Friday, February 9, 2007

Rent or Buy: is this even a question?

The market in Victoria is at best inflated and at worst bursting at the seams.

But, having said that, we have to move. We are currently renting a smaller than average suite close to UVic. We'd like to stay centrally located in Victoria; the neighbourhoods we are favouring are: Mt. Tolmie, Fernwood, Sears, Mayfair, Camosun, Maplewood and VicWest. We are also looking in Langford, Atkins and Mill Hill. Ideally the property will be a house with a two-bedroom suite priced under $425K. Tall order, but given some of the recent sales, if we're not too picky to overlook the so-called diamonds-in-the-rough, we may have some success.

If we rent, we're looking at suites in homes only, either one or two bedrooms, and around the $900/month mark.

Right now we're focusing more on looking at purchase properties; mainly because we don't have to move before June and its difficult to find people looking for tenants this early.

This week we looked at four properties. I'm unsure of rules and regs around disclosure so rather than provide addresses, I'll just give general info and price ranges. The first fit our requirements perfectly. It's on a bus route to UVic, has a two-bed suite down, three beds up and is under our max price by about 5%. It is also a lot bigger than we need. The house definitely needs work. As the suite is now, I'm not confident it's rentable. I'm guessing at least $5K is needed to get it to a condition where it could bring in $1000/month or more. It's asking price is about 12% above its assessed value on BC Assessment.

Two homes we looked at were junk: dirty neighbourhoods, dirty homes and didn't show anything like their photos on mls or their descriptions by the selling agents. But, not a total waste of time to look at because it gives us an insight on asking prices, ratios of asking to selling prices etc...

The last house sold. It was nice, in an ok location, had a one bed suite down and two beds up. It appeared in good condition, nothing obvious on the to-do list. It had a conditional offer on it and the sale went through yesterday. Here's the insight. It had been on the market for 60 days or so. Its original price was above $425K, owners dropped the price by $30K and then accepted an offer $10K below the new asking price. The assessed value was within our 10% range too. This leads me to believe that certain houses are starting to experience a bit of a correction. As I watch the market, I'll be closely looking to see if this is a neighbourhood trend or house-type trend.

We haven't done any walk-throughs on condos. We look at the listings daily. I'm scared by the condo market. I've seen outrageous monthly assessments, outrageous asking prices that are in some cases 75% above assessed values and no real pattern of price to condition. Plus the number of new units in development leads me to believe that condos in our price range will be the first to get hammered when the market corrects.

I'm also seeing huge discrepencies of prices within the same building. I've seen units at $160K on the top floor and ground level units priced $15K above because they have new floors and new appliances and some colour on the walls. I'm not an expert on home repair costs, but I do know that three new apartment sized appliances, paint and 500 sqft of laminate flooring doesn't equal $15K even if you paid someone else to do the job and bought stainless steel.

I'm hoping people find this blog and give us their thoughts on the Victoria market and the purchasing process. If you think we should rent and wait for the correction to happen, tell us.

In the meantime, I'll use it as a journal to record our thoughts as we go through the process of house hunting in Victoria and making the decision of renting or buying.

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