Okanagan Real Estate News from Bo Skapski March 2014   
  Real Estate News

Bo Skapski

Assurance Realty Ltd.
#100 - 1634 Harvey Avenue
Kelowna, BC
250-808-5508 or 1-888-301-2121

The world of real estate is full of ups and downs so trying to figure out when to buy or sell can be a real challenge.  This month's article offers some useful strategies for those who are looking to make a move in today’s market.

Average house prices in the Central Okanagan, in February, rose dramatically, compared to the same month in 2013, according to OMREB MLS statistics.  What does this really mean to both the Home Buyer and Home Seller?  It's all explained here.

The Bo Knows Homes Team continues to be the top producing team for Century 21 in the Central Okanagan and in 2013 had its best year ever, achieving the top producing team award for BC and the #14 team across Canada in the Century 21 system, which consists of approximately 9,000 agents coast to coast.

There’s also a must read article if you have young children who use Facebook, as well as a few simple yet effective tips that’ll make your car less of a target to thieves.

Thanks so much for checking out this month's newsletter.  Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments regarding the articles, or real estate in general -- it'd be great to hear from you!

Bo Skapski

In this issue...
Kelowna had a record average single family house price in February 2014. Sellers ask: "Has my home increased in value?" 
Making Sense of Some Interesting Statistics in the Okanagan Real Estate Market

The average single family home in Kelowna, year to date as of March 20, sold for $489,354.  The home shown here,  MLS® 10073300 was sold by Century 21 Assurance Realty, for $490,000, so it's pretty close to the average Kelowna home. All numbers below are based on data obtained from Okanagan Mainline Real Estate (OMREB) MLS® sales data.

Has my home increased in value?
The short answer to the question above is: "Maybe, maybe not."  It depends which market segment your property falls into.

Can you trust statistics?  Mark Twain popularized the expression: "There are three kinds of lies; Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics".  When judging statistics on their own, without context, it's important to keep this sage advice in mind.

Average house prices way up from last year:  February's average single family home price in the Central Okanagan was $554,729, eclipsing the previous high average price of $552,830, set in the month of April 2008, at the height of the Okanagan real estate boom.  (This average does not include lakeshore houses or homes on acreages).  This was 33.4% higher than the average price of $415,845 for February 2013.  Did this mean that home prices in the Central Okanagan increased by 1/3 since last year? 

To answer that question we have to see how this "average" price was arrived at.  There were some very significant differences between the houses sold in April 2008 and the houses sold in February 2014, as well as the houses sold in February 2013.
In 2008 there were 241 houses sold in April, with 10 houses sold for more than $1 million, with the highest price at $2,300,000) while in February 2014 there were only 109 sales, 8 of which were over $1 million, with the highest price at 3,746,000.  This one house, alone, skewed the average price by approximately $30,000 while the most expensive house sold in April 2008 only changed the average by $7,000.  Just by taking out the houses over $1 million, the average price in February 2014 was reduced by $86,000, while the same exercise in 2008 reduced the average to by $48,000.  Obviously, the "average" house sold in February 2014 was not the same type of house as the "average" house sold in 2008.
March average prices down $95K from February:  I did a quick check on statistics for the Central Okanagan for the first 20 days of March.  Surprise!  The average of 121 single family homes sold to date is $459,095, over $95,000 lower than last month.  The numbers are still significantly higher than last year, when the average price was $421,701, but again there were three homes sold for more than $1,000,000, compared to one last year, and seven homes sold for more than $700,000 compared to two last year.

Reality: A tale of two (or more) markets.
To create a more accurate study of the market, I did two other comparisons, comparing older smaller houses with 3-4 bedrooms and 2-3 bathrooms from 1500-2500 sq. ft. built before 1985 and newer medium/large homes, with 3-5 bedrooms and 3-4 bathrooms, from 2500-3500 sq. ft., built after 2005 sold in the past three months and the previous 9 months.  The results are interesting!
Older Homes: The average price of the older homes is up about 3% for this period, although I suspect that many of the really "low hanging fruit" are gone from last year.  The average price increased from $371,000 to $382,000.  It was around $370,000 the previous year.  I think anyone owning an older home in Kelowna, priced under $400,000, can expect to get between 3-4% more than last year, as inventories are much lower.  The current inventory represents about 3.5-4 months' market absorption.  A balanced market is considered to be 5-7 months' inventory, which shows that this lower end of the market has moved towards a sellers' market.
Newer Homes: For the newer homes, the results are much different.  The average sale price of the homes built after 2005 is about the same as last year, with an average price of around $560,000, up around 0.3% from last year and down about 3% from the previous year.  The inventories in this range still represent around 9-10 months' average sales, so it remains a buyers' market.
Luxury Homes: This is one segment of the market where sales are way up!  There have been 26 homes sold for over $1 million, so far this year, compared to 10 homes in the same period in 2013 and 5 homes in 2012.  Of these 26 homes, 12 were lakefront homes, including 3 waterfront acreages.  There were also 3 more acreages, not on the lake and 13 single family homes not on the lake or acreage properties.  It is difficult to tell whether this market segment is increasing in value, or not, as the samples are too small to draw any real conclusions.  However, it does point to the fact that people who buy luxury homes appear to have renewed confidence in the Central Okanagan market, and I think we can see this trend continuing. 

