Vacation properties see spike in demand as people look for safe getaways

Vacation properties see spike in demand as people look for safe getaways

By Audrey Carleton

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Like many realtors working Canada’s recreational markets, David Jurek says he’s seen properties move unusually quickly since the start of COVID-19.

The RE/MAX real estate agent in 100 Mile House, B.C. recently listed a $140,000 home in an off-the-grid region where he’s had difficulty in the past:  “The last and only sale that we had there took about three years to sell,” Jurek says.  “I listed this property thinking, ‘okay, well, this year maybe we’ll get more action.”’

But shortly after listing, Jurek started receiving daily inquiries on the house. Before long, he had three offers on it.

“Some of the stuff that normally would sit, that wasn’t as choice of a property necessarily in the past is now selling very quickly,” Jurek says.

He attributes the quick heat-up in the B.C. recreational property market to COVID-19 lockdown orders, part of a growing trend in which Canadians are looking to vacation property in search of space, an alternative place from which to work remotely or a driveable vacation destination while travel is not an option.

“People who maybe weren’t in the second home and recreational market 1/8before 3/8 are now saying, ‘Hey, we need to do that. If we can make it happen let’s make it happen,”’ Jurek says.

He’s seen month-over-month sales increase by an estimated 30 per cent in his region since the start of the pandemic. And while demand has risen across the market, he says prices have yet to climb to match, so those looking to buy should explore their options quickly.

The same has occurred in the greater Vancouver region, home to the Sunshine Coast and Whistler, according to Colette Gerber, realtor at Sutton West Coast Realty and chair of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. “Last month we saw a 21 per cent increase in sales,” Gerber says. “So, yes, it looks like vacation homes are now becoming a hot commodity.”

The Muskoka region and other parts of Ontario’s cottage country have seen similar upticks in demand, according to David Reid, sales representative at Enjoy Muskoka Realty in Gravenhurst, Ontario, and former president of the Ontario Real Estate Association. “One of the big drivers really is high speed internet,” he says. “You’ve got such great quality internet now and the paradigms have changed.”

Not every cottage comes with strong cell or web service, of course, and for many this is a non-starter. Those unfamiliar with the area in which they’re shopping should look for a realtor who knows the region well, all three agents suggest.

While this rule typically goes without saying, it’s especially important when searching for lakefront, rural, and two- or three-season properties, which come with their own quirks. In B.C., for example, it’s important to understand the underground system from which a property sources its water, Gerber says. “You need local knowledge to know what the ramifications are, how to deal with a well, how to deal with septic fields,” she says.

And in lake country, buyers should understand the permitting rules and nuances of the specific piece of water they’re looking at. A good realtor with hyper-local knowledge can help with this.

“We do have a lot of waterfront, but it can be very different from one lake to the next,” Jurek says of 100 Mile House. “Are you wanting to buy that second property and be able to waterski or are you just wanting to be able to fish? What lake you back on to 1/8determines 3/8 what you can expect that you can do there.”

Recreational properties also come with their own specific maintenance requirements. While year-round homes have owners’ constant attention, summer spots need an extra set of eyes (and hands, in the event of snowfall) during colder months.

Reid suggests finding a helpful neighbour or enlisting the services of a local road maintenance or cottage sitter program, like Muskoka Cottage Sitters, which typically comes with fees of a few hundred dollars per month but offers owners peace of mind and protection from accidents.

In addition to maintenance fees, prospective buyers should budget for repairs and winter-proofing expenses such as replacing windows, adding insulation, and updating utilities  which can run in the thousands depending on what a home needs. Ensuring that a house is protected from winter weather will “keep insurance happy,” Jurek says. “If you don’t follow the proper procedures and you have a problem, you don’t want to be denied the claim.”

While the costs of owning vacation property go far beyond a home’s sale price, first-time buyers shouldn’t be intimidated. Go into the process with eyes wide open, do your research, spend a few days in the area, and ask your realtor as many questions as possible. The more you know about a home, the better.

“The best way to find a vacation home is start driving,” Gerber says.  “Go to these areas. Look around.”

 

More Canadians are worrying about the economy and over half are cutting discretionary spending

 TORONTO, June 29, 2020 /CNW/ – COVID-19’s impact on the economy is causing many Canadians to worry about the future: 79 per cent of respondents in CIBC’s Financial Priorities Poll say they are concerned about continued recessionary times next year, compared to 55 per cent who said they feared an economic downturn in a December 2019 survey.

