experts: real estate column Friday, January 11, 2008

Beyond '07 and Beyond '08

What, as they say in the classics, does it all mean? Where are we? Who are we? Does it matter? Do we matter? Another year older, yeah, but that really doesn’t matter, does it!

By Alan  Skinner

What, as they say in the classics, does it all mean? Where are we? Who are we? Does it matter? Do we matter? Another year older, yeah, but that really doesn’t matter, does it! 2007 for us - despite becoming “empty-nesters” – selling “the family” home, moving house, my wife changing jobs, she and I believe that this was the best Christmas Day ever – both offspring with us and a happy time had by all. Does it get any better? Not really. A superb end to a busy and fulfilling year.

Look outward – the North Shore, the Greater Vancouver area, British Columbia, the best country on this planet. I’ll stop there for a moment – let’s not go further unless we are ready to step in as “citizens of the world” and actively attempt to change/improve the lot of those beyond our borders.

What if we were to concentrate on the obligations that come with the rights we have as citizens of this “best country” and hopefully expand these obligations to a higher and more meaningful level of contribution? I accept that we are all involved, to a greater or lesser extent in some endeavour beyond the basic “obligations” (what I’d call our “immediate environment matters” such as ‘obey the law’, ‘make a living’, ‘pay your taxes’, ‘take care of your family’, ‘don’t pollute’, ‘don’t allow unsafe conditions to exist’ and so on and on) but I truly believe that we can expand these within our borders – wherever we choose to draw these borders. I cannot and would not presume to suggest specific endeavours for you to pursue as you would not for me. Let’s, however, make the sincere effort to find that sphere and contribute to its improvement. An excellent place to start is to improve our skill and knowledge by embarking on an area of study that will equip us to enhance that contribution.

A recent MacLeans article regarding the state of Canadian real estate (too big an area for meaningful aggregation) was entitled “Buy, Sell or Panic” – the first two options are acceptable, the third inexcusable. Nobody who owns a property that has appreciated, significantly or marginally is obligated to retain same; in the same way those with faith in the continuing future value of such an investment should buy or retain that investment. After thoughtful consideration based on personal factors and input from experts (those close to the market) – make a decision, and, even if that decision is to maintain the status quo, stop panicing or go back to the decision mode. Do realize that NOBODY is going to wave a wand and remove the risk from this or any other investment decision for you. Remember that to “not invest” is a legitimate investment decision – also not without risk.

This week the papers (and our mailbox) have reminded us of the “value” of our homes. The parentheses are intentional as the “assessement” value is merely an estimate by a provincial government body of a relative value of our dwellings (and investments). These “values” are then used to apportion the burden of the tax as evenhandedly as possible among the property owners in each municipality. Nothing is perfect, but in my almost 17 years of professional real estate involvement, I am gaining more respect for the fairness of the local outcome. For special cases the appeal process is an avenue to explore a reduction in that assessment. Indeed, a number of “appealers” seem to be seeking reassessment to a level below their current value because they feel that many others are “below value” and they wish to be in that category. This comment will not, I know, endear me to a number of disgruntled tax-payers, but I believe it contains some truth. Call/e-mail me with questions and comments.

Now Results 2007 for our North Shore! North Van: the persistent 11% plus price trend was exceeded in all categories. The ’07 final figure comparison shows level to rising number of sales from last year – detached down marginally(1%) and attached (t/homes) up 4% and apartments up 14%. Detached average prices +13% and inventory now down by 30%. Average prices up 12% (t/hse) and up by 19% (apts). Inventory (t/hse) 33% lower than ‘06 and (apt) up from ’06 by a surprising 50%. This defies the overall inventory pattern which has been lower in all categories but is caused by the many “new construction” units listed in the later months. A continuing opportunity for apartment buyers? In West Vancouver, detached number of sales up marginally 1%. Average price up 10% and inventory up 10% over ’06. On the condo side – attached (t/hses) sold are down 20% from 2006; average price up 32% based on 62 sales YTD. Active listings now more than double last year. Apartments reflect 7% increase in sales from ’06; with average price up slightly (1%) from ‘06 and active listings down 6% from ‘06. North Shore demand is still healthy with inventory generally higher in condos.

Next month I’ll try some prediction as to what we might expect for 2008! The crystal ball needs a workout.

Again, visit my website to see and “hear” the new developments. I continue my commitment to keep you ... www.OnTopOfTheMarket.ca. This work in progress strives to be the “go to” site for North Shore Real Estate analysis and jumping off point for FULL market listing information.

To join the group getting the e-mail version of this “update” - send a request now to alanskinner@shaw.ca and you’ll be assured receipt; phone me at (604) 988-7368 or visit www.OnTopOfTheMarket.ca . Feel free to forward to a friend!




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