It also means that average home prices may keep rising, without the value of any particular home increasing, just as has happened in our current market statistics.

Okanagan/Shuswap Housing Market up in February 
Sales Activity Up 8% in Okanagan

The Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board (OMREB) reported February sales activity of all MLS® property types were up eight per cent compared the same month in 2013.

“For the most part, the housing market in the Okanagan-Shuswap continues to strengthen and maintain a ‘steady as she goes’ trend although February dampened somewhat compared to January’s significant year-over-year gains,” says Karen Singbeil, OMREB President and active REALTOR® in the Shuswap.

“While the North Okanagan posted the most improvement in January over sales levels that were at a cyclical low at this time last year, activity slipped in February with home sales pulled back and snowy conditions deterring potential buyers – as was also reflected by most markets in the province.  However, the Central Okanagan and Shuswap zones did improve marginally over 2013 with the Shuswap posting the strongest unit sales, while the sale of a number of higher end properties during the month resulted in a temporary bump up in average residential prices for the Central Okanagan.”

The lagging economy and anaemic job creation from 2013 has spilled over into the first quarter of 2014 and impacted consumer demand for housing, but employment is expected to gain momentum during the second half of the year and spur growth in BC markets.  As jobs and real estate prices continue to rise in Alberta, recreation and investment property buyers could return to the Okanagan this summer and mirror the activity that has already begun on Vancouver Island.

“Heading into the spring market, we are hopeful buying activity will pick up as the weather improves and consumer confidence is spurred by the continuation of low long-term interest rates,” Singbeil notes.

“Despite declining inventory and some sellers remaining on the sidelines, buyers still have adequate inventory with a good selection of properties to choose from in our Board area.  This can be a challenge for sellers so they must be aware of the competition for buyers, set an attractive list price and be willing to negotiate for the best offer.  Market conscious and competitive home sellers understand that proper pricing remains critical so they are sharpening their pencils and seeing results. “

Singbeil points out that OMREB’s three market areas are diverse so sales activity tends to vary among property types zone-by-zone and month-by-month with ups and downs at different times and locations.  “In order to fully understand the overall picture of the current residential market in our Board area, it is important to look at prices within property types and sale price trends within different price points.”

Board-wide (Peachland to Revelstoke):  Overall sales of all property types reported in OMREB’s Board area during February improved by 7.9 per cent compared to 2013 -- to 383 units from 355. Total residential sales for the month rose 10.4 per cent to 339 units board-wide compared to 307 last February (up 5.8 per cent compared to 322 last month – January 2014).  The 1,256 new listings taken board-wide for the month were on par with the number of listings posted in February 2013 (1,257), while inventory (active listings) was down 7.7 per cent over this time last year – to 6,954 from 7,536.

Central Zone (Peachland to Lake Country):  During February, overall sales in the Central Zone were up 12.6 per cent to 267 units from 237 in 2013. Total residential sales for the month improved 16.5 per cent to 240 units compared to 206 last year at this time.  The 839 new listings taken in the Central Okanagan during the month saw a 6.3 per cent rise compared to 789 in 2013, while total inventory was reduced by 9.5 per cent to 3,698 units from 4,088 last February.

North Zone (Predator Ridge to Enderby):  Overall sales for February in the North Zone dipped 6.3 per cent to 75 units compared to 80 units sold last year at this time.  Total residential sales for the month were down 8.3 per cent over last year with 66 units sold compared to 72.  While the 275 new listings taken for the month were down 8.0 per cent from the 2013 level of 299, inventory for February saw an 8.6 per cent drop to 1,863 from 2,039 last year.

Shuswap Zone (Salmon Arm to Revelstoke):  During February, overall unit sales in the Shuswap-Revelstoke Zone rose 10.8 per cent to 42 units compared to 37 in 2013.  Total residential unit sales for the month were up 13.8 per cent over last year at 41 units compared to 37.  New listings taken in the Zone were down 16.7 per cent compared to last February -- to 140 units from 168.  Overall inventory dipped slightly (1.2 per cent) at 1,388 compared to 1,404 for the same month in 2013.

