Okanagan Real Estate News from Bo Skapski February 2015   
  Real Estate News

Bo Skapski

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

Would you like to make your mortgage magically disappear?  If so, there’s an incredibly simple strategy that will shave years off your mortgage while saving you thousands of dollars in interest!

There are also some tips on how to prepare your home in case of a blackout as well as a few of the latest tech trends from the Las Vegas Electronics Show.

Thanks so much for checking out this month's newsletter.  Please get in touch if you ever 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...
Slow Start to New Year for Okanagan‐Shuswap Housing Market 
The Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board (OMREB) reported January 2015 sales activity of all MLS® property types declined 15 per cent compared to the same month in 2014 – a slow start to the New Year.

“While demand typically slows in January, Okanagan-Shuswap home sales declined more than expected after the steady upward trend and solid end to 2014,” says Darcy Griffiths, OMREB President and active REALTOR® in the North Okanagan.

“The additional slowdown can be attributed to the record snow falls blanketing our Board area as the New Year began, and the downturn in the Alberta oil patch negatively impacting consumer confidence.”

Albertans may be pulling back from second home purchases for investment, recreation and retirement, and local households relying on work in the oil industry are waiting to see what happens next, Griffiths notes.  “However, we remain cautiously optimistic and are hopeful the lower lending rates will provide some incentive and boost buyer activity as 2015 unfolds.”

Market conditions in the OMREB area have deteriorated to the margin between a buyer’s (more supply than demand) and balanced (stable for both buyers and sellers) market in January from the cusp between a balanced and seller’s (more demand than supply) market at year end, depending on the Zone and property type.

“The Central Okanagan took the softest hit in January with total residential sales dipping 5 per cent and single residential declining 16 per cent while apartment sales improved by 12 per cent compared to 2014,” Griffiths reports.  “The North Okanagan saw a 12 per cent drop in total residential sales and single family residential sales were down 18 per cent compared to this time last year. In the Shuswap, total residential sales dropped 15 per cent while single family residential sales declined by 42 per cent compared to January 2014.”

Experiencing ups and downs at different times and locations, sales activity and prices within OMREB’s three diverse market areas tends to vary among property types zone-by-zone and month-by-month, Griffiths explains.  The price of single family homes is steady and strong in most areas with modest gains seen in some locations where supply has tightened.

The selection of single family homes has been reduced with an ongoing decline in inventory and new listings, especially for those priced below $500,000.  The shortage of entry level homes has pushed buyers into purchases in the next level up, or into the condo and townhouse market where there is more value in their price range.

“In order to fully understand the overall picture of the current residential market, it is important to consult with a professional REALTOR® to look at prices within property types and sale price trends within different price points,” Griffiths says.

Board-wide (Peachland to Revelstoke):  Overall sales of all property types reported in OMREB’s Board area during January 2015 dropped by 15.2 per cent compared to 2014 (to 334 units from 394) -- down by 21 per cent compared to December 2014 (from 423).  Total residential sales for the month dipped by 7.8 per cent (296 units board-wide compared to 321 in 2014) while single family home sales were down 19.6 per cent compared to January 2014 (to 135 from 168).  The 1,067 new listings taken board-wide for the month were down 11.2 per cent compared to the 1,201 listings posted in January 2014, while inventory (active listings) declined 12.7 per cent to 5,706 from 6,533.

Central Zone (Peachland to Lake Country):  During January, overall sales in the Central Zone were down 7.3 per cent -- to 215 units from 232 in 2014.  Total residential sales for the month dipped by 4.9 per cent to 194 units compared to 204 in 2014.  The sale of 88 single family homes saw a 16.2  per cent drop from the 105 in January 2014, while apartment sales improved by 11.8 per cent (to 38 from 34).  The 720 new listings taken in the Central Okanagan during the month saw a nominal decrease (5.5 per cent) compared to 762 in 2014 and total inventory was reduced by 14.7 per cent to 2,919 units from 3,422.

North Zone (Predator Ridge to Enderby):  Overall sales for January in the North Zone declined 28.8 per cent to 84 units compared to 118 units sold the previous year at this time.  Total residential sales for the month were down 11.8 per cent from last year with 75 units sold compared to 85.  Single family home sales (36 units) dropped by 18.2 per cent compared to January 2014 (44).  The 235 new listings taken for the month were down by 20.3 per cent from the 2014 level of 295.  Inventory for January saw a 6.2 per cent dip to 1,653 from 1,763 in January of 2014.

