Sunday, March 28, 2010

Picture of the Week - The Tree Houses

The Tree Houses 


Is this where our home ownership dreams begin - in tree houses?  Where access is a privilege, where, solemn vows and the allegiance of blood brothers made. 

On Tuesday, I came upon these two tree houses built out of spare boards in a grove of old maples and knew I had to get a picture of them. The fact that there are two of them is a bit of a mystery, but, they compliment each other nicely.   I was also drawn to the shadows spilling downward from the branches.

The Tree house in the foreground has a nice touch several branches are growing through it. In a few weeks these "palaces in the trees" will once again be hidden in the leaves.

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Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Picture of the Week - Practise for Paragliding

 
Practise for Paragliding

As mentioned in a previous post Mount Cheam is a favourite spot for the sport of paragliding and it is not uncommon to see up to 40 sails up in the air at one time.  Friday, in preparation for the afternoon flight members of the Deimos Paragliding Club were checking out their equipment and reacquainting themselves with liftoff – to state the obvious - it is too late once you jumped.

Paraglider Wally Geissbuehler, featured in these pictures, told me that an incredible lifting action comes off Mount Cheam, in fact, last year he was up for over 7 hours in a single jump. Unfortunately, in 2009 he also crashed, finding himself 100’ up a tree on a steep slope without a “tree kit”. The good news is that the Kent Harrison Search and Rescue Team did come to the rescue and that Wally was good enough recently to send a donation their way.  That story was recently published by the Agassiz Harrison Observer.

Imagine the rush of jumping off a cliff for the first time!  As close as you can come to flying without being a bird. There is a nice photo gallery at the Deimos Website that captures their flying.




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Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Median Listing Prices of Houses in the Chilliwack and Fraser Valley Real Estate Board Areas


Median Listing Prices


Chilliwack Real Estate Median Prices
Month/DayHouse Inventory25th PercentileMedian75th Percentile
03/15/2010838$279,900$369,900$489,900
02/15/2010732$289,000$369,900$489,900
01/18/2010634$279,900$369,900$499,000

More Chilliwack houses are coming onto the market, with an inventory that has increased from 634 to 838 properties, since the beginning of the year. No news here, sellers are aware that many young families prefer to relocate before school begins in September and that these families start to look now.

The prices quoted above are, of course, “asking prices” and it is here that the local knowledge a skill of a real estate agent can assist you in determining where the “asking price” is realistic of just a seller on a “fishing trip”. Hey, that sounds like me – not the fishing trip part – the real estate agent with local knowledge and experience.

What the numbers in the above table tell us is that, today the 15th of March 2010, the asking price of the property right in the middle (the median price) of the 838 single family detached houses available on the multiple listing service of the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board is $369,900 and that 50% of the properties available on the market have asking prices that fall between $279,900 and $489,900. Or to put it another way, you can buy one of 75% of all the houses on the Chilliwack Real Estate Board market for less than or equal to $489,900.

Fraser Valley (West of Chilliwack) Real Estate Median Prices
Month/DayHouse Inventory25th PercentileMedian75th Percentile
03/15/20104514$449,500$579,000$749,500
02/15/20104055$449,000$549,500$759,000
01/18/20103413$439,900$565,000$745,000

How does the median price of real estate offerings in the Abbotsford to Delta area compare to the Chilliwack real estate area? Once again there has been a sizable increase in inventory since January swelling from 3413 to 4514 houses for sale as of this date. The median in the Fraser Valley area however has increased as well by almost $30,000 in the past month.


Conclusion:

There appears to be a significant $209,000 advantage in median prices to living in the Chilliwack area compared to the Fraser Valley west of Chilliwack. I hope that these numbers will give you a little better idea about affordability and respective competitiveness in the Chilliwack real estate area.  Prices of single family detached houses remain very affordable to working families in the Chilliwack area but are pricey in other parts of the Fraser Valley.


The analysis above is based on my interpretation of information provided by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board and does not take into account private sales. The term "Chilliwack" is used here quite loosely to refer to an area serviced by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board which includes communities such as Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, Yale and Boston Bar. The Fraser Valley West area embraces the entire Fraser Valley Real Estate Board area which extends from Abbotsford to Delta.

