After a year that saw catastrophic fires and floods, B.C. homebuyers face a new reality

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Consumers need to be educated, say industry experts, who expect weather-related disasters to continue their assault on BC, forever changing our property buying decisions.Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters

In late June, British Columbians endured record-hot temperatures with something new called a heat dome, followed by a fire that destroyed the entire town of Lytton. And two weeks ago, there was an “atmospheric river” that flooded communities in southern BC, triggering landslides, razing highways and destroying homes. Both extreme situations involved loss of life.


It’s time to be realistic about this “new reality,” says Kelowna realtor Richard Deacon, who was based in Merritt, where he had acreage, losing much of it to pine beetles. Today he lives near a wooded area in Kelowna.

Consumers need to be educated, say industry experts, who expect annual wildfires and other meteorological disasters to continue their onslaught on B.C., forever changing our property-buying decisions.

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Although the Kelowna area was unaffected by the flooding, Mr. Deacon had clients in Vancouver and Alberta because of news reports that they were cut off from road access. Some highways have reopened, but only for essential purposes, with expected delays. The situation, combined with the prolonged summer of wildfires in the Okanagan, has some people questioning plans to move there.

“It is a large province and a large part of BC was unaffected by what happened last week,” says Mr. Deacon. “But there is a ripple effect that people are probably reconsidering the accessibility of an area like this. It has to affect. How can it not? It doesn’t look any different in Kelowna, but two hours down the road in Merritt it Definitely does.

“If you have a romantic notion or plan to buy somewhere off the grid or surrounded by nature, be smart about it.”

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Mr Deacon said he has many big city clients who may not appreciate the unique challenges of property ownership in more rural areas. ,[I deal] A lot of people who come from urban centers and cities. While they may understand the mechanics of a home and property values, they do not necessarily understand the area. They want peace and nature, but there is more to nature than birds chirping and beautiful views.”

For example, he says, if you want to buy a property with only one road, imagine the road being cut and what that would look like.

“It may be something that realtors need to become more educated about, and of course consumers do as well.”

Mr. Deacon believes that realty and other industry players, such as home inspectors, need to become more experienced in property facilities beyond foundations and roofs. They need to know if a property has potential risk because of its geography, or if it has already suffered floods or fires, if it could happen again, or if there is a potential landslide or the purity of the well water. There are issues like

“You can see different words coming up in the offers, and governments with different professional or jurisdictions provide consumers with more education before buying certain types of property that are more rural. I think that is a good thing. , and some realtors and lawyers and insurance people might be better off.”

Vancouver realtor and environmental attorney Patricia Hoolihan said she’s seeing the impact climate change is having on her client’s buying decisions — though she worries people aren’t taking the issue seriously.

“Twenty-five years ago, they thought you were crazy if you believed in climate change, and they certainly didn’t think it would be the cause of what’s happening now… it’s devastating,” says Ms. Hoolihan. Huh.

Three of his clients changed their minds on properties this year alone due to potential risk areas, including a client who fell in love with an $8 million waterfront property on the North Shore but decided against it because it It was very close to sea level.

Others were looking in the Okanagan but had bid on recreational properties. They stopped their searches because of what has become of B.C. dos horribilis,

“Just in my customer group, the fact that in one year, three people re-evaluated the buying sense [risk zones] And saying, ‘We’re not going to do that,’ tells you something. And once this demand eases further, obviously it will affect all real estate prices. We are seeing it in Florida,” she says, referring to the decline in areas that are more vulnerable to sea level rise.

Last year, her client made an offer on a beautiful Penticton home, which at the time was on fire in nearby communities. Anticipating the insurer’s concern, he placed a clause in the contract stating that the completion would be delayed until the insurance company was prepared to underwrite the asset. Its buyer had to wait until it was free from risk of fire. But in the future, insurance regulations may become tighter, rates may rise and it may be difficult to obtain insurance and financing in high-risk locations.

Despite headlines of doom and gloom, the situation on the ground is highly localized. Okanagan real estate is continuing its boom year. Penticton Realtor Dory Lionello said she typically sees individual homes selling for $50,000. Although the time taken to close a deal is sometimes delayed, he has not seen a deal fail. He sold two properties this year, virtually unseen.

“There are strange forces that affect us, but I don’t think that keeps people from being here,” says Ms. Lionello. “We don’t have exorbitant insurance costs, we haven’t lost any homes. We’re looking at pictures of Coquihalla [Highway], and I don’t know why we are so lucky here. I can’t see the effect here yet, I’m very local. ,

She also sees continued demand for the waterfront, with a recent $1.9 million home selling for $2.7 million.

“I haven’t seen it affect me. I’ve had a client message me and say, ‘I’m thinking twice about this,’ but it doesn’t quell the desire.”

Mr Deacon said it is also sad that the hardest-hit places are in low-lying areas where low-income residents often live in old housing stock and trailer parks. Often people do not have proper insurance, if any.

In Florida, a phenomenon called “climate gentrification” is going on in Florida, with wealthy people buying homes at high altitudes, says Toronto-based Realtor Chris Chopik.

Mr Chopik has spent 18 years studying climate risk and energy efficiency, and he spoke earlier this month at an Urban Development Institute webinar called Doing Your Due Diligence – Buying Land in an Age of Climate Change. Is.

Mr. Chopik, who works for Sotheby’s, is an unusual Realtor whose clients are concerned with sustainability issues. They have studied extensively how climate change is affecting property values, and while negative public perception postdisaster is usually temporary, it can also be permanent, such as in the case of Louisiana, which has been hit by hurricanes.

He told developers that the new way forward is to create raised foundations, more expensive and efficient building envelopes and better ventilation systems to outweigh the risks. The new way to sell a project is to build in safety features and market them accordingly, especially if it’s in a high-risk area — which could be any market, he says. For buyers, he compares the risk assessment of the home to the Walk score.

“If I was buying real estate anywhere, I would be looking at the risks, because there is no place without risk. If you have seismic risk, look at it. If you are at risk of flooding or sea level rise, then Look at it. And look at the property you’re going to buy and ask: Will it be underwater? Or can I buy it and invest in it in a way that’s refurbished for a better resale value, and in Involved in moving the house up a bit?

“If you look at it from a real estate investment value perspective, it suddenly takes capital across the market to do the right thing.”

In terms of potential risk, floodplains and forests are the new “knob-and-tube wiring,” he says.

“Historically, we saw things like knobs and tubes, or an oil tank, and we said, ‘We need to deal with this, or remove it,’ and now flood and wildfire in B.C. insurability and value risk.” There are new forms of

In BC, this means that homes in fire-prone areas that have metal roofs, for example, have added value. The complicating factor is that the risks are not always obvious, such as flood risk. Water can go a long way. So developers, homeowners and buyers need to work harder.

“It’s an accelerated rate of impact, and as you’ve been experiencing in BC … there’s this suspended disbelief that this could even happen. We’re not used to seeing it as a risk because it’s as frequent- The bar hasn’t been as serious as it is becoming.”

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