Economic worries may be a factor in why many Canadians are adjusting their financial habits.

Many respondents (63 per cent) say they have significantly cut down on discretionary spending and more than half (55 per cent) agree they need to get a better handle on their finances this year.

“It’s understandable that Canadians are worried about the economy and are feeling uncertain about the impact on their ambitions, but this is a time when good financial advice conversations are most valuable, including assessing your overall situation, looking at opportunities to improve cash flow, and adjusting your financial plan if necessary,” said Laura Dottori-Attanasio, Group Head, Retail and Business Banking, CIBC. “It’s a positive sign that many Canadians are taking a responsible approach to the situation by making changes to their spending and working to limit unnecessary debt. Good cash flow management now can help you through the current situation, and over the longer term free up funds to divert towards savings or other goals.”

The survey also found that 46 per cent of Canadians say the economic impact of the pandemic has adversely affected their finances and a similar number (47 per cent) feel it will take more than a year to get their personal finances back on track. Canadians are prioritizing building an emergency fund in 2020, citing this as a top goal for the remainder of the year, followed by steering clear of adding on debt. Of the 22 per cent of respondents who’ve had to borrow more in the past 12 months, the number one reason was for day-to-day items (38 per cent) followed by a loss of income (28 per cent).

“The impact of the pandemic will be felt by Canadians for some time. While we have a long way to go to get back to a normal economy, taking charge of your finances now with a savings and debt management plan is an important step towards putting your personal finances back on track,” added Ms. Dottori-Attanasio.

The survey also found:

  • Top financial goals for the remainder of 2020 are: generally saving as much as possible (37 per cent), and avoiding taking on more debt (36 per cent)
  • Close to three-fourths of Canadians (74 per cent) say the uncertainty of the current environment makes it difficult to plan ahead, and over half (54 per cent) are generally worried about their financial future
  • The number of people who say they’ve taken on more debt is lower (22 per cent) than in December 2019 (28 per cent). Among those who have taken on more debt, 38 per cent say they did so to cover day-to-day expenses or due to loss of income (28 per cent) and job loss (18 per cent, +9 per cent from December 2019)
  • Regionally, the poll found differences in how Canadians are tightening their wallets. Residents in the Prairies say they are cutting discretionary spending the most, led by 76 per cent of those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and 69 per cent of Albertans, compared to the national average of 63 per cent
  • At 58 per cent, taking on more debt to pay for day-to-day items was the highest in British Columbia, 20 per cent higher than the national average of 38 per cent

Disclaimer

From June 8th to June 9th 2020 an online survey of 1,517 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists was executed by Maru/Blue. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been weighted by education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) to match the population, according to Census data. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About CIBC

CIBC is a leading Canadian-based global financial institution with 10 million personal banking, business, public sector and institutional clients. Across Personal and Business Banking, Commercial Banking and Wealth Management, and Capital Markets businesses, CIBC offers a full range of advice, solutions and services through its leading digital banking network, and locations across Canada, in the United States and around the world. Ongoing news releases and more information about CIBC can be found at www.cibc.com/en/about-cibc/media-centre.html.

SOURCE CIBC

www.cibc.com

COVID 19 aid programs will have to end, others to be modified, Trudeau says

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ The federal government is in talks with business and labour groups to figure out the future of billions in emergency aid, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said one day after a warning that current spending was sustainable for only so long.

Emergency federal aid to date is approaching $152 billion in direct spending, which has pushed the deficit to an estimated $260 billion this fiscal year.

Parliament’s spending watchdog told a Senate committee Tuesday that current spending levels would limit the government’s ability to provide needed stimulus money during a recovery.

Budget officer Yves Giroux also said emergency programs had to sunset or else the country could be looking at tax levels not seen for generations.

Speaking outside his Ottawa residence Wednesday, Trudeau said some of the aid programs will have to be phased out.

Others, he said, would need to continue or be tweaked to aid in a recovery.

“We are still very much in the emergency phase, in the crisis phase of this, even as we’re seeing careful reopenings,” Trudeau said in response to a reporter’s question.

“We will, however, look very carefully at how we end certain programs, how we modify others in order to get our economy going again to where it was before (the pandemic) or even better.”