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Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Picture of the Week - Shelter from the Storm

Shelter from the Storm ©
Stephen Mullock

I came upon this eastern Chilliwack barn last Wednesday afternoon returning from a real estate appointment. At first, I simply drove past it but had noticed the towering light edged clouds framing the structure. There was nothing else to do but turn around and snap off a shot.

This picture has a simple composition with enough elements for me to ponder man’s relationship with the land and sky. In particular I like the brave little weather vane perched on top of the barn,

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Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Canadian Mortgage Requirements Bad News for Sellers & Buyers

Let’s deal with the important stuff first – Buyers: if you are planning to purchase a Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison home in the next 6 weeks think about doing it now; Sellers: if you are thinking about selling your Chilliwack, Fraser Cheam property let’s get it listed.

The Federal Government is tightening mortgage lending requirements for some good reasons but the old action/reaction situation, in other words the outcome, might not be to everyone’s liking; namely, most entry level buyers and some sellers.

Personally, I think this tightening is unfortunate and that the once again overheated real estate markets in Canada’s large metropolitans are the root of these changes – that of course goes along with the fear of massive foreclosures when interest rates once again rise and the “party of maxing out borrowing” comes crashing down. As I have mentioned, a number of times, in this Blog the Chilliwack real estate market has only partly returned into a normal real estate market conditions after the market meltdown of 2008 – (housing looks normal but the apartment/townhouse sectors are still struggling). More flexibility in lending would still be appreciated.


Three Problem Areas (and there may be more)




1. Can’t Buy As Much:

As of April 19th, borrowers that are financing more than 80% of the value of their purchase will not be able to borrow as much. Why? Because instead of being qualified at the generally lower interest rates of a variable, 1, 2, 3 or 4 year term will have to qualify at a higher 5 year term contract rate or the Bank of Canada “Monday rate” currently at 5.39%. My friend, mortgage broker and a fellow professional member of the Real Estate Institute of British Columbia Brad Currie sent me this example.


A household income of $60,000 per year would service a mortgage of approximately $351,000 at present. Under the new rules the maximum amount would drop to about $285,000.

How much an effect will this have on the price that sellers get for their homes when Buyers cannot afford what they once could?

2. Affordable Housing takes a Wallop

The creation of Affordable Housing at the “grass roots level” will take a hit as the amount that such rents contribute to a mortgage payment gets reduced from 80% to 50%. This will reduce the size of the total mortgage that a borrower will qualify for. Again, Brad Currie explains:

They are going from an offset method, where we can presently use up to 80% of the income from the suite and offset or deduct it from the mortgage payment. The borrower then qualifies based on the lower payment. Under the new changes, 50% of income will be added to the borrower’s gross income for qualification purposes. Therefore a home with a suite renting for 900 per month means a borrower will be able to add $5,400 ($450 a month x 12) to their income used to qualify. $5,400 does not translate into much more mortgages.

Currently it takes an annual income of $42,000 per year to qualify for a mortgage of $400,000 on a home with a rental suite renting for $900 per month. After April 19th, the same mortgage will require an annual income of $75,000.

To bad this disincentive to purchasing or providing affordable housing in the form of a “mortgage helper” is not being better supported. Again the question about what these “suited properties” will sell for after these changes are made should be thought about.

3. Self Employed Borrowers – Tougher Times


I have to admit to having a soft spot for self employed people, they shoulder a tremendous burden for this country providing innovative new products and services - the thanks they get? A kicking when it comes time to borrow some money. Sure they are riskier than say a person with a comfortable pensionable government job but this country should decide to back these people for the risks they take and give them a break. Do we want to encourage entrepreneurship or fleece it?

Here the self employed will now have to use their declared personal income (after expenses) as stated on their tax returns to qualify for a mortgage with a minimum down payment of 10%. That will put a lot of them out of the housing market.


What should be done?



1. There should be more flexibility to help bring up struggling real estate markets within the country. Drop the blanket requirements and use them tactically. I have to think that a $330,000 house in Chilliwack is a lot less risky than a $581,000 house in Metro Vancouver.


2. We need to encourage affordable housing in this Country so keep the contribution of rents at the current levels of 80 percent.

3. How to help self employed people begins with a commitment from government that they want to help the self-employed risk taker of this country. That is where it starts.

