Trend Watch: Big Booms, Small Cities

Following a record-breaking 2020, the Canadian real estate market continues its upswing as sales activity remain exceptionally strong. In March of this year, Canada had hit an all-time high with over 76,000 transactions, with an average selling price of $716,828. Home sales have modestly declined since then, but activity remains high nonetheless. At the same time, the total investment in building construction across Canada continues to rise. The latest data released from Statistics Canada shows a month-to-month increase of 6.3% to $19.9 billion in April.

The boom is not only present in major cities in Canada but can also be seen in smaller markets as well. With remote work continuing to be the norm, and developers extending to smaller markets, we are seeing real estate activity heating up in smaller Canadian communities.

The Kelowna Real Estate Gold Rush

In the past several years, the Kelowna market has been seeing a boom in residential and commercial developments. The pandemic has added to the surge, setting record highs and institutional investors have been putting large but rather safe bets into Kelowna. In June, we have seen a year-over-year increase in condo sales of +113% with a +30% increase in the average price sold.

 

Marshall McAnerney, principal and co-founder of HM Commercial Group, has been actively involved in the majority of land and development deals in Kelowna. The company has listed a $20 million downtown site that spans four-acres, and currently has 15 high-rise deals under way. “When we get a development piece of land, we get six to ten offers on it within a week, because there isn’t any more land to develop,” Mr. McAnerny says. “All the big REITs out of Ontario are buying it up.” The low interest rate, coupled with the pent-up demand from major markets across Canada, has contributed to the upward pressure in prices for premium land in Kelowna.

 

Vancouver-based real estate investment company Nicola Wealth has also recently entered the booming Kelowna market. Alex Messina, director of Acquisitions for Nicola Wealth Real Estate said, “I would say Kelowna has become a very prominent secondary market in B.C. and is on the trajectory of becoming a major market in Canada.” Partnering with Mission group, Nicola Wealth is on the final stages of the Bernard Block – a massive mixed-use development in the heart of Kelowna’s downtown core. The company is on track to add another $1 billion in property assets to its already existing $5 billion portfolio that spans across North America.

 

This growth comes with its downside, and renters are bearing the consequences of the price hikes. Landlords are capitalizing on the spike in home prices and are listing their properties for sale, driving renters back into the now-expensive rental market. In 2016, the average home price was $650,000, and has since gone up 27% to $830,000 in 2021. Despite escalating home prices, there are fewer homes available on the market, which adds the possibility of fierce bidding wars that can create more upward pressure.

Heated Activity in the Nova Scotia Real Estate Market

Nova Scotia has also been subject to the nation-wide real estate boom amid historically low interest rates and evolving consumer trends. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), the number of homes sold through the MLS totalled 1,411 units in June, riding a YTD increase of 53.5% and the average home price has gone up to $358,291, up 30.3% YTD. Areas leading the record-high activity include Halifax-Dartmouth, Annapolis Valley, and Northern Nova Scotia, to name a few.

Halifax-Dartmouth, which is home to nearly 100,000 Canadians, had the most residential sales activity in June with 729 residential sales, with home prices averaging up to $468,790. In fact, Nova Scotia reports some of the highest price gains in all of Canada, with home sales 57.2% above the five-year average and 73.4% above the ten-year average in April of this year. Also in April, residential sales had gone up 159.5% year-over-year with 1,731 units sold – the highest ever recorded in the province’s history.

There is, however, good news – particularly for renters – as the federal and provincial governments are allocating $7 million for affordable housing projects across Nova Scotia to combat skyrocketing prices. The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia will receive $1.7 million to build 25 units in Dartmouth, and the private sector will be undertaking a $650,000 conversion of the former Yarmouth High School into a 54-unit mixed rental building. Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill said, “We know that more affordable housing units are needed in this area and this investment will ensure that more of our residents will have access to brand new apartments that they can afford.” The provincial and federal governments plans to invest $513 million in the next 10 years on affordable housing projects and programs.

 

Protect Your Assets

If you are buying into the Canadian condo market, it is imperative that you adequately insure your asset. In fact, most provincial condominium bylaws mandate that all condominiums are insured to their total replacement cost value. 