In his opening remarks, Trudeau seemingly previewed his thinking on the issue. He said fewer people would need help through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit as businesses reopen and workers are rehired, possibly with help from a federal wage subsidy.

The most recent CERB figures show more than $41 billion in benefits to 8.25 million people, pushing further beyond its $35-billion budget.

The first cohort of CERB recipients will max out their benefits the first week of July, raising questions about what to do with those who still don’t have a job, or those who can’t qualify for employment insurance.

“The focus of the next phase of the CERB has to be about those individuals and also create incentives to work for those individuals where some job may be available for them,” said Parisa Mahboubi, a senior policy analyst with the C.D. Howe Institute.

“The way that the CERB is designed may discourage them from accepting the job or looking for any job.”

A group of experts convened by the think tank recommended the government consider extending CERB eligibility beyond the July cutoff, but turn it into an income-tested benefit for those who go back to work.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos told a midday press conference the CERB would likely lead to another support measure because something new will be needed to create a smoother recovery phase. What that might look like, he didn’t say.

Having greater transparency about support programs would help Canadians determine if money is being spent well, and maintain the credibility of aid programs while deterring fraud, said Toby Sanger, director of Canadians for Tax Fairness.

“You would just have better designed programs,” he said. “There could be better third-party judging of how well these programs have worked or haven’t worked.”

He cited a request from his group and others for public details on companies that receive federal support, such as through the $73-billion wage subsidy program.

Federal figures showed there have now been 181,883 unique applicants approved for the wage subsidy, which covers 75 per cent of wages up to a maximum of $847 per week for each eligible employee.

The total value of benefits paid stands at $7.9 billion.

Trudeau urged companies to sign up for the wage subsidy during his opening statement, echoing his request for landlords to use a commercial rent assistance program that opened for applications this week.

That program offers forgivable loans to cover half of monthly rents in April, May and June, as long as landlords drop rents by at least 75 per cent over the same period for eligible small businesses.

Giroux estimated the net federal cost of the program at $520 million this fiscal year. The budget officer’s report released Wednesday morning put caveats on that estimate, owing to the lack of clear precedent for this kind of program.

His report said that means the assumptions about industry eligibility and uptake by landlords “rely heavily on judgment.”

B.C. securities panel orders companies, founders to pay $37 million in fines

VANCOUVER _ A group of companies and its founders have been fined nearly $37 million by a B.C. Securities Commission panel that says they misled investors, conducted unregistered trading and illegally sold securities.

The panel says it ordered FS Financial Strategies and six other companies in B.C., Alberta and Ontario to pay $32.8 million for  “making misrepresentations to hundreds of investors” as well as illegally selling securities and unregistered trading.

It also ordered company founders Aik Guan (Frankie) Lim and Scott Thomas Low to pay $2 million each, and permanently banned them from B.C.’s investment markets.

The former general manager of the companies, Darrell Wayne Wiebe, has been ordered to pay $75,000 and is banned from B.C.’s investment markets for a decade.

The securities commission says in a news release that Lim, Low and the FS Group admitted to raising over $47 million from 389 investors without disclosing that the company wasn’t profitable and was covering its shortfalls by raising more money from investors.

The panel says in its decision that it’s unlikely the FS Group can repay investors, and after the commission issued a temporary order in 2017 against the companies, the Insurance Council of British Columbia suspended or terminated licences to sell insurance for the founders and the companies.

The commission also says Lim and Low sold $29 million in securities in violation of a 2014 legal commitment to the securities commission not to trade or distribute securities until one of its companies had filed the proper documents and refunded investor loans.

“The seriousness of the misconduct was magnified by the significant amount of money and large number of investors involved, and the duration of the misconduct,” the panel says in its ruling.

The commission’s news release says Lim, Low and the FS Group admitted to the misconduct in an agreed statement of facts filed last year. In a separate agreement, it says Wiebe admitted to going along with the conduct.

The agreements led to a hearing in February to determine the sanctions.

AXIS Insurance: Supporting our colleagues & business partners during this time of uncertainty

March 19, 2020  

At this time of great uncertainty, AXIS is committed to providing the underwriting expertise and claims service our clients and distribution partners deserve and expect. To help protect the safety of our team members, business partners and communities, our colleagues globally are working remotely. In addition, we have paused business travel across the entirety of our company.