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Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Picture of the Week - The Governors

The Governors©

My term as Chair of the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia (REFBC) comes to a close at the end of this month and with that change two, of our five, Governors leave (Barry Brown-John and Cheryl Kathler). I brought my camera to a farewell dinner event on Friday to capture the moment but was not satisfied with result, a poor 400 ISO setting left, a less than complimentary photograph - my only chance was to play around a bit with the image which I have. I hope I got it right – I like the way I am smiling (I am in the middle at the back).

There are a number of things that I enjoy about this image, the traditional group pose, the rich earthy colours, the solid forms of the Governors as one mass in an undefined Picasso-like abstract world. For me personally the 2009-2010 period was a time of immense transformation; I like to say that “2009 was the longest 4 years of my life”. This was due in large extent to the financial meltdown of 2008 - money. The lack of funds meant a lot of good projects were left only partly funded or not funded at all. It forced us to re-examine nearly everything, reinvent and refocus.

From a strategic planning session in 2009 we agreed that our direction is to fearlessly seek out land use learning, research and other projects that are innovative, collaborative, transferable, and sustainable with a special focus on issues just emerging. That is a mouthful but you have to dream big – our strategic vision is that, in terms of land use knowledge and practice, BC should be a model for the world.

The REFBC has been a significant force in this province thanks to the efforts of an excellent staff and the labours of so many Governors that have gone on before me. Over 110 BC communities have received monies that add up to over 55 million. Check it out at http://www.refbc.com/. It was my privilege to have worked with the other Governors and our fine staff this past year.

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Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Is Chilliwack Real Estate Going Super Nova?

The Chilliwack real estate housing market continues to strengthen along a seasonal pattern with 117 sales in February 2010 as compared to 74 sales the month before.  In contrast to the paltry 56 transaction in 2009 the recent 117 sales makes the Chilliwack real estate market look like it is going super nova!  Is it though? While the increase will be hyped in the media as much as it can by people with vested interests is it really such a significant increase.

I decided to have a look and this was approach I took.  All the sales of houses in the month of February during the past decade were added up this aggregate was then divided by 10. Pretty simple stuff, I found the decade (2001 -2010) average for the month of February is (drum roll please) 114. So, this past February pretty reflects an average selling market and not one about to go super nova.  I found this approach a useful way to evaluate market conditions let me know if you have a better suggestion.


Chilliwack Single Family Detached Housing - February 2010

Month/DaySalesAverage Sale PriceDays on the MarketActive Listings
February 2010117$360,00057753
February 200956$369,00096n/a

One good aspect of an improving market is that the number of "days on the market" for these sales of Chilliwack houses has decreased from 85 days in January to 57 days in February.  There is a 16.4% selling to listing ratio which has improved from the month before placing the market in BALANCED territory.  Prices of Chilliwack houses are up from the month before but still lower than a year ago. This is a great time to make a purchase as choice has been increasing with new listings, up 11% from 676 in January to 753, available as of today.

With respect to the Fraser Valley market (Abbotsford to Delta) the average sale price of a single family attached house for February 2010 was $550,000 a difference of $190,000 from the Chilliwack average. To put it into a mortgage equivalent, another $1,147 a month would be needed to purchase there at a 5.39% interest rate based on a 25 year amortized mortgage.  Advantage Chilliwack!  Thinking of relocating your business perhaps the Chilliwack - Agassiz area should be considered.

Chilliwack Strata Housing (apartments, townhouses) - February 2010

Month/DaySalesAverage Sale PriceDays on the MarketActive Listings
February 201060$226,00048474
February 200965$229,000119n/a

The Chilliwack Strata housing market also has seen an increase in activity and a firming of price going from the average of $216,000 in January 2010 to $226,000 in February 2010. This market remains in BUYER market territory with a sale to listing ratio of 13.6%. There remain a lot of good buys given general oversupply conditions.

 The analysis above is based on my interpretation of information provided by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board and does not take into account private sales. The term "Chilliwack" is used here quite loosely to refer to an area serviced by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board which includes communities such as Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, Yale and Boston Bar. The Fraser Valley West area embraces the entire Fraser Valley Real Estate Board area which extends from Abbotsford to Delta.


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Stephen Mullock is a Chilliwack real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience. He can be reached at Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.