A brief overview
If 2016 was the Year of New Rules and Higher Interest Rates, then 2017 might be the Year of Flattening House Prices and Stiff Buying Competition. Despite 2016’s new restrictive mortgage stress test rules, Canadians are still expected to be on the hunt for new housing this year.
According to CREA predictions, sales in the national real estate market are expected to drop by 3.3% in 2017. Alberta (Calgary/Edmonton) is expected to gain a 3.5% increase in home sales. Larger markets such Toronto and Vancouver carried their weight last year and will remain strong in sales transactions; the lack of affordability and supply of homes in Toronto and Vancouver, however, is another concern.
Because housing remains scarce and increasingly harder to afford for new buyers, sales in B.C. and Ontario are expected to fall by 12.2% and 2.7%, respectively. Given that these two markets are Canada’s most desired and priciest, buyers attend and sellers host open house events year-round.
Here are some ways to navigate your 2017 home search, season by season.
First thing’s first: get your mortgage preapproved
Shopping for a home this year may incite more bully offers (offers on a home that are made prior to the seller officially reviewing many other potential bids) as domestic and foreign buyers go head-to-head in the race for real estate. To remain competitive, getting a mortgage preapproval sets a realistic budget when shopping, proposing and negotiating offers on a house. Remember that you can buy a home anytime, but affordability calculations and interest rates are always on the move.
Once you have a preapproved amount with a locked in interest rate, think about when you’d like to start scouting for a home.
In the past few years there’s been an upward trend of winter real estate activity for sellers and buyers alike. Winter embodies cold, long, dark days that makes buyers and sellers reluctant to interact. If you’re a bit wary of house-shopping in winter, consider this: there are fewer “for sale” listings during this time of year. During the snowy months, you’ll also likely face less competition. The majority of homes are sold in spring and summer. Sellers are far more motivated to negotiate selling prices in a low activity market.
What to do: In the winter, snow and debris can hide defects or features of a house. Ask the seller for pictures of the property’s visuals as it appears year-round. For additional assurance you can also ask to see any home inspection reports they have. You may also wish to have one completed on your behalf.
Spring marks the most busiest season for realtors, buyers and sellers. From April to mid-June, warmer weather invites people to shop vigorously and engage in longer viewing days. For sellers, spring competition remains the best time to gaining top dollar gains on their properties. While it’s not impossible to break into the market at this time of the year, there’s more competition. The spring market is a seller’s market and being indecisive isn’t in a buyer’s best interest. However, you can make the best of the higher flow of buyers by sticking with your gut and staying perseverant.
What to do: Remember that preparation is key: know what you want in a home, where you want to live, and remain open to negotiate higher than an asking price on offer should a bidding war rise – or bow out gracefully and continue your search elsewhere. In hot markets like Toronto and Vancouver, this mantra can help you get the home you want with no regrets.
Much like the springtime, summer remains the second-busiest season for real estate transactions. Houses on the market are beautified and move quickly and inventory peaks in the sweltering months of June to August. Home buyers and sellers typically make the highest volume of moving arrangements since warm weather makes for easier facilitation, but a costly expense.
What to do: If you see a house you like and have a gumption to buy it, make an offer as soon as possible. Summer inventory goes quickly and moving service rates can be double or triple what they are in the Fall or Winter.
Home sales usually slow down towards the latter months of the season, yet inventory is still sizeable. You’ll still be able to get a variety of viewing perspectives since fall weather is diverse, yet mild in most Canadian provinces. The fall market sways in the buyer’s advantage; sellers are willing to negotiate a lower asking price due to decreasing seasonal demand. Darker, shorter days and buyers choosing to shop at the weekends usually drives this fall in demand.
What to do: Prepare for less competition, focusing your viewing days on weekends before dark. Anticipate high utility and maintenance costs and, if possible, take advantage of tax breaks, benefits and deductions.
No matter when you choose to venture the marketplace, if your 2017 New Year’s resolution is to buy a new home, do your homework, save and shop smartly.
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