 

The only way to determine accurate replacement cost is by obtaining an insurance appraisal by a professional 3rd party firm, like Normac. Doing so means you will always be sufficiently insured in the case of a total loss, that you can receive better terms and insurance rates, and that you fulfill your fiduciary duty set by your provincial condominium bylaws. 

Watch: Normac Reliance’s SIUD Presentation

On Tuesday, June 22, Normac’s Calgary team hosted a Zoom webinar on the topic of Standard Insurable Unit Descriptions (SIUDs), featuring guest presenters: 


Watch the recording below:

In case you missed it, as of June 16, 2021 Normac has acquired Reliance Asset Consulting. Read more about this here

Normac Acquires Reliance Asset Consulting

Normac Acquires Reliance Asset Consulting
Normac Acquires Reliance Asset Consulting

June 16, 2021 – Normac Appraisals Ltd. (“Normac”) is pleased to announce that it has acquired Calgary-based Reliance Asset Consulting (“Reliance”). With a shared commitment to providing industry-leading replacement cost appraisals, Reliance will now be operating under the leadership of Normac. Normac will be acquiring Reliance and its insurance appraisal portfolio and operations; the reserve fund study portfolio will be taken over by Dan Jablonski at ICB Solutions Inc. who will continue to operate as Reliance Asset Consulting.

 

This coming together of two highly respected appraisal companies will further the common mission of providing clients peace of mind with superior insurance appraisal reports and unrivaled customer service. It also ensures that Normac is well positioned to pursue expanded growth opportunities and accelerate its investment in innovation and efficiencies. As the two largest specialized replacement cost appraisal firms in Canada, the unified company will continue to be guided by its dedication to its clients, the communities it serves, and the industry as a whole.

     

“Normac’s union with Reliance will strengthen our ability to deliver exceptional customer service and market leading replacement cost reports,” stated Cameron Carter, Normac’s President. “Combining our dominant positions in our respective markets will make us a powerful force in the insurance appraisal industry as we continue to grow across Canada and North America.”

 

Harold Weidman, President of Reliance, added, “Normac shares the same set of values that have always underpinned what we do at Reliance. Our long-standing tradition of deep technical expertise, unmatched service and solutions, and industry support and education will continue.”

 

Normac’s head office will remain in Vancouver. The combination of these two industry leading companies will ensure that clients in all markets continue to receive best-in-class reports with outstanding customer experience at the forefront of every interaction.

 

June 16, 2021 – Normac Appraisals Ltd. (“Normac”) is pleased to announce that it has acquired Calgary-based Reliance Asset Consulting (“Reliance”). With a shared commitment to providing industry-leading replacement cost appraisals, Reliance will now be operating under the leadership of Normac. Normac will be acquiring Reliance and its insurance appraisal portfolio and operations; the reserve fund study portfolio will be taken over by Dan Jablonski at ICB Solutions Inc. who will continue to operate as Reliance Asset Consulting.


This coming together of two highly respected appraisal companies will further the common mission of providing clients peace of mind with superior insurance appraisal reports and unrivaled customer service. It also ensures that Normac is well positioned to pursue expanded growth opportunities and accelerate its investment in innovation and efficiencies. As the two largest specialized replacement cost appraisal firms in Canada, the unified company will continue to be guided by its dedication to its clients, the communities it serves, and the industry as a whole.

     

“Normac’s union with Reliance will strengthen our ability to deliver exceptional customer service and market leading replacement cost reports,” stated Cameron Carter, Normac’s President. “Combining our dominant positions in our respective markets will make us a powerful force in the insurance appraisal industry as we continue to grow across Canada and North America.”


Harold Weidman, President of Reliance, added, “Normac shares the same set of values that have always underpinned what we do at Reliance. Our long-standing tradition of deep technical expertise, unmatched service and solutions, and industry support and education will continue.”


Normac’s head office will remain in Vancouver. The combination of these two industry leading companies will ensure that clients in all markets continue to receive best-in-class reports with outstanding customer experience at the forefront of every interaction.

“Combining our dominant positions in our respective markets will make us a powerful force in the insurance appraisal industry." - Cam Carter, Normac President
"Combining our dominant positions in our respective markets will make us a powerful force in the insurance appraisal industry."