Shuswap Zone (Salmon Arm to Revelstoke):  During January, overall unit sales in the Shuswap-Revelstoke Zone declined by 22.7 per cent over 2014 at 34 units compared to 44.  Total residential unit sales for the month were down 15.6 per cent at 27 units compared to 32 in 2014 while the sale of single family homes dropped 42.1 per cent (to 11 units from 19).  The 111 new listings taken in the Zone were down 22.9 per cent compared to 144 in January 2014.  Overall inventory dipped 15.9 per cent to 1,130 from 1,344 during the first month of 2014.

"The competition for buyers can still be a challenge for sellers if properties are not priced attractively from the start,” Griffiths warns.  “The key to a successful sale is being realistic about the market value of your home and willing to negotiate for the best offer.”

The Magic of Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payments 
There are huge dividends to making your mortgage disappear faster.

Do you wonder sometimes if you’ll ever see the end of your mortgage?  Fortunately there’s a simple strategy that will save you thousands of dollars in interest and shave years off your mortgage!
Making bi-weekly accelerated payments is one of the easiest ways to make your mortgage a thing of the past.  Most of us pay our mortgage each month but accelerated bi-weekly payments can put thousands of dollars back in your pocket without the need to save up lump sum payments.
Just divide your monthly payment by two and pay that amount every two weeks.  There will be 26 payments over the course of the year which translates into 13 monthly payments instead of 12.  You'll essentially be paying the equivalent of an extra monthly payment each year without ever realizing it.  The additional amount directly pays down the principal and the more you apply to the principal, the faster you pay off your mortgage.
Let’s say for arguments sake you had a $250,000 mortgage at 3.49% amortized over 25 years.  If you take advantage of the accelerated bi-weekly payment strategy, you’ll save nearly $17,000 in interest and your mortgage will be paid off three years sooner!
Fitness clubs often use this same payment strategy but in reverse.  For example, a gym may offer a membership for $24 every two weeks so in your mind you think “that’s only $48 a month” but in fact, it’s actually going to cost you $52 a month because of the extra two payments each year.
Most banks don’t charge fees or penalties for this payment option but always ask up front to confirm.  There are other ways to pay your mortgage off faster so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you ever have any questions.  You have nothing to lose and thousands to gain!

Don't Let a Blackout Leave You in the Dark 
Being prepared in advance is critical when facing a blackout.

Losing your power can be a scary prospect, especially if it drags on for an extended period of time in less than hospitable weather conditions.  Here are a few valuable tips to help you cope when the lights go out:

  1. Ensure each family member has a flashlight stored in a designated spot.

  2. Have a battery operated radio on hand to keep up-to-date on local news.

  3. Keep a variety of candles, matches, batteries and a multi-bit screwdriver in a central location.

  4. Purchase a rechargeable 120 volt backup power supply for essential electronics.

  5. Stock your pantry with water and non-perishable food items.

  6. Don't open your freezer or fridge unless it’s absolutely necessary.

  7. The electric garage door won’t work so make sure you know how to open it manually.

  8. Check on residents in your community, especially if they’re elderly or on their own.

Blackouts can catch us off guard as we often take everyday essentials like light and heat for granted.  By properly preparing for a blackout, they’ll be no need to panic.  You can instead relax and have fun telling stories by candlelight.

Exciting New Tech Trends 
Ghost cars, dog wearables and smart beds are a few of the latest hot items!

Every January the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas introduces new and exciting technology.  Here are a few of the latest innovations:

  1. Driverless Cars - New technology is helping to shape the automotive industry.  Intelligent cars can find parking spots, detect pedestrians and even drive themselves!

  2. Pooch Power - Wearables aren’t just for humans!  A collar mounted activity monitor comes with a GPS and fitness monitor to track Fido’s activity and rest patterns.

  3. Sleep Appy - Monitors track your sleeping patterns so you’re able to wake up at the right stage of your sleep cycle.  There’s even a kids’ smart bed that has a “monster detector” app!

There are so many exciting innovations right around the corner and although driverless cars for example remain out of reach for the average consumer, they’re an exciting sign of where technology trends are heading.

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