This is a Q&A about KW. Recently I was interviewed for a well-known real estate portal. This is my first draft. Link to Points2home real estate blog below.
How has the Kitchener-Waterloo real estate market performed in 2015, and what are your expectations from this year?
2015 was another good year for the Kitchener Waterloo real estate market. The number of homes sold increased by almost 5% and the average price of homes sold went up by about 4% over the previous year. These numbers in turn, are consistent with the year before that. In fact, ‘stable with sustained growth’ is how I would characterize Kitchener Waterloo’s real estate market over the past two decades. This year, 2016, there is no reason to think things will be any different.
We have a real estate market that somewhat favours the seller. This means that if a home is priced correctly, it will sell very quickly and for close to asking price. Our condo market is very vibrant and saw the biggest increase (7.3%) in average price last year. However, our homes are still considered affordable. The average detached house price last year was just over $400,000. Townhouses sold for just over $300,000 and semi-detached near $270,000. The average price for a condominium in Kitchener Waterloo was less than $240,000. Those home prices are considered to be quite reasonable compared to many other cities close to Toronto.
The reasons for the steady growth in KW’s real estate market are many.
First of all, historically low interest rates are, of course, impacting our local market just like they are impacting markets across Canada.
But real estate is local and we have our own influencers here.
1) Toronto: I see three major groups coming out of the GTA and buying property in Kitchener Waterloo. They are first-time homebuyers who cannot afford to buy in the GTA, families looking for a lifestyle change who sell their Toronto area homes and relocating here, and property investors looking for properties with positive cash flow.
2) Vibrant local economy: besides having some large and stable employers in the insurance and education fields, we are well-known for our burgeoning technology industry. Companies like Google, Desire to Learn, Christie Digital, Electronic Arts and more than 500 startups have made Kitchener Waterloo a technology hub.
3) Infrastructure: The 401, the Region of Waterloo International Airport, the GoTrain, GoBus and Greyhound connect us directly to Toronto, Chicago, Orlando, Calgary, and Cayo Santa Maria. The Ion, our new Light Rail Transit line will move Kitchener Waterloo residents around the region. We have become a big city connected directly to the outside world, but we retain our small town feel.
Have there been any significant changes in the local real estate market and, if so, how have they been affecting home buyers and home sellers? (I’m interested to know whether there have been shifts in the market such as the market becoming a seller’s market or a buyer’s market. If there haven’t been any significant changes, which would denote a somewhat stable market. In that case, what drives the market’s stability?)
Kitchener Waterloo has a long history industrial evolution. When one industry declines a new one takes its place. Farming, furniture, textiles, consumer electronics, automotive and now technology are what have defined the region.
Because technology is a young industry, I’ve noticed that over the last 15 years, the residents of Kitchener Waterloo are getting younger (and hipper). We have also become much more multicultural and that is important as a city can be measured by its ability to attract foreign born residents. When they make Kitchener Waterloo their new home, they bring their much needed professional skills and feed our economy.
A major change in our local real estate market is our booming condo market. Uptown Waterloo, downtown Kitchener and now ‘midtown’, Kitchener Waterloo’s North Ward has seen condos shoot up at a pace that many thought was only possible in cities like Toronto and Vancouver. These new condos are revitalizing old neighbourhoods and with the construction of the LRT are creating a property boom in out cities’ old core communities.
Tell me, what are some of the most common misconceptions people have about the Kitchener-Waterloo area? (You could also describe here the area’s strongpoints – University of Waterloo etc.)
As Kitchener Waterloo evolves again, reinventing itself as a technology hub and a smart city, as we adapt to our younger and more urban and multicultural residents, as we build more bike trails and better transit routes and as new coffee shops, restaurants and brew pubs open up, one of most common misconceptions I hear from younger residents is that there is nothing to do here. I disagree. There is lots to do here. Nightlife, shopping, hanging with friends in trendy coffee shops, ice skating, skiing, bike, canoeing, kayaking, skateboarding, ultimate frisbee, bicycle polo, indoor soccer…you name it. We have festivals like: Winterloo, Kitchener Blues Festival, the Uptown Jazz festival, the Buskers festival, and a bevy of other big and smaller events. A few years ago, I ran a website called ‘365 things to do in Kitchener Waterloo’. For 1,200 days I wrote a post a day highlighting something to do in Kitchener Waterloo. With that website, I ran out of energy before I ran out of ideas.
Do you have any advice for first-time homebuyers in the Kitchener-Waterloo region? (As a lot of markets tend to have quirks, something specific to the area would be extremely helpful)
Because of our relative affordability and steady appreciation, Kitchener Waterloo is a great place for first-time homebuyers. The factors impacting the value of real estate are many and include, transportation, education (schools), amenities, and other neighbourhood influencers. The LRT, I think, will have the biggest impact on our appreciating home values. The LRT, which will be completed at the end of next year, essentially will run down the centre of Kitchener Waterloo. There is a population shift across North America back into the city centres. KW is no different. Our core neighbourhoods are currently going through a revitalization, a gentrification and a ‘youthification’. My advice to first time homebuyers is to buy within walking distance to the LRT. You can find every type of home within walking distance to the LRT.
A few years ago, you wrote a book called, “365 Rules about Real Estate”. From all of them, what do you believe is the most important one?
When I wrote ‘365 Rules about Real Estate’, my aim was to take the stress and mystery out of the home buying and home selling process. The book has rules about buying, rules about selling, rules about neighbourhoods, realtors, contracts, offers and negotiations. There are rules about new homes and condos, open houses and attics. I am sure that there is something in there for everyone. It is a free book. You can download it online.
People have a lot of misconceptions about real estate. Because everyone’s situation is unique, I don’t think I can point out the most important rule. They are all important to me.
Who do you represent as a sales representative?
I work with homebuyers, home sellers, property investors and families relocating into or within Waterloo Region, helping them understand the values of homes, schools and neighbourhoods.
What are your preferred social media accounts? They will be posted at the end of the article!
I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Google+. I don’t really have a favourite one. If I had to chose to use one only I suppose I would chose facebook, but I prefer to connect through my blogs and podcast.
What are some of the things you care deeply about? How about passions/hobbies?
I love travel, music and words.
I like to take off and live out of a backpack for weeks on end. I recently returned from a six-week trip around Southeast Asia, spending three weeks in Vietnam slowing making my way down the coast and then into the Mekong Delta and into Cambodia.
I’ve always got music on in the background when I’m working. I love jazz and like most other kinds of music. I love live music, no matter what it is.
I love writing. I write every day. It is the first thing I do everyday, get up and write for an hour. I read widely as well. I’ve been listening to podcasts since 2011 and I like them so much I recently started my own.
How many years of experience do you have in real estate?
I have been licensed as a Realtor since 2007. I have help hundreds of people find their dream homes. It is a very rewarding career.