The leaves are brown and falling and the weather is cooling down but the housing market on the West Shore remains vibrant. Amid a brisk November

HOMEFINDER: Housing market continues to provide surprises

Seasonal downturn hasn’t hit yet, especially on the West Shore

While leaves are falling around us, the housing market is not.

Victoria Real Estate Board president Tim Ayres said a brisk November has helped push sales past last years home sales to this point, leading to what he said could be the busiest fall and winter season since 2009.

“Overall 2014 has been a surprising year. We expected the momentum carrying into the year would carry over, but it has exceeded expectations,” he said. “We are seeing low, stable interest rates with no reason rates will rise any dramatic amount, and that contributes to increased sales.”

Approximately 575 single family West Shore homes from Sooke, Langford, Metchosin, Colwood and the Highlands are up for grabs, ranging from a $220,000 “fixer upper” to a $5.9-million waterfront property. Regardless of a wide-ranging inventory, Ayres said proper pricing can make the difference between selling and not.

“My experience on the West Shore has been mixed, a few sell quickly and some take a little time, but the good news is the right-priced properties sell as they do in any market,” he said.

“Prices have moderated, so we haven’t really seen appreciation. So for a seller, you might not get as much as you hope for, but there is enough activity that if you price well you will sell.”

Despite December being a traditionally slower month, he said, the holidays can provide both respite and benefit for organized buyers and sellers ready to move, amidst the plethora of obligations that sometimes accompany a busy time of year.

“There (are) less buyers and less sellers looking in the market in the Christmas season. But it is a time when some have time off and are not busy with family stuff, (in which case) it might be a good time to buy or sell,” he said.

“Not everyone wants to sell, but the ones that do are determined to, so they do. The intrepid buyers and sellers are certainly getting deals done.”

Bill Ethier, president of Royal LePage Coast Capital Realty, said sales are strong, but that has not necessarily increased prices. So, the currently balanced market has seen most prices remaining relatively stable compared to past years. He expects the same for at least the short term, with only marginal price increases on the horizon if at all; perhaps just enough to rise with the inflation rate, currently running at one to two per cent per year.

“For a seller it’s the old adage,” he said. “It’s a competitive market, but if the house is priced according to market conditions (and) also priced to (the home’s) condition, (it will move). From a seller’s perspective, if their house is priced accordingly, it won’t languish on the market.”

Ethier pointed to a reasonable time on the market being 60 to 80 days which is the average right now. His tip for buyers who find a home that fits most of their checklists is to not wait on the sidelines, because lower inventory means houses are on the move and there is a good chance it could disappear.

“We are down 10 per cent in inventory and up 10 per cent in sales,” he said.

“We are a razor’s width away from being in a sellers market, even though we are considered a balanced market (right now).”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

Q: WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I PLAN TO SELL MY HOME AT CHRISTMAS?

Considered by some the most challenging time to sell, here are a few tips to help navigate the holiday home sale.

Maintain the exterior of your home. During the fall and winter months it is impossible to maintain the lush, green and summer-like feel that can make potential buyers feel welcome. Keep exteriors clear of debris and leaves and walkways free of ice and snow that can make your home more welcome, maximize safety and limit lawsuits.

Provide top-tier real estate photographs. Yes it costs more money, but sometimes your real estate agent can include it in the price if you negotiate it.   If you have it, photos from the summer can help buyers see how it looks year round.

Give house hunters respite from the cold by ensuring it is warm inside and smelling nice. Christmas treats, the smell of baked goods or coffee can be an alluring combination.

If you are a Christmas decorator don’t be shy, but keep holiday clutter at bay if it makes your interiors feel small or overcrowded. Less is more.

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » MONTH TO DATE NOV. 17/14 COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 234 / 412 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL, NOV. 2013

» 366 / 698 — NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL, NOV. 2013

» 3,685 / 4,017 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL, NOV. 2013