This post was written using a transcript from Tony's December 2023 podcast. It’s been edited for clarity.
PAUL: As we close out 2023 and head into 2024, we thought maybe it would be a fun idea to talk about what buyers and sellers each want for Christmas this year.
1. Buyers want great views
TONY: I think anyone moving to the Sunshine Coast has a dream or a desire to get a really nice view. I think most people that move here and look at the topography of the area think, "Wouldn't it be lovely to have a wicked view?" And views in Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast are a lot more affordable than they are in places like North Van and West Van where most of our potential buyers are coming from. So I think probably top of the list would be having a nice view in whatever house or apartment or condo or townhouse that they end up buying.
2. Buyers want single level living
PAUL: I was thinking that buyers would probably really like a single level floor plan, especially if they're retirees. There are a lot of seniors coming to the Coast, and it's nice to have everything on one level. Those single-level floorplans can be tough to find but even a home with multiple stories could work if everything that the owner needs is on one level. Spaces like the kitchen and the bedroom and the bathroom all on the ground floor. If there's a second floor, it could be guest space or storage.
TONY: We say it all the time but our primary buyer group on the Sunshine Coast is retirees. (joking) Their knees tend to be questionable and looking for new hips here and there. But those buyers are typically either looking for a rancher with a view, or like you say, a split-level or a two storey, but with the primary bedroom on the main level, and then with guest rooms upstairs so that they're not constantly going up and down stairs. Depending on the age group that's buying, single-level floorplans would be the top of their wishlist as well.
3. Buyers want outdoor living spaces
TONY: The other thing we find with the younger demographic that's coming over here, and what we saw a real spike in during COVID, are city people coming from apartments and townhomes. At the top of those buyers' lists are backyards and outdoor living spaces. Specifically a fenced yard if they have dogs or kids. They're also looking for space for a barbeque or a firepit so they can have people over, which is something that living on the Coast we sort of take for granted. But when you're coming from a city or a more dense urban area, it is a very desirable thing to be able to have some outdoor living space. So I think that's got to be on the list as well.
4. Buyers want legal secondary suites
PAUL: Because of the average home price on the Sunshine Coast, I think a lot of buyers are looking for secondary suites that they can use to supplement their income and offset some of their mortgage cost.
TONY: I think something like 94% of the suites on the Sunshine Coast are not legal. So depending on who your financing is coming from, a secondary suite might allow you to qualify for more. Sometimes lenders will allow the income from an unauthorized or non-conforming suite, but if it's a legal secondary suite, you're guaranteed to either have that mortgage helper or to be able to use the money it generates towards your mortgage. And so therefore you could qualify for more when buying a house with a legal suite then one without it.
TONY: Also, the provincial ban on short-term rentals will apply to Sechelt because they've got the population. But in Gibsons, the local municipality is not compelled to enforce those rules. Given it's Gibsons and they were talking about short-term regulation before the provincial legislation was said to be coming out, they probably are going to enforce some of the limitations that come from that provincial blanket ban. But if you can buy a house with a legal secondary suite, it might be easier for you to get a license for that to maintain an income generating Airbnb suite if you didn't want to rent long-term. But all the way round, there's definitely value in having a legal secondary suite in a home.
5. Buyers want good value
PAUL: If buyers are looking for legal secondary suites to offset their mortgage payment, probably something that they're shopping for is value in general.
TONY: Yeah, 100%. (joking) That was going to be my big reveal for the fifth thing, but you've beat me to it. Thanks again, Paul. After living through a once in a lifetime sellers market and seeing prices spike, it was tough, very tough for buyers. The table was being set for multiple offers. Basically you could list a home 20% overvalue and just wait for the market to catch up.
TONY: But now the shoe's on the other foot, and you've got a lot of buyers that weren't able to get into the market seeing an opportunity to buy into the Sunshine Coast market. Buyers are being a lot more selective, and offers are being written with subjects and it's very much a buyer's market now.