We are fully operational with our teams using virtual meeting and collaboration tools to stay connected internally with our colleagues and externally with our clients and distribution partners. And we are prepared to address the concerns that may arise for our clients and partners in distribution.

We are monitoring COVID-19, and the guidance from the World Health Organization and government authorities in every region in which we have operations and critical vendor support. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our colleagues while continuing to deliver superior client service and responsiveness.

We are grateful for the continued trust and partnership of our clients and distribution partners. Please contact us as you normally would with any questions or needs you may have in the coming days and weeks.

What Australia’s fires could mean for insurance & real estate in Canada

The excerpted article was written by 

Australia’s devastating fires have already destroyed nearly 1,900 homes, but they’re just one of the many types of hazards facing homeowners.

Climate change is raising the frequency and severity of a number of natural disasters, from flooding and cyclones to soil subsidence, which causes structural damage when clay soils start to contract during prolonged periods of drought.

The increased risk has implications for insurance and beyond, according to climate risk analyst Karl Mallon. A recent report from his firm, Climate Risk, projects that 720,000 homes, or five per cent of Australia’s housing stock, will be uninsurable by 2100 as coverage becomes unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

That kind of analysis has caught the attention of lenders. Two of Australia’s largest banks have recruited Mallon to help them assess how climate-related risks might affect their mortgage portfolios. One of them projected that increased insurance costs would increase its share of high-risk mortgages 10-fold in the span of around 40 years, from 0.01 per cent in 2018 to 0.1 per cent by 2060.

Data on exposure to flood risk is already driving decisions about whether to issue mortgages in some cases, Mallon said.

Over time, Mallon sees areas where getting a mortgage will become very difficult. The risk for those properties is that they’ll become hard to sell and eventually decline in value, he added.

The link between natural disasters, insurance and mortgages may be emerging in Canada as well. In both Australia and Canada, however, the issue seems to be centred around flooding for now.

Australia bushfires: Why the situation is likely to get worse

Australia bushfires: Why the situation is likely to get worse

What about fires?

Whether Australia’s extraordinary fire season will have an impact on insurance premiums remains uncertain.

For one, it’s only the beginning of the summer Down Under, and Australians are holding their breath for what the rest of the season might bring.

Until now, though, “bushfires traditionally have been no cause for concern on the insurance front,” Mallon said.

That’s because even though Australia is prone to fires, they haven’t caused damage on a scale that insurers would consider “an unacceptable probability,” he added.

It’s too soon to tell whether the current fires will change that.

Fire and water are significantly different beasts in the world of home insurance, said Rob de Pruis of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Overland flood insurance, which covers damage from water flowing above ground and seeping into buildings through doors, windows and cracks, only became available in 2015 in Canada. Its introduction was largely an industry response to the 2013 southern Alberta floods, which resulted in $6 billion in damages, of which just $1.7 billion was covered by insurance.

Damage from sewer backup is also a growing issue for insurers. They are facing both an increased likelihood of flooding caused by flash rain, which has been linked to climate change, and higher repair costs, partly because finished basements have become more common.

Home insurers are also struggling with a lack of up-to-date information about where flooding is likely to happen, although the government is working on updating Canada’s flood-risk maps, de Pruis said.

Severe flooding is also happening with increasing regularity, a problem for insurance, which is meant to cover events that are “infrequent and unforeseeable,” de Pruis said.

Fire, by contrast, is a familiar hazard to the home insurance industry, which traces its origins to the Great Fire of London in 1666, which nearly destroyed the city. Coverage for fire damage, including from wildfire, is standard in any home insurance policy.

Extensive losses from fires, on the other hand, have remained relatively rare in both Canada and Australia so far.

In Australia, for example, it usually takes several years after a bushfire for vegetation to grow back to a point where there is fuel for another fire, Mallon said.

In Canada, even the Fort McMurray fire of 2016, the most expensive event for insurers in modern Canadian history, did not shake the industry.

Canada’s domestic insurance companies had their own insurance to fall back on, something known as re-insurance, according to de Pruis. And the $3.7 billion in insured damages claimed by the Alberta blaze remain a relatively small price tag for the trillion-dollar giants of the global reinsurance market, which have seen natural disasters billed at tens of billions of dollars in other parts of the world, de Pruis said.

And for now, de Pruis added, there is just not enough information to predict the future of wildfires in Canada.

But experts warn climate change is helping make wildfires worse.

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