- Cam Carter, Normac President

4 Things to Watch Out for When Selecting an Appraiser

Over the years, we have seen time and time again, firms attempt to enter the insurance appraisal industry and exit it just as quickly. Whether they are just starting up or trying to add bundled services to their portfolio, it becomes quickly apparent that they lack the experience and knowledge to produce reliable and comprehensive replacement cost appraisals. 


An insurance appraisal is a specialized report used to protect your biggest and most expensive asset. In order to mitigate risk and maximize cost savings, it is vital to choose an appraiser carefully. Here are four things to watch out for when selecting an appraiser.

1. Experience

Determining replacement cost value requires more than a basic understanding of material costs. An experienced insurance appraiser also has in-depth knowledge of construction costs and trends, current building codes and municipal bylaws, demolition and removal costs, and hard and soft costs. Additionally, a thorough understanding of condo and strata law and provincial acts is important when considering the inclusions and exclusions of an appraisal. All of these factors must be taken into account; appraisers lacking in experience and knowledge can expose owners to unnecessary risk.   


Normac’s team of accredited appraisers bring together more than 175 years of combined experience that make us experts in this field. We have completed more than 80,000 appraisal reports across the country and appraised all varieties of property types. With our finger on the pulse of the construction and insurance industries, you can rest assured that your assets are always protected.  

2. Specialization

The most reliable insurance appraisers are ones who specialize in this type of valuation. An insurance appraisal requires a specific valuation method called the Cost Approach. Other valuation methods such as the Income and Direct Comparison Approaches are used strictly to determine market value appraisals; these methods consider land value or the potential income a property is capable of producing. To achieve an accurate replacement cost value, it is critical not to confuse the Cost Approach with any other as this can lead to significant inaccuracies.  

 

Normac specializes in insurance appraisals – it is the only type of appraisal that we do. This specialization eliminates opportunities for errorsshortens turnaround time, and increases accuracy. The result is a justifiable replacement cost that ensures your property is neither over or underinsured.  

3. Costing Sources

There are many different sources which can be used to calculate replacement costs. However, knowing which of these to use and how to properly apply the multipliers is the only way to achieve an accurate valuation for each unique property. Be wary of firms who use USA based cost guides such as RS Means or CoreLogic as their method to determine costs.  We have found these costs guides to be inaccurate as they do not consider Canadian or regional nuances.  

 

Normac has its own proprietary costing database that has aggregate data from our 23 years of business and more than $800B in replacement costs appraised. In addition, we refer to local cost guides and actual construction projects and data from Canadian architects and builders. When compared to the USA cost guides, our costing provides a more accurate depiction of costs, specific to the communities we serve. 

4. Accountability

Aside from experience, specialization, and appropriate cost sources, it is equally important to consider accountability. Do your emails get answered promptly? Are your reports delivered on time? Will the company be around in years two and three of your program? How do they respond when there is an issue? Moreover, some appraisers are unable to stand behind their reports and expressly deny any right to any claim which may arise out of the report’s use.  Be sure to take the time and closely review the fine print in their assumptions and limitations. 

 

Our clients have come to rely on us because of our established quality of service. Normac has been around for a long time; we have built trust and familiarity with our clients. Our dedicated client services team is always here to pick up the phone, answer your questions, and provide solutions. We have also invested in technologies to improve our workflow; these refined systems mean we have the ability to accommodate custom, complex, and urgent requests. We consistently strive to deliver the superior experience that our clients have come to expect.

At Normac, we believe that if you are going to do something, you better do it right. There is added value that comes with experience, specialization, custom costing, and accountability. Thanks to all of these things, we can offer our clients cost savings without ever compromising on the quality of our reports or integrity of our service. In the end, we do what we say we are going to do. And we plan to continue doing it for a long time.  

Watch: Supply Shortfall Webinar (CCI Golden Horseshoe)

Earlier this week, the Golden Horseshoe Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute hosted a webinar on the topic of supply shortfalls due to COVID. The webinar focused on the current construction labour and materials shortage that the condo industry has been facing. Our very own President and founder of Normac, Cameron Carter, was one of the panelists alongside John Macleod (President, Key Property Management & Consultants) and Sally-Anne Dooman (Director of Condominium Management, Wilson Blanchard Management).