TONY: So I think value is really important. I recommend that my sellers err on the side of caution and list their home for the current market conditions. Prices aren't what they were six months ago or even three months ago. You need to show value to a buyer to get them to solicit an offer, and if you don't do that, your home's going to sit on the market for a long time and you'll end up chasing the market down. So better for sellers to bite the bullet to attract buyers and get the price that your home's worth now, than hoping to get more and eventually selling it for less because the market will continue to soften. So probably the fifth one and one of the biggest ones is a buyer wants to see value.
1. Sellers want top dollar for their home
PAUL: That's what buyers are looking for this holiday season. What do you think is on sellers' wishlists?
TONY: (joking) Well, number one on the seller's wishlist would probably be an uneducated buyer that has no idea about the market and really deep pockets, so they'll just pay whatever. But I don't think they really exist anymore regardless of what maybe the Property Guys people would have you think.
TONY: Ultimately, I think sellers want top dollar for their home. But they have to be realistic about what top dollar is in our current market. When you are listing your place, you want to base your list price on recent solds. You definitely do not want to be looking at other current listings because if they've been sitting on the market for a long time, those sellers are chasing yesterday's prices. You need to set yourself up to sell now.
TONY: Getting top dollar compared to what prices were maybe a year ago, you're probably not going to get that. But you can still negotiate on favourable dates and that kind of thing. Terms that work for you if you're selling and also buying.
TONY: We've had some success in the past in markets similar to this, where the seller hasn't necessarily got as much money as they wanted for their house, but they did get a long close. What happened is they sold, the market softened, they bought two and a half months later and got a much better deal. Maybe they didn't get the extra $20,000 or $30,000 that they wanted when they sold but were able to spend $20,000 or $30,000 less when they bought.
TONY: So right at the top of the seller's wish is getting top dollar for the home. And ideally, that top dollar offer isn't conditional to the buyer selling their home. Sellers want someone that actually has money to buy as opposed to someone that hopes to conditionally have the money in the future.
2. Sellers want a smooth sales process
PAUL: A close second would have to be a smooth sales process. Selling a house is a very stressful thing, so I would think most of your sellers are looking for a transaction that goes smoothly from start to finish.
TONY: That's kind of what we talked about last podcast or the podcast before. Make sure your Realtor has a good team around them. And that's not just buyer's agents and property managers and good admins and that kind of thing. Look for an agent that has good relationships with mortgage brokers, property inspectors, and lawyers. Lawyers and or notaries are a very important part of the process. Those are the professionals I pass the ball to. Once I've done my thing, I pass it off to the conveyance person, and there are obviously different levels of service from different people.
TONY: I have a specific lawyer that I primarily use. The reason I do that is because she's very good at her job and she always makes sure that everything goes smoothly. And because I refer such a large volume of business to her, my clients get a bit of a break on the price as opposed to someone coming in off the street. I think that's really the biggest part of choosing the right agent. Work with a Realtor or a team that knows what they're doing, has good administration, has gone through the process a lot of times so they know of any hiccups that might come up and are able to get ahead of them, before passing you off to a really good conveyance person that can take you the rest of the way.
TONY: To summarize, sellers basically just want the transaction to go with as few hiccups as possible and the best way to make that happen is to work with an experienced team.
3. Sellers want to do as little work as possible
TONY: That leads into the next thing on the seller's wishlist. Not that sellers are lazy, but ideally, they're able to do the least amount of work possible when selling. They want to sell and move on. In the last few years, Paul's sold quite a few places himself and what did you find about making life easier for the seller?
PAUL: This was in another market, but we did something that worked really well for us as buyers that I think would be attractive to sellers here on the Sunshine Coast. We bought a property from a woman that was retiring and downsizing. She had a full-size family home and it was full of furniture and a life full of stuff. She was very concerned about how she was going to deal with packing and moving and getting rid of belongings that wouldn't fit in her new place. The transaction went to multiple offers and we put it into our offer that whatever she wanted to take, she could take and whatever she wanted to leave, she could leave. There was furniture, there was boxes, there was a lot of stuff. We said we would deal with whatever she left behind.
