The Importance of Insuring a Condominium to its Full Replacement Cost

There is an important reason why many Canadian provinces require condo corporations to have replacement insurance on their condominiums. This is to ensure owners are protected in the case of major peril where the property is deemed a total loss. The full replacement cost, known to appraisers as the Total Insurable Value, is to include the building structure, all common facilities and assets, and any insurable improvements. Many corporations who do not comply with their provincial codes can be left at significant risk of being underinsured and responsible for any shortfall in coverage.

EXAMPLES OF PROVINCIAL CODES

Each Condominium Act/Code or Strata Property Act across Canada has a similar bylaw mandating that condo corporations insure their property adequately in the case of a total loss. The BC Strata Property Act specifies in section 149.1 that the strata corporation must obtain and maintain property insurance for the full replacement value.i In Ontario, the Condominium Act states that the corporation shall obtain and maintain insurance on behalf of the owners for damage caused by major peril, including fire, lightning, smoke and more, and the insurance shall cover the total replacement cost.ii In Alberta, the condo corporation is required to insure the common property and units (not including improvements made to the units by the owners) against loss resulting from destruction or damage caused by any peril, and that this insurance must be equal to the replacement cost of the condominium as described.iii In Quebec, the Civil Code of Quebec stipulates that the syndicate has an insurable interest in the condominium and shall take out insurance against ordinary risks in an amount that is equal to the replacement cost of the condominium.iv

ANNUAL UPDATES TO APPRAISAL AMOUNT

It is equally important to obtain annual updates on the amount to be insured. As the cost of construction and materials are constantly fluctuating, it is important to keep an up-to-date value that reflects these changes. It is therefore recommended that the corporation reviews the adequacy of the insurance annually. This not only ensures that they are always sufficiently covered, but also saves them from paying too much in premiums should there be a dip in industry costs. It is particularly important to maintain annual updates for phased developments throughout the construction period. Ensuring Total Insurable Value is updated upon the completion of each phase is critical to protecting the development.

CASE STUDIES

To emphasize the importance of an accurate and up-to-date insurance appraisal, here are two examples of properties that experienced a fire resulting in the total loss of the structure. In the first case, the condominium? was not adequately covered by their insurance benefit. In the second example, the business had secured sufficient insurance in the amount of the total replacement cost. The results were strikingly different.
Quebec Condominium Fire 
In 2008, a condominium was deemed a total loss after a fire destroyed the building. The condo board filed a claim for the common property and the condo owners filed for their personal portions. For the common property, there was a $454,938 shortfall. The cost of the rebuild was not completely covered due to the condo corporation’s insufficient insurance coverage and the owners were responsible for the difference, at a cost of $6,119 per unit. While many of the owners had additional insurance in the case of a short fall, two owners did not. As a result, these owners were responsible for paying the special assessment themselves. These owners submitted a claim against the condo board and condo management, faulting them for not securing sufficient replacement cost insurance for the building. They maintained that, according to the declaration of co-ownership and section 1073 of the Civil Code of Quebec, it was the responsibility of the condo board to provide insurance coverage for an amount equal to the building’s replacement cost. As it was the condo manager’s decision to not insure the building in an amount equal to the replacement value, he was held personally liable for a portion of the deficit. It was determined in court that it was the obligation of the condo board to ensure the building in an amount equal to the full replacement cost, including demolition, taxes, and other professional fees. In addition, the condo manager was found liable for the harm suffered by the condo owners as he had set the amount of replacement cost when he purchased the insurance coverage on behalf of the condo board.
Alberta Manufacturer Fire
In 2007, a massive fire destroyed one of the main buildings of a manufacturing plant in Alberta. A year prior to the fire, the owners of the plant had obtained an insurance appraisal from Normac for the first time. Before requesting the appraisal, the company had been estimating their replacement costs, but had not been updating them on a regular basis. Previously the property was insured for $13,000,000 less than the Normac estimate. Due to our updated appraisal, the client was able to completely replace their structure, which was a total loss. Despite this major interruption to their business, they were able to make it through and are currently thriving because their coverage was sufficient. Our appraisal meant they were properly insured for the full value and saved their business.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER

When considering these Quebec and Alberta examples, the value of obtaining a proper insurance appraisal is evident. A correctly performed insurance appraisal can save owners millions of dollars in repair and replacement costs and ensures a business can continue to operate after a total loss. Furthermore, working with an experienced appraiser can save owners and boards from significant conflict and protect a condo board from being held liable for a portion of replacement costs. The most secure way to protect owners and corporations is to obtain an accurate replacement cost for the property annually. Only a professional appraiser can effectively determine the replacement value, which must include demolition and removal expenses, current building practices and technological improvements, local and national bylaw requirements, construction labour and material fluctuations, and necessary taxes. These true-life case studies underline the importance of always obtaining a current insurance appraisal from a company that specializes in this profession. Disasters do happen, so make sure that your assets are properly appraised. Our clients rely on us to provide the most accurate and reliable replacement cost reports. For a no-obligation proposal, please request a quote.  To download this article, click here.

