Friday, July 31st13.3°C
Ups and Downs in the World of Housing

Buying during fire season

It’s been a wonderful, long hot summer here in the Okanagan and real estate is chugging along like it’s supposed to this time of year.  The downside to living in this part of the world are the forest fires we seem to deal with more often than not each summer.  From a home owner point of view if you’ve just purchased a home it’s important to make certain you’re able to insure it.   What used to be a casual trip into an insurance broker’s office can turn out to be an ordeal during forest fire season.

Most insurance companies are reasonable and know what they’re doing.  If there’s an active fire in Joe Rich most insurers don’t have any issues with insuring homes on the Westside.  And vice versa.  We’ve seen situations where some insurers deny all new policies when there’s an evacuation order for any part of the area making things a little tricky if that happens to be YOUR insurance company.   We’re recommending buyers who are having trouble getting insurance to contact several insurance providers because they have different approaches and criteria.  If you just bought a home and it’s under evacuation alert or notice you’re just not going to be able to get insurance and should get legal advice.  Most buyers and sellers I’ve run across are reasonable when these sorts of things occur and negotiated possession dates are usually changed to accommodate mother nature. 

Realtors have a standard “subject to buyer obtaining fire insurance”  clause that is used in most transactions and I haven’t seen a contract without this clause in a long time.  It’s become a part of every Realtor's regular standard practice to include this and protects everyone.


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Showing home in heat wave

We’ve covered the do's and don'ts that all sellers need to be aware of for showing their homes in the past.  They’re pretty straightforward really and involve a lot of common sense.  During heat waves like this one I thought I would add some more if you want to make your house stand out from the other ten or twenty similar homes on the market.


1.  Air conditioning needs to be cranked to super sonic maximum.  You can do everything right preparing your home for a late afternoon showing but it will all be for naught if it’s sweltering inside.  Buyers will be exhausted after three of four showings instead of five or six and all anyone wants to do upon entering a sweltering house is get back into the air conditioned car.

2.  Dress code is waived for everyone.  A professional appearance is important for people in my industry especially for the first meeting.  First impressions are critical when the public is figuring out if their new agent knows what he/she is doing.  When temperatures get into the 30s all bets are off and shorts/sandals/golf shirt become acceptable. 

3.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.   I’ll put this into the suggestion category for home owners instead of the rule category.  During heat waves we all need to look out for one another and a few glasses on the counter with a note saying there’s water in the fridge goes a zillion miles.   Lemonade goes two zillion miles.  You get the picture.

4.  Snacks.  Not critical but a few watermelon slices left on a counter or in a fridge for potential buyers creates a friendly climate and encourages people to spend a few more minutes in your kitchen talking about your house.  This creates a nice vibe because everyone prefers doing business with people they like.

5.  Sellers.  Take things in stride if everything goes off the rails.  Cleaning a house for an afternoon showing, getting the kids out and going to a restaurant for supper is tough at the best of times for sellers.  Stuff happens during heat waves that doesn’t happen in October.  I’ve had people text and cancel 6pm showings at 5:45 because they were having too much fun on their neighbour’s boat and want to reschedule to some other day.  I know how inconvenient this is and there’s no reasonable explanation you can give to a seller other than to say sorry.

6.  Buyers. If you’re driving from out of town to see houses we’re used to having you show up late.  In fact, we expect it. Our housing market is fuelled by having you guys move here and we’re grateful.  No hard feelings when you get here late because we’ve all taken the same drive and know that the nine hour drive from Calgary turns into the twelve hour drive because the Sicamous go-carts and mini golf are too much fun to pass up.  A quick phone call or text if you aren’t going to make it on time sure helps us all out here a lot.

7.  Lots of homes sell this time of year.  If you’re off backpacking for a few days make sure you check messages every once in a while. With today’s technology we can get contracts signed even if you’re camping under a tree deep in the woods somewhere.


That’s about it for now.  I hope you’re all enjoying your summer and enjoy meeting you on the open house circuit.  For today’s Kelowna waterfront homes homes for sale

Home reno do's and don'ts

Do you think we should replace the carpets before listing our home for sale?  How about the kitchen cabinets, window coverings, light fixtures or master ensuite? 

The list is endless really and these are questions home owners are faced with each and every time they consider selling.  Most Canadians are pretty pragmatic when it comes to this sort of thing and spending money wisely comes naturally to most.  If a twenty-year-old washing machine still works well there’s really no point in replacing it even if the new ones send you a text once a load is finished.  Clothes still go in dirty and come out clean. 

