Steady as she goes with Comox Valley real estate

Dear editor,

Having read three articles about the "Canadian housing crisis," I felt I had to respond.

Dear editor,

Having read 3 articles in the Globe and Mail and one in in Macleans, all about the “Canadian housing crisis,” I felt a response by an old realtor living in Canada would be worthy.

I mention the “living in Canada” part because Canada stretches from Vancouver Island in the west to Newfoundland, another island in the east; and yes to Chris Sorensen, who wrote the Macleans article, Toronto and Vancouver are part of Canada (he mentions them 19 times in his article while Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton get mentioned once).

The Macleans article, Crash and Burn, front cover photo of a house with an economic arrow crashing through the roof, headline Inside the Great Real Estate Crash of 2013 is the one that really irks me. (By the way, I don’t subscribe to Macleans; they actually sent it to me for free, after reading it I know why they need to send it out for free).

As I said previously Toronto, Vancouver 19 times. The only mention of Victoria is the 22 per cent decline in sales for the month of November, Montreal sales were down 19 per cent In the month of December, 9 per cent in Ottawa and 6 per cent in Edmonton. He fails to mention that sales for the year were only down 5 per cent in Victoria, 0.5 per cent down in Ottawa & up 6 per cent in Edmonton.

I was unable to confirm sales in Montreal though their average price was up 3 per cent to $277,000, up in Ottawa 2.3 per cent to $351,792, up 6.8 per cent in Edmonton to $334,472 and down in Victoria 1.7 per cent to $603,298.

Where I live in the Comox Valley, sales were pretty similar to the year before, so similar in fact that single-family residential sales were identical, 699 In 2012, 699 in 2011. The condo market here is nothing like Toronto. We had 285 condos sell this year, last year 287 (a bit of a downturn). Compared with 2010 (255 sales) and 2009 (251 sales), I’d say that we have had a stable market in condo sales.

Like Toronto, people like new condos, and sales have been very good in that category. New developments such as Piercy Creek and Steam Engine Estates have sold well, but then they have been very competitively priced in the low $200,000s.

Condos in the Comox Valley are grouped as apartments, townhouses and patio homes. They comprise about 25 to 29 per cent of the residential market. Unlike Toronto or Vancouver, they are usually 1,000 to 1,300 square feet in size.

The Comox Valley is still predominantly a single family residential market. The average price in 2008 was $354,307. Today, it’s $347,298.

My office keeps an old-fashioned paper trail of prices, sales and listings taken on a monthly basis. It’s filled in by hand and displayed across the wall just below the ceiling. It’s very basic but then I started it 24 years ago and still do it the old-fashioned way.

Where inventories over the past five years have soared, the price has remained constant (almost a flat pink line). Inventories are a green line and they have actually gone right off the graph paper onto the ceiling itself.

Unlike Toronto or Vancouver, our single family residential sales spiked (if you want to call it) to 770 sales in 2009; 2008 was 734; 2010 was 724 and 2011 and 2012 699 each. I would call that stable too.

It would be nice if my compatriots in St. John’s, Nfld.; Shawinigan, Que.; Guelph, Ont.; Brandon, Man., etc. told their story because you see Canada is the third-largest country in the world and it’s actually bigger than Toronto and Vancouver. If I was a ship captain I’d say “steady as she goes and watch for icebergs.”

Gregg Hart is owner/managing broker of Royal LePage in the Comox Valley and has 35 years experience in good and bad, but never a crashing real estate market.