The structure of the presentation was as follows:

  1. What is the material/labour supply crunch we are facing at the moment, featuring real-world examples, presented by John Macleod.
  2. Why has there been a supply shortfall, including the technicality behind the surge in building materials and the shortage in labour, presented by Cameron Carter
  3. How can property managers and boards respond to the supply shortfall, along with best practices on managing the corporation’s budget and future projects, presented by Sally-Anne Dooman.

Thank you to the panel of professionals for sharing their insights!

Watch the Webinar Below

Recap: PM Springfest and CCI-Toronto’s Twitter Chat

This past week, Normac had the pleasure of sponsoring and exhibiting at this year’s virtual PM Springfest. The 2-day event hosted educational seminars related to the property management industry with over 50 sponsors supporting the event.

PM Springfest is an educational conference specifically geared towards decision makers and influencers of the property management industry. The topics that were addressed included building envelopes, legal & regulatory issues, energy & sustainability, technology & innovation, and resiliency. Normac was proud to support this event and was delighted to connect with new and old faces within the industry.

We are optimistic that next year’s event will be hosted in person and look forward to once again supporting PM Springfest. Here is a snapshot of our virtual booth from the event:

 

Coinciding with day 1 of PM Springfest, our founder and president Cameron Carter was one of the panelists for a Twitter chat on Insurance hosted by CCI-Toronto alongside Tom Gallinger (VP, Atrens-Counsel Insurance Brokers) and Katherine Gow (RCM, Crossbridge Condominium Services). The expert panel covered topics such as condominium insurance rates & deductibles, insurance appraisals, role of the insurance broker, and the impact of COVID-19 on the insurance market.

 

Below are some highlights from the event!

On Insurance Appraisals

The event kicked off with a question about insurance appraisals and why/how often they should be obtained. The Ontario Condo Act states that “Subject to a reasonable deductible, the insurance required under this section shall cover the replacement cost of the property damaged by the perils to which the insurance applies.” The only reliable way to determine replacement cost is to have a 3rd party appraiser assess the property. The adequacy of your coverage should be reviewed on an annual basis which will ensure that your condominium is paying accurate premiums.

On Risk Mitigation

Risk mitigation, particularly water damage prevention was also addressed during the discussion. As 80% of all condo property losses are due to water damage, it is critical that your corporation take a proactive approach to minimizing any potential loss. Technological advances in leak detection now make it easier to catch unusual water levels at its source before it spreads to other units and common areas. A professional management company will be able to provide direction to the best preventative measures for your condo. Katherine Gow stated, “Your greatest tools for controlling risk will be 1. Standard unit bylaw 2. Deductible recovery bylaw 3. Inspections/programs to reduce water damage, slips and falls and risk of fire”.

On Standard Unit Bylaws (SUBL)

Standard unit bylaws (SUBL) can assist in faster claims processing by providing clarity as to what is covered when disputing a loss. Removing, adding, or modifying items in your SUBL will also have a direct correlation on your insurance premiums as it will either cause your premiums to go up or down according to the changes. When appraising a property, individual betterments and improvements are excluded from the valuation and a SUBL will help define what a condo’s standard finishes are. If a SUBL is not in place, the appraiser would make their best effort to determine the standard finishes. In an effort to save on premiums, we have seen cases of condos amending their SUBLs to a “bare-bone” to transfer some of the risk to their personal policies.

The discussion also touched on several other topics as it related to insurance such as rising lumber prices, charge backs/deductibles, and shared facilities to name a new. To catch up on the conversation, search #CondoChat on Twitter and scroll through the thread from April 21.

Thank you to the panel of professionals for sharing their insights!

  • Katherine Gow, Crossbridge Condominium Services – Tweeting from @KGowCondo
  • Tom Gallinger, Vice President, Atrens-Counsel Insurance Brokers – Tweeting from @CondosCovered
  • Cam Carter, President, Normac Appraisals – Tweeting from @NormacOfficial

How to Request an Insurance Appraisal From Normac

Video Transcription: 


Requesting an insurance appraisal proposal from Normac is simple with the Request a Quote form on our website. Simply head to normac.ca and click the Request a Quote button. 