Sources 

  1. http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/98043_09#part9
  2. https://ccitoronto.org/sites/default/uploads/files/condoact1998/CondoAct1998.pdf
  3. www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/Acts/c22.pdf
  4. https://ccq.lexum.com/w/ccq/en#!fragment/sec1072/KGhhc2g6KGNodW5rxIVhbsSHb3JUZXh0OnNlYzEwNzIpLG5vdGVzUXVlcnk6Jycsc2Nyb2xsQ8SIxIo6IW7ErWVhcsSHxKXEp8SpxKvEusS8xIdTxJB0QsSpUkVMRVZBTkNFLHRhYjp0b2MpKQ== 
  5. http://www.advantagescondo.com/replacement-value-insurance-policy-the-court-confirms-the-obligation-of-the-syndicate-and-the-administrators-1.aspx 

Determining Total Insurable Value and Understanding Fluctuations

There are many practical ways to measure the value of a condominium property in Canada, some being more useful than others in specific circumstances. 

For insurance purposes, the value of a condominium asset is defined by its full replacement cost, known to appraisers as the Total  Insurable Value. This total insurable value (TIV) is the single most important figure in determining the cost to fully  replace the property in the event  of a total loss and includes items such as the cost of materials, labour, bylaw and building code  revisions, as well as changes to standard materials deemed no longer appropriate. 

TIV Explained

Total insurable value is different than other common forms of property valuations such as Actual Market Value or the Income capitalization Approach. Unlike  appraising a property based on TIV, these alternative forms of valuation usually include additional considerations that would not affected the cost to construct a replicate of the property, such as the land value, which can impact the valuation drastically. The process of establishing an accurate and reliable TIV starts with a professional insurance appraisal from an experienced third party. An appraisal is the procedure of identifying, assessing, analysing, and reporting on the cost of an asset. For more information on this process,  revert to our recent publication – Insuring Your Property to Value. 

As mentioned, there  are a multitude of components that must be evaluated: building structure and systems, all common assets, applicable bylaw and building codes, landscaping, and even the cost of demolition. Once all factors have been accurately accounted for, the accredited appraiser can provide the condominium with the TIV, which enables  the owners or manager to insure the property sufficiently. If appraised too high, the condominium corporation will be paying excess amounts of money in premiums for insurance. 

If appraised too low, the asset is at high risk in the unfortunate event  of a total loss. This issue is more complex when considering the many external factors that can cause fluctuations of the TIV of an asset after its appraisal. 

TIV - FACTORS AND CONSIDERATIONS

STRUCTURAL, MATERIAL, AND LABOUR CONSIDERATIONS

Normac relies on local cost guides  as well as in-house databases and algorithms to assist our Professionals in determining the replacement cost for a given  property. These guides, along with our collection of data, give us accurate estimations of current construction costs, which are comprised of structural, material, and labour costs  within a given region. As economic conditions fluctuate, so do these variables. Changes  to supply and demand, workforce composition, even international trade can all contribute to a rapid, profound TIV fluctuation. 

LOCATION

While  the TIV has nothing to do with the cost of the land or market value, location can have a substantial impact on the replacement cost. Many contractors charge more  for their services in rural areas than in cities. As demand is typically lower in rural areas, transportation cost is factored into contractor pricing to send material and labour to these areas. Demolition is another significant contributor to the total replacement value. 

Demolitions  in urban  areas will cost more  due to space limitations, traffic considerations, and permits that may be required. Although many  condo units in downtown apartments are smaller  than what you would find elsewhere, smaller square  footage does not necessarily entail small price per square  foot. A small apartment still requires all the same amenities (plumbing, utilities, etc.). In larger units, those  expenses are stretched across more space, thus the price per square foot can be lower.

BYLAW AND BUILDING CODES, BUILDING PRACTICES

Bylaws and building codes are an important consideration when  appraising condominium assets. Due to variations between municipalities and provinces, bylaws and building codes  must be assessed in detail on a case-by-case basis as discrepancies between current standards and older  structures can reflect large portions of a Building’s full replacement value. Experienced Normac appraisers have seen cases wherein new building codes  and bylaws represented up to 30% of an asset’s TIV. Examples include updates to fire protection standards, elevator codes,  and parking requirements that would entail large amounts of capital to rebuild to current day requirements. 

CURRENT FLUCTUATIONS EXPLAINED

The aggregate of all Previous factors results in total insurable value fluctuations which, when  shifting above the insured value of a condominium property, pose a serious  concern for owners and managers. During Normac’s 20-year involvement in industry, we have had vast amounts of experience in monitoring, analyzing, and sharing our understanding of these major  fluctuations with our clients to keep them updated and protected. Currently, certain economic conditions have had a great impact on TIV, including: 

SUPPLY AND DEMAND OF RAW MATERIALS

Supply and demand of materials such as steel, concrete, and softwood lumber has been transitioning through a period of major imbalance, causing extreme price  increases (1).  With an overall decline in steel production, global increases  in demand for steel have drastically affected pricing. According to the World Steel Association, the cost of steel has been increasing since July 2017 and is expected to rise again by 8% through 2018 (2).  Canadian softwood lumber production has been stifled by recent, record- level forest fires, beetle infestations, and by climate change (3).  In 2017 alone, building and construction costs  saw an increase of 10% – 40% due to BC’s wildfires. This reduction in supply has lead to sawmill closures in Canada, further contributing to record level pricing (4). 