PAUL: We ended up buying the property and we found out that we didn't offer the highest price, but that she was so stressed about having to deal with all of her stuff that our offer was really compelling. If sellers are looking for a smooth deal, there are things buyers can offer other than price to entice the seller.
TONY: There's definitely value in being able to leave 20 years worth of accumulated items in a house, which buyers may feel that there's some value in. If you're a first time home buyer or you're someone transitioning into a bigger property and you don't have enough furniture to fill it up. But you're probably not keeping the bedsheets or the mattresses.
PAUL: Funny you say that. In that particular case, she had just bought a brand new queen size mattress. But the bedding was provided where she was going and she didn't want to take it with her. And so we did wind up with a queen size mattress. That's the bed in our guest room right now still is that bed.
TONY: So if you ever come over to Paul and Val's, know that it's not a fresh bed you're staying in, but they do wash fresh sheets.
4. Sellers want low Realtor fees
PAUL: If we're talking about sellers wanting a smooth sale process and to do as little work as possible, we would be remiss in not talking about sellers wanting the lowest fees possible.
TONY: (joking) Well, I was hoping you wouldn't bring that up, Paul, but I thought you might. Looking back at the market that we just came out of, I think if you were going to grind a Realtor for commission, that would've probably been the market to do it in. Even though there's a lot of benefit to working with an experienced agent in a busy market, specifically dealing with multiple offers and making sure you're not leaving any money on the table, the market was so hot it forgave a lot of mistakes. You used to see agents parachute into the Sunshine Coast from other places and maybe their auntie had a property or a holiday home and she passed away. And so some agent that was brand new from Vancouver would come in and list a home and not knowing the market, they'd underprice it and sell it in one day.
TONY: And I had several occurrences of that very thing in the last few year. I was working with a buyer and we saw that an out-of-market Realtor hadn't done their research and hadn't held offers. We bought it, closed on it, listed it and made $250,000 for my client two or three months later.
TONY: There's a risk in any market in not dealing with an experienced real estate agent. Typically a good real estate agent isn't going to discount their fees because they're going to be able to show you value for what you're paying them to do. Now in a market like this, I'd argue that it's even more important to work with a good Realtor because there's a lot of selection for buyers out there. Sellers need to get the exposure and need to present the property in the right way. An experienced local Realtor will do this for you.
TONY: If you're using a Realtor that's not busy and not experienced, they're going to be desperate for commission, and they're going to agree to discount their fees. Remember that you're hiring these professionals to, among other things, negotiate on your behalf. If an agent can't negotiate for his or her own revenue, which arguably should be the most important thing for the Realtor, how are they going to negotiate for your client against a tough Realtor? If an agent will fold on his or her own commission, they're probably going to fold on asking price and possession date and things like that. In this market, it is very important that you're working with an experienced Realtor. And sure, ask them about discounting their commission and see how they respond when you ask. Hopefully they can justify their own value.
4a. Sellers should want to pay a full buyer's commission
TONY: When it comes to negotiating commissions, one of the most important things that I see all the time on the Sunshine Coast is listing agents offering buyer's agents a reduced commission. Let me explain.
TONY: A lot of Sunshine Coast buyers come from out of market. Quite often they have a real estate agent that they're working with from a different market. If it was me, I'd refer my client to a local agent in that other market, but sometimes agents don't do that. They end up representing their client while knowing nothing about the market. This out-of-market agent will go into their listing presentation and the client will squeeze them on commission. They don't know how to say no to reducing their commission, so instead they'd reduce the commission for the buyer's agent.
TONY: But they keep the same commission for themselves. They keep the amount of commission that they'd normally make, but they offer a discounted commission to potential buyer's agents. They'll say something like, "Buyers' agents get regular commission with first introduction. But if it's not the first introduction, the buyers' agent gets a reduced commission."
