaps we should listen to what he had to say. Which type of real estate agent would you prefer to have help you with your real estate needs – one guided by integrity, or one guided by profit?
About the Author
Blogs Aug to Nov 2011
My individual blogs (28 Aug to 7 Nov 2011) are presented here on my website as well for ease of reference by my visitors.