Thursday, July 31st12.9°C
Ups and Downs in the World of Housing

Closing on a sale during a forest fire

Not again.  I write these things three days before they get uploaded to Castanet and as of now there are 1,100 homes evacuated in West Kelowna affecting 2,500 people.  Most people remember the 2003 Kelowna Mountain Fire where one third of the city was evacuated and were living in spare bedrooms of the other two thirds.  There were farm animals on the front lawns of residential streets, cars and motor homes parked everywhere, everything smelled like smoke and we were glued to newscasts for updates.  Hopefully by Monday this fire will be under control and we will have had some rain.

Our emergency personnel are likely the best anywhere.  Not only do our firefighters, RCMP, volunteers and social services workers have the proper training, our front like emergency personnel also have a  lot of experience over the past decade.  When Jean Chretien landed his helicopter on Enterprise Way 11 years ago he gave a quick speech to evacuated residents and volunteers at the Parkinson Rec. Centre and talked about the TLMs in Kelowna.  TLM is a French acronym for “Tous Les Memes” meaning it’s always the same people in communities who immediately drop everything and help out any way they can.    Everyone in the Okanagan knows the drill by now.  We’ve already gathered up our pine needles from our yard, cleared them out of our gutters and looked around our yards for anything that may fuel a forest fire.  We don’t use cedar or pine shake roofs anymore and we’ve all taken videos or photos or our belongings in case we need to make an insurance claim.   When the weather gets so hot and dry that the grass crunches when you walk on it we know that we might just need to have our “go bag” packed and ready. 

A real estate sale might be affected if a property is to close while it’s in an evacuation zone.  When this happens most people are reasonable and realize that things just might need to get pushed back a few days.  The key is communication between realtors, buyers, sellers, lawyers, lenders and insurance companies to keep everyone in the loop.  If a buyer’s insurance company won’t insure a home until an evacuation order is lifted then everyone just needs to wait it out.  Problems can arise when sellers need the funds from a house sale in order to complete on another home impacting more people but the solution is usually constant communication. 

Since you’re reading an obscure Kelowna real estate blog chances are you probably have a property here.  If so, please consider getting on social media offering an extra bedroom to someone who needs it.  Things like this tend to bring us all closer together and ultimately make us stronger.


Thanks for reading…. To view Kelowna homes for sale go to or call Andrew Smith directly at 250-979-8066. Or Follow me on twitter @smithap01

Over 22 years experience helping people achieve their dream of home ownership!


A Realtor needs great knees!

We’ve all seen the signs around town as we enter a shopping mall, big box store or a gym reminding us that we can’t leave our dogs in the car even with windows open and water available.  And, we’ve all seen the inevitable news stories where someone runs into a store “just for a minute” and the police are called to rescue the dog where a wild scene ensues.  By now we all know why we can’t leave pets in a car and we know what will happen if we do. 

We should have some sort of rules for home sellers when the temperatures get this high.  With temperatures soaring to the mid-high 30s let’s consider a few adjustments.  First of all….crank that air conditioner to super-sonic levels.  Especially if the home is vacant because the first thing a buyer wants to do after entering a sweltering home is get out of there.  Same goes for the Realtor.  I understand energy conservation and I know societies survived just fine before air conditioning was invented but the first reaction from a buyer after entering a hot home is let’s get this one out of the way quick.  If your home is vacant and you live out of town, ask your agent to turn the A/C on in the morning of a showing and off afterwards.  We will.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Some large retailers offer free water to customers when it gets this hot and sellers can do the same.  It goes a long way leaving a note saying everyone’s welcome to a pitcher of lemonade in the fridge and leaving a few glasses on the counter.  This way potential buyers are likelier to stay longer and an extra five minutes spent in your kitchen taking a little break will usually result in spotting something they wouldn’t normally see during a quick walk-thru.  Everyone attaches names to the houses they see on a house hunting tour and it’s better to be remembered as the lemonade-and-cucumber-sandwich house instead of the scorched earth house. 

With the temperatures rising so is the demand for vacation condos and homes in the Okanagan. For Vacation condos click here.

Dress code.  The unwritten dress code has improved significantly over the years as our house prices have risen.  More ties, pressed pants and shined shoes giving the public a little more confidence that we can sell their $500,000 house.  All bets are off during Okanagan heat waves though. No one in this industry is going to show up for a first meeting wearing sandals and a T-shirt (okay….maybe a few us) but when temperatures are in the mid 30s please be prepared to see my knees.  Please don’t think less of me.

Be mindful that extreme heat is similar to extreme cold.  If someone is taking the time to see your house these days they’re probably pretty motivated and aren’t tire kicking because they could be at the beach with everyone else.


Thanks for reading….Back to stats next week.

To view Kelowna homes for sale go to or call Andrew Smith directly at 250-979-8066.

Andrew has over 22 years experience helping people achieve their dream of home ownership!

Canary in the coal mine

Kelowna Condo sales stats are the canary in the coal mine in determining whether or not our real estate market is doing okay.  Spoiler alert… is, sort of.  There, I’ve saved you some time reading the rest of this so go out and enjoy the Okanagan summer. There’s no typical condo buyer here anymore because it used to be first time buyers, last time buyers or investors and now there’s a mix of the entire population.  If you’re still with me here’s what’s been happening.