TONY: For example, a homebuyer comes to the Sunshine Coast themselves without their out-of-market Realtor. They go to an open house and decide they like the place so they call their Realtor and go, "We want to put an offer on this home we just saw." Their Realtor looks at the listing and sees that because he didn't accompany the homebuyers to the open house, his commission will be reduced. He says to himself, "Well, there's about 20 other homes just like this. They're all pretty much the same. This listing Realtor is screwing me on commission so maybe I'll talk my clients out of this home and suggest they look at some of the other similar homes." In an environment like this where there's a ton of inventory on the market, you want interested buyers to write offers. Don't dissuade buyers' Realtors from facilitating those by having your agent offer a discounted commission.
TONY: Just negotiate a fair commission, make sure a full commission is being paid for the buyer's end so as not to dissuade a Vancouver agent from having their people write on it and then move forward from there. And I think overall, working with a good professional agent that presents your house in the right way is going to result in you getting more money in your pocket than using a marginal Realtor that's willing to discount their commission. Overall on average I think that using a top agent will get you a better price and a smoother sales process. And all the the rest of your wishlist will be there under your tree at Christmas time.
PAUL: I had it explained to me that by grinding too much on a commission, sellers are in risk of stepping over dollars to pick up dimes, and that buyers need to keep their eye on the prize. If you're going to pay a full commission to a Realtor that's going to get you more money or better terms or a quicker deal or all of the above, that's probably preferable than saving a thousand bucks or 1,500 bucks.
TONY: Or even five grand. Look, if you don't see value in a real estate agent and it's all about dollars and cents and you think it's just about putting a sign in the ground, phone the Property Guys. The flat fee commission will be 500 bucks or 1,500 bucks depending on the package. You run it yourself and you see what it's like to sell real estate. In a busy market like we were two years ago, you'd probably have reasonable success at that. But in this market, I'd say, you're probably going to be hard-pressed to get the same sale price as someone that's a good Realtor that's listing your house.
TONY: And to digress a little bit more, the other thing to consider is the relationship that agents have with other agents. Top agents work with other top agents. We do a lot of deals together. We know how to make deals work. And that again helps facilitate a smooth sale process. And you'll probably get a better price than if you're trying to negotiate yourself.
TONY: Remember that buyer's agents are representing their buyers. They're under no obligation to educate sellers that are representing themselves. Professional buyers' agents are positioning their clients to get the best price. If sellers have an experienced agent representing them that knows all those tricks, they can shut them down before they start. In the end, you'll get a better result than trying to do it yourself. It's like anything, you might be decent with a wrench, but if you buy a Tesla and something goes wrong with it, you're not going to take it to a local diesel mechanic. You're going to take it into where it needs to go to, and overall you're going to have better success using someone that's a professional and specialized in that specific thing than trying to save a little bit of money in the short term.
5. Sellers want more time
PAUL: Rounding out our list of things that sellers want under the Christmas tree this year, I'm going to say that sellers will want more time. I just read an article from Victoria about Airbnb properties. There's a huge glut of those properties for sale in Victoria now. The Realtor that was interviewed, he said that typically there's about five of those short-term properties for sale at any given time, but since this announcement was made from the province, that number has risen to like 45 or 50 units. There are a ton of sellers trying to get stuff sold in Victoria, and I think a lot of those sellers are going to look back and think, "Oh, I wish I had had more time to get this sold." How important is it for Sunshine Coast sellers to take the initiative and get something sold right now?
TONY: I think depending on the situation, depending on when they bought, if their mortgage has to be renewed or if they paid cash for it, short-term rental owners could be facing a ticking clock. If you don't have to sell now, in my opinion, you shouldn't sell now. It's a soft market, it's going to get softer. There's going to be a ton of inventory coming on, and especially on the Sunshine Coast here - I'm not sure exactly what the inventory was like around that guy's office in Victoria - but here on the Sunshine Coast, Airbnbs are often 600 to 1,000 square foot cabins. There's no secondary suite. There's no way for a Vancouver owner to give the impression that they're living there in order to get a license. These properties are going to either be sold or they're going to go to long-term rental. And our long-term rental market's softened a little bit and landlords aren't commanding the rents that they were. There's more selection for renters.
