New Economy, New Kinds of Homes

I just came across an intersting article from the Wall Street Journal which I will link to below. It describes how in America’s current real estate market, the (presumably few) homes that are being built are being made to reflect a lifestyle that is more about comfort and efficient use of space  and energy than being built for impressing visitors as they were doing in boom times of recent past. The end of the McMansion (cheaply built homes with lots of open spaces and doo dads to impress visitors) has arrived and they are now going back to homes that are simply more down to earth. These homes, admittedly, are not exactly smaller or without their own charm.

The reason this article strikes a chord with me is because I, like so many others, have been fascinated by watching the US market go through its dramatic downturn these past few years. Watching it play out and seeing who’s left at the end and why is this Realtor’s equivalent to how some biologists watch the struggle for survival during a major extinction and seeing what sorts of evolutionary traits end up making the difference before being passed on to future generations.

You wouldn’t know this from watching the news, but although we too have been affected in all of this we have fared very well compared to the US and so many other economies the world over. Our own lesser downturn in property values which was followed by a recovery and has since been waffling between getting warmer or cooler depending on which data you’re looking at, is still showing its own changes in terms of what sorts of new homes are available.

There is still a fair bit of inventory left over from the end of the boom in Nanaimo. It takes quite a long time to get the ball rolling from buying some property, getting zoning and permits and etc. in place let alone actually building it and then selling it. Then, there is this perception among the public that they will have to now pay HST on top of the purchase price. (Even though the full 12% is only applied to the balance over 425k, below that things are as they were before.) So, these perfectly fine places have been sitting there for a couple of years now, especially condos, and they keep getting cheaper. Some of them are amazing deals.

The market is far from dead though. I’ve had a pretty good year and the stats for the Nanaimo area suggest that I am not alone. For example, last year in October only 75 single family units were sold but this October 98 were sold.  People are spending a bit more too. Similar figures have been showing up on the stats since the summer. (Actually, maybe the spring, but I was simply too busy selling real estate to think about any of this at the time.)

But yes, here too I would say that the new places that are being built are a little less lavish than those from a few years ago. Cheaper locations are more popular too. The area south of Harewood, around 9th and 10th, is being populated with lots of inexpensive homes on inexpensive land.

Anyway, here is the article that inspired the above thoughts:

Wall Street Journal Article: Blueprint for a New American Home

Ryan Coffey