Stratospheric real estate deals in Vancouver are driving buyers to the Island, but even in an improving market, sellers in the Cowichan Valley must price their property realistically.
That’s the verdict of local realtors Debbie and Darren Meiner, a mother and son team from Duncan.
After seven or eight years of dropping values, Cowichan real estate is finally increasing in price. But that hasn’t meant a stampede of sellers trying to cash in while the going’s good, the Meiners said.
Just the opposite, in fact, and realtors are frustrated.
“It’s not just Darren and me,” Debbie said. “The whole real estate community has buyers but we just cannot find the product for them. I would encourage anybody who’s thinking of selling: get it on the market.”
There has been an increase in Valley prices too, but nobody is fooling an informed buying public, she said.
“I think the key thing is, sellers can’t be unrealistic. But, if you are marketing your property at market value, you will sell it.”
There are many cases of multiple-offer situations and prices are higher than last year by about nine per cent, according to figures from the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, she said.
“The MLS stats for single family dwellings in this area show that the average selling price last year was $347,977 where this year it’s $380,324. Sure, Vancouver is up by 37 per cent but people in the Cowichan Valley can’t assume that we are in Vancouver.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean a big pay day on a sale, it depends when you bought the property you are selling.
“Don’t forget that for the last seven or eight years our market has been going down. At the end of January, we started upward. Prices are still low compared to what it was but we’re getting close, though.”
Buyers are coming to the Valley for a combination of reasons, Debbie said.
First, after seven years of a dropping market, it’s just timing, as real estate is well known for its ups and downs.
Next, people from Vancouver, and even farther afield, are cashing in and coming to enjoy the Valley’s lifestyle with extra cash in their jeans.
In addition, young people returning from the Alberta oil sands with some money to spend are being advised by parents and friends to buy now.
And finally, a good number of baby boomers are starting to inherit money and are snapping up recreational properties or helping their children get into homes.
“If you add all those things, you have a better market,” Debbie said.
Asked if he thought one area in the Valley was seeing more action than others, Darren said, “The South End is definitely turning into a suburb of Victoria. It’s both young families commuting and also people who are nearing retirement. You can see by the average selling prices that they get higher the closer you get to Victoria.”
“But, it’s not just South End. There isn’t one area that isn’t doing well,” she said.
“Chemainus and Ladysmith didn’t start until March but they’re hopping now,” Darren added. “Even in Lake Cowichan, things are moving.”
People looking to buy real estate are smarter, too, ready to act quickly on a popular place.
“I’ve said to buyers, if it’s good, it’s gone,” Darren said. “You need to buy it today. Of course, it has to be market value. If someone has a $350,000 house and they’re asking $400,000, those ones are sitting there.”
Realtors are frustrated at having so few properties to show but Darren said he’d found that even developers are hard-pressed.
“They can’t build fast enough…. And those prices have started to rise, too. Developer homes that were $399,000 are now $425,000 four months down the road,” he said.
The market is heating up, but, Debbie said, don’t think selling your house is a snap.
“I don’t want people to think it’s easy peasy. Realtors work very hard and, as a seller, you need someone to come in, as an expert, to tell you how to dress your home, how to stage it.
“A lot of people don’t get that you need to fold your laundry or that the cat dish needs to be put away. But, I do want to say that lightly. I don’t want everyone scared that they’ve got to go out and spend $5,000. There is an advantage, though, in getting hold of a realtor who knows what buyers are looking for.”
Doing it right can really help because most buyers want their home move-in ready, she said.
“Buyers today can walk away because they don’t like the colour of your paint. We’re all being a lot pickier about presentation now.”
Darren said that some folks make the presumption that a hot market means an easy sale and they can market their own house.
“They’ll put up a sign, For Sale by Owner, and they’ll get one person and sell it, saying, I got my price. But, with a realtor, if we can bring five offers to the table, more than likely you’re going to get your best price rather than possibly leaving money on the table,” he said.