Fill in all of your contact information and property details and click submit. You can also save and come back later if needed. This form is sent directly to our Client Services team who will provide you with a proposal within 24 business hours.


When you receive your proposal, open the fillable PDF, review the document and quote, and fill out the authorization section. We will need the following to proceed:


1) Your signature, 2) the current insurable value of the property, 3) the date you require the report by, which we recommend aligning with your insurance renewal date, 4) site contact information so we can schedule an on-site inspection, 5) and your insurance broker information, if you would like us to send them a copy of the report.


Sign and return the form to us, along with a copy of the building plans. We will confirm receipt of your authorization and begin working on your appraisal right away. And that’s it! Contact us today for a proposal for your insurance appraisal needs.

What is Actual Cash Value?

We have been receiving more and more inquiries for Actual Cash Value reports. While these are not new, there are many who are unfamiliar with what this report is, how we determine value, and why it is being requested. We hope to address all your questions about Actual Cash Value and some things to consider when requesting them from an appraisal firm.

What is Actual Cash Value?

Actual cash value (ACV) is the total cost of reconstruction for a like-for-like substitute minus its depreciation over time. If this value is being requested from an insurer, it may be because the property has been deemed a higher risk and is therefore not eligible for a full replacement cost valuation.

As an appraiser, how do we calculate ACV?

We would arrive at an ACV valuation by first completing a full replacement cost appraisal and then deducting for physical and functional depreciation on the property since it was built. Considerations prior to the deduction would include current standards of material and design, labour, supervision, contractor’s profit and overhead, architect’s plans and specifications, and sales tax. As a general rule, older properties tend to have higher depreciation deductions.

What do we require?

In addition to the architectural blueprints, we will also require a record of all major maintenance and replacement projects completed since date of original construction. The records should include the year of the work done, and if available, the costs incurred.

Why might a broker suggest ACV?

In the past, ACV policies would most often be written because the owner wanted to save money on premiums. Given the hard market we are in, insurers have tightened underwriting guidelines and in turn are writing less policies for properties that they deem as higher risk due to lack of maintenance or being located in a hazard-prone area.  While a full replacement cost valuation might have been available in the past, it may no longer be an option today as insurers look to reduce their risk.

 

Case Study: New Dawn Enterprises Limited v. Northbridge General

On March 17, 2017, a 132-year-old Cape Breton Island building in Nova Scotia had a major sprinkler failure resulting in significant damages to the property.

 

Upon review of the policy set in place at the time, the actual cash value was unclear, and the property owner (New Dawn) believed the ACV was $1.59 million, while the insurer (Northbridge) said $230,000 –  a difference of $1.36 million. The figures were determined by two independent appraisers after the accident.

 

When calculating ACV, the two appraisers first determined “replacement cost new” – what it would cost to rebuild the property in the event of a total loss. However, different approaches were taken to come up with this value. Northbridge had come up with a $6.67 million valuation using the “unit in place method” and New Dawn’s appraiser had used the “quantity survey method” for a $14.58 million valuation. One key difference between the two valuations is that New Dawn’s appraiser had included the value of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, while Northbridge’s appraiser did not.

 

The appraiser for Northbridge then deducted 71% for physical depreciation but 85% for external obsolescence for an ACV of $290,000 (This figure was averaged down to $230,000, taking into account the value for “direct comparison” at $200,000). On the contrary, New Dawn’s appraiser had deducted 72.73% for physical depreciation and 60% for functional obsolescence for an ACV of $1.59 million.

 

To settle the discrepancy, an umpire selected by the two appraisal firms had determined that the actual cash value was $258,000 – a figure that Northbridge was OK with. New Dawn, unhappy with the outcome, took the matter to court and the judge had ruled the umpire’s findings invalid after contacting vendors hired by Northbridge to make a conclusion. A second umpire was to re-assess the actual cash value.

What can I do to protect my property?