TONY: And no matter what percentage of Airbnbs it is that don't get sold, they're going to add to that inventory for long-term rental. And overall, that's going to soften the prices of long-term rental, which from my perspective is a good thing because we have a lot of trouble on the Coast right now finding workers and people have nowhere to live. Every short-term rental owner transforming their property to long-term is not going to be really a good option.
TONY: If that's the case and you've got a 2.5% mortgage and it doesn't renew for three years, then you could maybe consider doing long-term rental for a period of time and then selling it when there isn't a glut of all these other offerings on the market. If you don't have that opportunity and you know that in June 2024 your mortgage is coming up and you're going from 1.5% to 7.2% or whatever it's going to be, and that you can't do Airbnb (and even with Airbnb, you couldn't service that new debt load), you immediately want to get on selling because the sooner you list and sell, the more you're going to get as opposed to waiting until every other Airbnb owner is doing the same time at the same time.
TONY: At that point, sellers might want more time, and try to convince themselves that they'll be OK. "Oh, well, maybe the SCRD doesn't have teeth." Or, "Maybe Sechelt won't enforce these new rules and won't hand out big fines." The problem with that is that It's not up to municipalities, it's a provincial thing. You're not going to be able to get away from it. You need to get on doing what you're doing. You don't want to wait until the last minute because if you do, then you're going to be at the mercy of the market, whereas now you have a little bit of control, and you have a six month grace period to try to figure out exactly what it is you're going to do.
December 2023 Listings
1041 Firburn Road, Roberts Creek, BC
PAUL: Tony, as we're coming to the end of 2023, what do you have on the market for December?
TONY: Fresh to the market to December, I have an absolutely beautiful place. It's Roberts Creek, about five acres, so I think it's about 4.65 acres. I think the listing should be live by the time this goes to air. It's a beautiful log home, wicked views, fully fenced, ton of upgrades have been done to the home, and it's in a great area. I love that particular home and I think you'd agree it's pretty stunning.
PAUL: The house is just gorgeous. The view is a 10 out of 10, you see forever from up there. And there's a bit of a spot in the back that's underdeveloped that you could put a horse barn or something if you wanted to.
5 554 Eaglecrest Drive, Gibsons, BC
TONY: The unit at Georgia Mirage was sold subject to sale, but unfortunately that buyer couldn't sell their house. That one's back on the market now. And that one's, again, another beautiful view, top of the buyer's wishlist kind of thing. It is a 55+ complex, but any retirees that are looking for that one level living, that one's absolutely gorgeous.
Tudor Grove Development, Pender Harbour, BC
TONY: And then we've got that wicked development, that Tudor Grove development out in Madeira Park. We've just listed a waterfront lot but that'll probably be gone. There's five waterfront lots. The first one will probably be sold by the time this comes out, but the second one and third one will be released. Had lots of interest in that. They've basically got ahead of the market and priced those ones to sell. So if you're looking for an investment property, Tudor Grove is well priced, it's only 10% down on those ones. And then delivery towards the end of next year to be able to start building. This is a very well organized development.
Commercial units at Soames Place, Gibsons, BC
TONY: And then we have some commercial units in Soames Place. This is where the Eagleview Heights sales centre is located. All of those ground floor commercial units are for sale. Currently full of fantastic tenants, all the tenants are on long-term. As an investment, we don't see these types of units coming up very often. That's something that I'd check out if I was a buyer looking for somewhere to put their money.
CALL TONY TODAY
If you’re not already working with an agent, call me when you’re ready to buy or sell and I’ll guide you through the busy and competitive real estate market on BC’s BEAUTIFUL Sunshine Coast.
Tony Browton - TeamTrueBlue.ca
Personal Real Estate Corporation
RE/MAX City Realty (Gibsons)
Email: Click here to email Tony
Personal Real Estate Corporation
RE/MAX City Realty (Gibsons)
Email: Click here to email Tony
⚠️ DISCLAIMER: This blogpost is not intended to cause or induce breach of any existing agency agreement.