Currently there are 580 condo apartment units for sale in the Kelowna area.  I excluded the ski resort, condos on native land and did my best to exclude time shares because it just muddles things.   157 of these are currently vacant and not generating any money for owners (bad)  and we’re down to only 9 in foreclosure (good unless you’re one of the 9).  There are 9 for sale under $100,000 and 4 priced over $1 million.  Then there’s a whole bunch in the middle.

You can look at 580 and make an argument that it’s still too high based on 70 unit sales per month and you’d be right but it’s so much better than it has been.  There have been 420 sales since the beginning of this year so by definition we’re still mired in a buyers’ market but the end appears to be in sight.  Through this time last year there were only 290 sales and it looked like things would never turn around but it appears that they have.  If numbers for the rest of the summer reflect what happened during the spring we’ll plough through this unsold inventory and approach a balanced market by the fall.  We still have about 160 condos too many for what the market is absorbing but we’re quickly chipping away at that number.  Yes, winter tends to brutal for condo sellers but this year just might be different this year after three strong quarters. 

Prices are rising but incrementally.  The average sale price so far this year is $249,000 which is up marginally from $240,000 last year and $244,000 for this time in 2012.  Nothing to get too excited about here but condo sellers are certainly defying the odds with sale prices increasing, albeit minimally, when market forces dictate that they should be falling

Please share this with anyone thinking of buying or selling a condo.


To view condos for sale in Kelowna go to or call Andrew Smith directly at 250-979-8066. Over 22 years experience helping people achieve their dream of home ownership!

Follow me on Twitter@smithap01


Kelowna: For sale by owner

I wish I had Kelowna statistics available so I could pass on the success/failure rate of home owners who choose to sell their homes by themselves without a realtor.  I just don’t have any so I’ll borrow American statistics and we’ll pretend our stats are similar.  According to the National Association of Realtors, 80% of home owners who try selling their homes themselves aren’t successful and they end up listing with a real estate agent.  What went wrong with the 80% who didn’t succeed?  It’s easy and straightforward to figure out why people sell homes themselves and if you’re taking the time to read a real estate blog you probably know them already.

1.  Money

This is the big reason I reckon.   Okay, it’s probably the only reason.  It costs a lot to sell your house through a real estate agent….no argument there.  Perhaps this money is necessary for home owners who have little equity in their homes and need to sell at a certain price and don’t want to pay a Realtor.    As time marches on without a sale, perhaps the savings can be subtracted from the original asking price in order to attract a willing and able buyer.

2.  It looks easy 

How hard can it be to buy to go to Home Depot and buy a "For Sale" sign and wait for the phone to ring.  There are so many websites out there where you can post information about your home - the phone should be ringing off the hook in no time. 

3.  Bad experience with a Realtor in the past 

I never know what to say when someone has a legitimate complaint about some agent who dropped the ball some time in the past.  I’m sorry that your agent back in Ontario went on vacation and didn’t let anyone know.  I’m sorry that your agent went out of town for the weekend and you missed out on an offer because he wouldn’t return phone calls.  I’ve heard these stories too and I shake my head also, but almost all of us are hard working professionals who give sound advice, show up to work every day and know what it takes to get your home sold.


How come 80% fail?  One of the problems is that buyers are looking for deals also.  When they look at private home sales they’re usually hoping for some discount too and enter a negotiation knowing you don’t have a real estate expense to worry about and might have an expectation that the savings will flow through to them.    Another reason for failure is that buyers often aren’t comfortable walking through someone’s home with the home owner present.  People just aren’t used to opening kitchen cabinets, standing in someone else’s bedroom closet or checking the plumbing under the bathroom sink when the owner is right there.  Realtors aren’t hesitant about this.  I have to stop myself from giving myself a tour of a home when I’m invited to a friend’s house party because I’m just so used to it.  Most sellers don’t realize that when a purchaser spends 10 minutes in a kitchen criticizing the appliances it’s probably a buying signal and it’s just the way the mind works.  Realtors know how to get a buyer to write an offer the day after seeing a great house that’s well priced even though every family member, friend, co-worker and the stranger sitting next to them at Tim Horton’s is telling them it’s better to continue renting. 

I’ve seen it over and over again where frustrated “by-owners” end up listing with a reputable real estate company and end up selling for market value which is a happy ending to the story.  It’s certainly better than watching them sell for less than market value. If you are still thinking of trying to sell your home by yourself you can pick up tips at

How To Sell Your Home By Owner:


Please share this with anyone thinking of selling.


To view homes for sale in Kelowna go to or call Andrew Smith directly at 250-979-8066. Over 22 years experience helping people achieve their dream of home ownership!

Follow me on Twitter@smithap01

Read more Ups and Downs in the World of Housing articles

About the Author

Andrew Smith has been helping people buy and sell Real Estate with Royal LePage since 1993. He moved to Kelowna from Vancouver with his wife Jo Ann and two children. He chose Kelowna for the lifestyle and to raise his family.

Andrew was was also Best Selling Author on Amazon for House Virgins- How To Buy A House The Right Way The First Time.


"I help growing families smoothly transition to a larger home by making the finding, buying, and selling process easy."


You can contact Andrew by email:  [email protected]

Visit his website here:

Follow Andrew on Twitter:  @smithap01



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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