Archive for February, 2013

Should you sell your house before you buy a new one?

Monday, February 4th, 2013

It’s something that most homeowners think about – is it better to sell your home first before buying the next, or should you buy first so that you know you have something to move into, and then sell your existing home. Here’s an article that I saw in today’s Financial Post, written by Garry Marr.

It’s the first choice you have to make when you decide to move and one that just might define the state of the housing market.

Do you start the process by selling or buying? Buy something and the clock starts ticking on selling your current home because you likely need that money to close the house you just purchased. In markets where sales are plummeting that could be a scary proposition.

So you sell first. But what do you do if you can’t find something you like in the neighbourhood you want. Remember, your kids need to go to that local school and be in the district. Are you prepared to rent for a while?

People in the industry say the tradition historically has been to sell your home and then start shopping for the new one. But in this housing market, with multiple offers the norm and time on the market dropping in many cities, the process reversed and people starting buying, knowing their home would sell with ease.

Could the tide be turning in another sign of a slowdown for housing?

There are drawbacks to both selling first or buying first but the decision is very much based on your view of the market.

One option is to demand a closing date on your purchase a little further out, increasing your odds of selling. Renting is an option, but that market can be tight too.

Real estate agent David Batori says he’s telling his clients to sell first because he believes more listings will come to market in the spring. But he points out that, for a young family, selling first comes with the risk of not finding something in the right neighborhood.

“If you are too picky, you’re in trouble,” said Mr. Batori, who adds if you can carry two properties you should buy the home that is perfect for you with that long closing date.

You are going to need a lot of capital to pull that off because bridge financing at the banks is difficult to obtain without a buyer commitment for your existing home. The banks will provide bridge financing about two percentage points above prime if the closing date for the sale of your home comes after your purchase date, but you have to have a committed buyer.

Ultimately, if you buy first you can reduce the price of the home you are selling to move it.

Forget about trying to walk away from your purchase though, you’ve made a commitment to buy and left a deposit. “You can’t just walk away, you’ll be sued, you are in breach of contract,” says Mr. Batori, adding he has only seen someone try to walk away because of a death.

You can try to buy a home with a condition that says the purchase is subject to the sale of your existing home but you are going up against people with no conditions.

“Sellers will laugh at you,” says Mr. Batori, adding before anybody agrees to that type of offer they’ll have an escape clause in case a firm bid comes in. That clause might give you a right of first refusal but you’ll have to come back with a clean offer with no conditions.

Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice and real estate-secured lending at Toronto-Dominion Bank, cautions against buying without having a firm seller for your existing home.

“You can have the equity for two properties but you also need to have the income to carry both properties,” said Ms. Haque, adding the bank probably won’t extend credit to you for two homes without a high enough income. “It would put you in a situation that is uncomfortable and maybe not even affordable. Do you want to sell a property because you are desperate?”

Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, said any shift in the trend to buy or sell first will depend on the city because some cities are still sellers’ markets.

“In a sellers’ market you can [buy first],” said Mr. Porter. “In most major cities, we are shifting. Personally, I would sell first.”

Ultimately, it comes down to your view of the market. You want to buy first, you have to be pretty confident you can sell. Are you?

What is forecast for BC’s housing market this year?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Home sales are forecast to increase this year and next, with average prices dropping slightly in 2013 and crawling higher in 2014, the British Columbia Real Estate Association said Wednesday.

The association’s latest forecast calls for a 5.6-per-cent increase in the number of sales in 2013 and a further 6.1-per-cent increase in 2014, after the number of sales fell 11.8 per cent in 2012. In Metro Vancouver, the number of sales in Vancouver fell nearly 23 per cent in 2012, but the BCREA expects they will pick up over the next two years.

“I think 2013 is going to be a transition year into 2014 and 2015 when we are finally going to see the global economy start to post more regular performance,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA chief economist.

The economic fundamentals in B.C., such as low interest rates and growth in both employment and immigration, predict a much higher level of sales than are now occurring, Muir said.

“Tighter credit conditions introduced last year have had some impact, but a much larger impact is consumer psychology, where we’ve seen many consumers deciding to take a wait-and-see attitude in 2012. I think many of them will enter into the market in 2013.”

The forecast calls for 75,830 units to be sold in 2014 in B.C., while the five-year average is 74,600 and the 10-year average is 86,800 units, BCREA said.

“Sales, particularly in the fourth quarter of 2012 have certainly moderated, and Vancouver sales are likely going to be low again in January,” Muir said. “This forecast represents stronger activity happening in the second half of 2013.”

The average residential price is forecast to drop one per cent in the province to $510,000 in 2013, and edge up 0.6 per cent in 2014 to $513,500, BCREA said. In Vancouver, the forecast calls for average prices to drop 3.3 per cent in 2013 and a further 0.6 per cent in 2014.

“I don’t expect to see prices going anywhere fast, any time soon,” Muir said. “I expect to see prices remain quite flat over the next few years, and they would even likely decline in real terms if you put inflation into the picture.”

Most forecasts are inaccurate because conditions change over time, said Tsur Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate, Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C. “In general, BCREA is going to tend to be more optimistic than perhaps one of the banks might be.”

Somerville expects Metro Vancouver’s real estate market to remain slow for a while.

“Prices are more likely to decline over the next year than they are to to go up. I would be surprised if the declines are anything other than very moderate,” Somerville said.

Muir said average wages have been growing about two per cent each year, so condominiums and townhouses are becoming relatively more affordable.

“The benchmark price of condos and townhomes has been quite flat for the past three years, and if you discount that for inflation or wage growth, in a very real sense, real prices for apartments and townhouses are down about six per cent over (the) last three years.”

Muir expects an increase in immigration and solid employment will keep the market stable.

“We’re seeing part-time jobs being rolled over into full-time jobs, which points to a more solid underpinning for the economy and the housing market,” Muir said, adding that as the U.S. and the global economies recover, Canada will benefit.

Housing starts in the province will fall 3.5 per cent to 26,500 units in 2013, and go up 1.5 per cent to 26,900 units in 2014, the forecast said. The transition from the harmonized sales tax to the provincial sales tax may add a short-term boost to new homes sales this spring, the forecast said.

Source: Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun

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