Times Colonist

All aboard the magic condo bus

Mobile buying seminar targets would-be first-time homeowners

- ANDREW A. DUFFY aduffy@timescolon­ist.com

The growing Victoria condominiu­m market — much of it aimed at the first-time homebuyer with prices below the $300,000 level — has kicked a new business into gear.

The Condo Bus Tour (www.condotourb­us.ca), the brainchild of Michael Janes of Burr Properties and Royal Bank mortgage specialist Melissa Louie, has been selling out its mobile condo-buying seminar since it hit the road in June.

“We wanted to do something along the lines of a seminar on how to buy a condo, but we did one and it was so boring,” said Janes. “We wanted to do something very different.”

The result was a rolling bus tour that took would-be buyers around to a various condos on the market, while giving them the basics on condo buying, including advice from experts on mortgages, design, home inspection­s and pricing.

There have been five outings so far and the company has recently expanded to Langford. There will now be two tours a month, the next on Saturday.

Janes said the condos are chosen based on who has registered for the tour.

“We get a range of prices from them and try to tailor the tour,” he said.

They show both new units and older ones. “We try to find that diamond in the rough, we want to show them good value,” he said.

The tours are generally geared to the first-time buyers, some of whom may not know the first thing about buying property and are looking for a lot of informatio­n.

“People are definitely still looking,” Janes said, “but they are not making snap decisions.”

That is likely to continue given the number of multiunit projects coming out of the ground around the region.

“I think that might be why people are perhaps hesitating to jump into presales right now,” he said. “But still, in that market under about $350,000, it is pretty steady.”

According to figures released Tuesday by the Victoria Real Estate Board, there were 145 condo sales last month. That’s up from 128 in September and 128 in October of last year. The average sale price was $307,329 and the median sale price was $277,000.

In the single-family home market, there were 238 units changing hands last month — up from the 212 in September and the 220 last October.

The average sale price was $595,836, down from $622,393 in September and $641,780 last October.

The median price of a single-family home last month was $539,750, an increase from the $535,000 in September and basically on par with the $539,500 last October.

But given the total inventory level dropped to 4,687 last month from 4,940 in September, Victoria Real Estate Board president Dennis Fimrite said there are signs of stability in the marketplac­e.

“It’s a bit of a boring story,” he said. “There’s a lack of developabl­e land and it remains a desirable place to retire. There are a lot of things that provide stability here that they don’t have in other major centres.”

Through the first 10 months of this year there have been 5,219 sales, down from 5,718 over the same period last year. Sales are still well off the 7,039 in the first 10 months of 2009 and the 6,012 in that time frame in 2008.

“We expected about 6,000 sales this year,” he said. “We didn’t expect prices to go up or down and we’re pleased that inventory is stable after it peaked in July when we broke 5,000 listings. And we are up in terms of sales activity over last year at this time.”

Nicole Burgess, a real estate agent with Pemberton Holmes, said the market is flat at the moment. Despite the amount of inventory available, there is action, she said.

“If a house is priced very well [and] if it’s a good house in a good area, it tends to go relatively quickly,” she said. “There are buyers out there for every kind of product and if it’s priced right, it will sell.”

Burgess said sellers with hefty price tags will struggle to sell.

“You will see those [properties] sit on the market longer,” she said. “There are a lot of buyers looking, but not a lot committing.”

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