Business

HOMEFINDER: Greater Victoria's real estate groundhog sees no shadow

The number of mid-winter listings in Greater Victoria is creeping up as people start shifting their minds back to selling their homes.  - Sharon Tiffin/News staff
The number of mid-winter listings in Greater Victoria is creeping up as people start shifting their minds back to selling their homes.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

Greater Victoria is blessed with a variety of unique characteristics that attract and retain home buyers, not least of which is having mild weather for the majority of the year.

As such, the local real estate market suffers far less of the winter doldrums than centres with harsher climates, where sellers are more likely to delist their properties as they prepare to hunker down for the cold months.

Not unlike elsewhere in North America, the number of residential listings go down over the Christmas season in the Capital Region as sellers shift their focus. Historically, there has been a dividing line when business starts ticking upward again, says Bill Ethier, president of Royal LePage Coast Capital Realty.

“The ‘Groundhog Day’ used to be Jan. 7, when things started up again, the kids are back in school, people are back to work and dusting off after Christmas,” he says.

“That’s when people started calling their Realtors again.”

Some years ago, home sellers here fell into the trend of setting things in motion by spring so their home would sell by summer, when moving would be less affected by weather, Ethier says.

These days, people are more savvy. Plus, real estate agents advise that waiting to sell until a busier time of year – when there’s more competition for buyers – isn’t necessarily a good strategy.

“We always have a Jan. 7 check-in with people who might have taken their homes off the market over the holidays,” Ethier says. “We’re telling people, ‘let’s start now and get it out there while we can.’”

Because of that, the market generally sees a spike in the numbers in January.

Not only does Greater Victoria’s climate lend itself to moves at any time of year, other factors help reduce ups and downs in the real estate market.

People have had a year to get used to federal changes to regulations around mortgage financing and amortization periods. Where the impact of the more limiting lending rules was significant in the days and months after they took effect, Ethier says, buyers can still secure low-interest mortgages.

Looking ahead to the spring, he’s encouraged by recent movements in the local market. “On Feb. 6 for example, we saw 51 new properties come on the market. That’s a solid number for this time of year.”

Helping brighten the picture are the positive local unemployment numbers announced recently, both signs the economy is improving. The real estate market always benefits from the consumer confidence that is a byproduct of economic growth, he says.

While selling prices have remained relatively flat here for the past year or so, property values are expected to increase more than previously forecast, Ethier says.

“A year ago we were predicting 2014 at a two per cent increase in the value of properties. Now it’s looking more like four to six per cent appreciation in value.”

Looking into his crystal ball, Ethier says Fairfield and Oak Bay continue to be strong investments – they’re the first to go up in price and the last to come down – and Langford will remain popular for its variety of housing options at reasonable prices.

He also sees some potential for a rebound in the hard-hit Saanich Peninsula.

“The market that has some comeback in it is the condo market, which has been lagging,” he says.

Regardless of where one looks, there are good buys out there in all areas. The key is to start looking now, Ethier says.

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