Bo Knows Homes Team is the Top Real Estate Team in BC, #14 in Canada for Century 21, by Production 
Bo Knows Homes Real Estate Team Continues Its Successful Track Record

The Bo Knows Homes Team, consisting of Bo Skapski, Sandra Ciolfi and Dave Goertz, was awarded the Team Double Centurion Award for the 4th time and Team Centurion or Double Centurion Team for the 9th consecutive year!  In addition, The Bo Knows Homes Team was recognized as the #14 Real Estate Team in Canada, by Production and the #1 Team in BC, in the Century 21 organization, for its performance during 2013.  We were also the Top Producing Team for Century 21 in the Central Oakanagan for the 9th consecutive year, by sales volume and unit sales.

Selling Your Home or Property?  If you are considering selling a home in the Central Okanagan in 2014, we would be happy to provide you with a No Obligation, Free Market Evaluation of your home's value.  Why not see what our Award Winning Service can do to assist you in a successful home selling?  We promise to make the process rewarding and stress-free.

Buying a Home? If you are thinking about buying a home this year, call us for a Free Buyer's Consultation.  We can take you through all the steps needed to buy a home or property and send you properties that meet your requirements.  We'll help negotiate the best deal for you and assist you at all stages of the home buying process.  It is our mission to ensure that you end up with your perfect Okanagan home, with a big smile on your face.

Please call or text Bo at 250-878-3878, or email us at [email protected] for information.

In the accompanying picture, Dave Goertz, Sandra Ciolfi and Bo Skapski are flanked by Myrna Park and Bill Hubbard, owners of Century 21 Assurance Realty Ltd.  Century 21 awards are based on Century 21 records of closed transactions, including MLS® and non MLS® sales.

Is It a Good Buy or Goodbye? 
Is the housing market going to cool down, level out or gain steam?

No one can say for sure what’s around the corner.  If you're currently considering home ownership, here are a few points to consider:

  1. Do Your Homework - It's important to plan ahead so research local amenities and public transportation.  Consider features like parks and schools if you’re planning to start a family.

  2. Financial Accountability - Ensure you're financially ready to buy a home.  There are many other costs in addition to mortgage payments so know what you're getting yourself into.

  3. Go Pro - Have a real estate agent guide you through the process.  Get a market analysis of the homes recently sold in the area you're interested in as well as an idea of community trends.

  4. Stick to Your Budget - Be sure to examine your individual needs and never overextend yourself financially.  Make a list of the features that fit your family's lifestyle before looking at homes and stick to it.

  5. Think Straight - It’s normal for home buyers to experience a full range of emotions during the complex, real estate rollercoaster ride.  House hunting should be fun so don’t take things personally or let your emotions rule every decision.

  6. Inspect the Unexpected - Just because you've checked over the house thoroughly doesn't mean all’s well behind the scenes.  Making an offer conditional on a home inspection means there won't be any nasty, expensive surprises.

An uncertain real estate market can make it difficult to know whether you should hold off purchasing a home in case prices fall or jump right in before prices skyrocket.  The time to buy is when your budget matches your needs so always consider your personal circumstances carefully before making decisions.

Don't Kid Around with Facebook! 
Are your kids pleading with you to go on Facebook?

Facebook’s current policy (which could soon be changing) is that you have to be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account.

There’s no real way to police this so as with anything, education is key.  Here are a few points you should be aware of if you’re thinking of opening an account for your child:

  1. Fake Friends - Predators prey on unsuspecting children by creating fake profiles to befriend them.  Children want to boost their friends list and sometimes accept questionable requests.

  2. It’s Not Nice to Share - Children don’t always understand the concept of privacy.  They often share passwords and release private information that reveals their identity.

  3. Endorsement Errors - If your child “Likes” a company that’s on Facebook, their image may appear next to an ad for that business when random strangers view their news feeds.

  4. Assess Access - If your child creates a fake birthdate to sign up, Facebook will think your child is 18 when they’re actually much younger.  They’ll then be subjected to ads that are geared towards adults.

  5. Itchy Fingers - An impulsive rant could easily come back to haunt your child with devastating consequences.  Make sure they understand that their posts aren’t owned by them and can never be taken back.

It’s important that parents proactively educate their children in today’s ever changing online world.  If your kids are on Facebook, make sure to check their privacy and location settings and teach them about the new age “facts of life”.

Dude, Where's My Car? 
A car or truck is stolen every minute of every day!

Deserted parking lots are stereotypically the stomping ground for car thieves but the truth is you’re more likely to be a victim of an opportunistic thief who looks for unlocked cars.  Here are a few helpful tips that'll make your car less of a target:

  • conceal valuable items in order to avoid a thief’s temptation

  • steering clamps will deter thieves or at least slow them down

  • always lock your car and never leave it running, even for a minute

Imagine how you’d feel if you went to your car only to find an empty parking spot.  The more time and effort it takes for a thief to steal your car, the less attractive it (and its contents) becomes so be pro-active and keep your car in its spot.

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