What we can learn from the case of New Dawn Enterprises Limited v. Northbridge General, is the importance of having a clearly defined and supportable estimate of ACV before a loss occurs. Hiring an accredited appraiser who specializes in replacement cost and is knowledgeable in depreciation factors over time is the only way to ensure you are adequately protected. In addition,  a plan to consistently maintain the property to a high standard can assist in avoiding an ACV policy in the first place.

 

 

Normac can help with your ACV needs. Having an insurance appraisal done on an annual basis can give you peace of mind, ensuring you have an accurate and agreed upon estimate of ACV before a loss happens. Please contact our Client Services team directly to inquire about a proposal for this kind if report.

 

More Than Just Condos: All About Bare Land Stratas

Strata Corporations and Bare Land Strata Corporations – What’s the Difference?

In British Columbia, a conventional strata corporation subdivides a building into separate units, commonly known as strata lots. This allows for individual ownership of a strata lot as defined by a strata plan, with the strata lot usually ending at the center of walls, floors, and ceilings. Any part of the building that, according to the strata plan, is not part of the strata lot is referred to as the common property. These typically include hallways, elevators, recreational amenities, and building exteriorsTogether, all the strata lot owners own the common property as a strata corporation and share the fees and responsibilities associated with maintaining it.

 

Stratas that divide a larger piece of land into several strata lots are called Bare Land Stratas (or Bare Land Condominiums in Alberta and Common Elements Condominium Corporations in Ontario). As the name suggests, the purchase of a Bare Land Strata lot means exactly that: a bare lotwith no buildings on the strata lotThe key difference between a Bare Land Strata and a conventional strata corporation is that any building constructed on each bare land lot becomes the responsibility of each strata lot owner for maintenance costs and insurance. The strata corporation has no interest in each strata lot owner’s buildings unless these are referenced to in the strata plan or the bylaws.

 

However, beyond the individual strata lots, there is still common property that the Bare Land Strata Corporation continues to be responsible for. This can include amenity buildings, roadways, walkways, grass, shrubs, trees, septic fields, sewage treatment plans, underground systems services, and more. In most cases of bare land developments you will find single-family dwellings, but this ownership structure can also be utilized for mobile parks, recreational sites, and other property types.

Insuring Bare Land Strata Corporations

At the end of the day, a Bare Land Strata is still a strata corporation, and compliance with the Strata Property Act is expected. The Strata Property Act requires all strata corporations—including Bare Land Corporations—to obtain and maintain property insurance for common property, assets, and buildings shown on the strata plan. Property insurance must be current and cover full replacement cost in the case of a total loss. An annual insurance appraisal determines an appropriate insurable cost for the common assets. 

 

In our over 20 years of experience, we frequently encounter instances of Bare Land Corporations not carrying sufficient coverage for a total loss. A common omission are the underground site services, such as plumbing and electrical. Other common assets such as retaining walls and fencing are often missed. Determining which elements are common property and which are the responsibility of the homeowners is a complicated process and requires extensive research on the part of the insurance appraiser. It involves reviewing all pertinent documents, then taking a careful inventory of the assets to be included and conducting research to determine specific replacement costs. Following this, a consolidated total is then created for the Total Insurable Value.

 

Given the highlevel of detail required in both the analysis and reporting for these appraisals, it is not unusual for a bare land appraisal to take longer than a standard appraisal. This is due to the fact that the appraiser must analyze and estimate costs individually for certain components that would have been otherwise included as part of the building or site improvements.

Ignorance is (Not) Bliss

When it comes to bare land developments, it is vital that no common element is missed. In this reported casea bare land gated complex in the Fraser Valley found themselves ill-prepared for a number of water and sewer-system failures that occurred following a heavy winter seasonThe strata owners were oblivious, believing that the single-family homes they lived in within a Bare Land Strata were no different than owning a single-family home on a standard city lot. The assumption was made that the city would be responsible for maintaining these services. In the end, the corporation found themselves underinsured and owed $250,000 – around $5,000 per home.  

Looks can be deceiving. Avoid the guesswork and review the filed strata plan in the Land Title Registry. Strata plans for Bare Land Strata Corporations should be clearly labelled as a “Bare Land” and will not usually show the outlines of houses located on individual strata lots.

 

For your own peace of mind, continue to educate yourselves and leave the insurance appraising to the experts.