The short answer to the “what should we replace in our home prior to listing” question is a basic math question.  Since you’re selling, you’re not going to enjoy the new kitchen/flooring so it comes down to whether or not you can make more money on a sale with a renovated room compared to the cost of renovations.  All agree?  Good.   It should go without saying but you don’t want to fall into the trap of spending two dollars to only get one dollar back in return.  Yes, your house will be presented to the public for showings and open houses, pictures will be taken and posted on the Internet for all to see but at this point in the game the most important thing you can do is make sure all your home’s major systems are working properly.  Have your furnace and air conditioning system serviced, have a roofing company give you a quote to replace your aging roof, call in a plumber to look into that funny noise you’ve gotten used to when the shower is turned on.  These sorts of things will come up during showings or home inspections and better to have them looked at sooner rather than later.  It always creates a good impression when people see a recently serviced sticker on a furnace.

It’s a completely different story if you’re not planning on selling immediately.  The best yield on your investment when it comes to renovations is kitchens and bathrooms and it always has been.  The Appraisal Institute of Canada surveys its members annually and they found that renovated bathrooms and kitchens yield 75% to 100% of the original investment when the house sells.  If done properly and if you have the money, it makes sense to invest in these rooms first before investing in a hot tub, pool, home theatre room or basement yoga studio. By all means invest in these items if you’re going to live in the home for a while because these sorts of things put your signature on your home, it represents the things that you like to do and ultimately adds value to your home….it just doesn’t make sense to do them just prior to selling.

Home buyers can tell when a home has been upgraded and maintained properly.  A home with a well maintained yard takes time and effort but it will make selling your house easier once the time comes.  Paint is fairly inexpensive and worth doing anytime and nice flooring makes the world of difference to home buyers.  These sorts of things stand out in front of potential buyers and ultimately make generating an offer for your home easier.

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Fasten your seat belts!

There are currently 1,100 residential detached single family homes for sale in Kelowna.  This is a pretty big number for a town our size especially in the middle of a hot market, but breaking down that number changes the narrative a bit. OK, it changes it a lot.

If we eliminate homes currently for sale in Beaverdell and Fintry (just because) there are only 134 homes for sale that are priced under $400,000.  This is a pretty geographic area stretching from Oyama down to Peachland and across to Joe Rich on the way to Big White.  134!  The sub $400,000 market has produced 220 sales so far this year so demand is high while supply is limited.  This market is ultra super-sonic competitive for buyers and anything reasonably priced is selling quickly.   Buyers already know this though and are often faced with unenviable options of finding more money (usually unrealistic) or lowering expectations.  Waiting for prices to drop is always an option but if you can find a home in a nice neighbourhood priced in the $300s just take the plunge and grab it.  It might not have a double garage, perhaps no ensuite and a lot of other things on your list may be missing but that same home will be more expensive next year and it could be the smartest financial decision you’ll ever make.

At the other end of the market things are different.  There are 274 residential single family homes priced over $800,000 and we’ve reported 51 sales this year.  That works out to two years of supply!   Unlike first time buyers in the affordable part of the market, buyers at this end of the spectrum have a lot less pressure on them to make a decision today.  They can see a home and think about it for a while before making an offer.  If they lose the home they liked, they can always pursue the two others for sale on the street.  Advice for sellers hoping to move this year is when an offer comes in, figure out a way to make it work.  The price might be less than what you’re hoping for and the dates might not be ideal, but just make it work somehow because your neighbours would love to be in your shoes and they’d figure out how to make it work.

The Canadian real estate association reported that the average sale price for a home in Canada was  $439,000 in March.  The average sale price of all homes (including condos and townhouses) in Kelowna was $443,000 and it was $520,000 for residential detached last March.  The spread between Kelowna prices and the Canadian average used to be significantly wider and the gap is clearly shrinking.  How come?  The simple explanation is the Vancouver and Toronto markets skew the numbers off the charts but haven’t they always?  Perhaps our service based economy is keeping prices from surging here while they do elsewhere.  Kelowna has never had a blue chip economy especially when compared to major Canadian centres but we’ve always had a blue chip housing market.  Either that’s changed (it hasn’t) or we’re poised for housing gains to which the rest of Canada has experienced.  Stay tuned.

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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