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Trade relations between Canada  and the USA has further affected increases  in material costs. NAFTA is a key issue with an impact on trade relations between both countries which,  if it fails, may lead to a 5% overall decrease in the Canadian Dollar (5). Tariffs on raw materials are another main  consideration regarding fluctuating prices. It is expected that steel tariffs alone could raise condominium prices by $10,000 CAD (6). 

LABOUR AND MARKET SHORTAGES

Lack of skilled  labour equates to higher charges by contractors and construction companies as wage  increases are made to attract workers. As of December 2017, Canada was reported to have a national shortage of 38,000 construction jobs, third on the list of industries experiencing labour shortages (7). By March of 2018, the construction industry had jumped to the number two spot (8). This year, overall labor  costs are expected to raise an additional 2-3%, influencing overall construction costs as well as expenses such as demolition and debris removal, both major components of a condominium’s TIV. 

As insurance appraisal experts, Normac is always  aware of current events that may have bearing on a property’s Total  Insurable Value.

Our professional team consistently monitors construction costs  and we are attuned to industry developments and trends. As a result, we ensure that your  insurance Appraisals are accurate, and that your  properties are protected and appropriately insured to full replacement value. 

To download this article, click here.

SOURCES

Building a Sustainable Future Through Passive House Designs

2018 has become a critical year for the global community as researchers have warned leaders and policy makers that the world has only 12 years to curb global climate change. This requires urgent action not only on an international scale, but also making drastic changes in how we live our lives and produce goods in Canada.  This is why many policy makers, engineers, and city developers see the need to implement sustainable living and development as buildings create about 56% of greenhouse gas emissions – more than that of transportation and waste combined. One way engineers and design teams are tackling the tremendous issue of greenhouse gases, is through Passive House Designs.

Passive House Design refers to conscious design strategies that help reduce a building’s energy consumption, and often implements reusable energy. Passive Houses achieve their goal of hyper efficiency through the design and implementation of highly insulated building envelopes. The main standards of a Passive House Design are as follows:

  1. Proper Insulation.

Proper insulation reduces energy and heat leaving the home through areas such as window panes. With Passive House Designs developers and designers will want the structures to contain as much heat as possible, so as to reduce using heating systems that push hot air inside and inevitably consuming more energy.

  1. No Air Leakages.

Similar to the definition above, the intent here is to contain the heat and air that is better used within the home rather than letting it escape.

  1. No Thermal Bridges.

In this case, architects and engineers must be cognizant of heat that can easily travel through walls and other means. A good use of design can prevent this from happening.

  1. Proper Windows – Triple Pane Glass.

Windows are common areas to lose heat and by implementing triple pane glass windows this will not only allow for insulation for hot days, but for cold days as well.

  1. Proper Positioning.

This standard refers to the positioning of windows and ventilation systems. The strategy utilizes the natural heat from the sun and allows for heat to enter a home, and when it is warm outside this method also helps contain cool air inside.

  1. HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilation).

This component allows for fresh air to circulate without allowing heat to escape in the process. Some buildings have even incorporated sophisticated ventilation systems that circulate air in and outside of homes; by extracting and redistributing warm air to different parts of the structure. This method is quite revolutionary as we can create comfortable heating without emitting CO2.

 

Photo provided by: Passive House Institute

 

Passive House Designs also tend to incorporate other components that help reduce emissions while continuing to produce energy efficient heating and cooling for its occupants, such as solar energy and geothermal energy. This is all done in the effort to prevent climate change, but these design strategies are also great for high density areas with high cost of living. Reducing energy consumption is great for keeping energy and appliance bills low. For those residing in areas such as Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver where temperatures change drastically throughout the year, Passive House structures may be coming to you much sooner than you may think! Buildings and developments across Canada are beginning to implement these methods and designs, as well as imbedding them into provincial and municipal standards.

It is possible to reduce energy consumption for a large number of residents, as well as reduce one’s energy bill, all while remaining environmentally conscious. With how quickly technology is advancing, and environmental standards making waves across the country, it’s simply a question of when will your city be implementing Passive House Designs?

For an in-depth look at passive house designs, see this wonderful resource, What is a Passive House? Understanding the Principles Behind This Sustainable Housing Movement.

The Future of Construction – Smart Technology in Building Materials

2018 seems to have been the year of smart home technology as gadgets such as smart locks, lights, thermostats, home assistants and many devices more push past the early adopter stage and are becoming more popular with consumers. All these smart home products can be a great addition for any individual looking to make their home a more comfortable, efficient space – but what about the physical property itself? Basic wood and concrete have been fundamental elements of building construction for centuries, and although construction techniques have certainly improved, there hasn’t been anything necessarily smart about these construction materials until recent developments in building material technology.

What to expect?

While society continues to barrel toward a more tech-based future, new companies are taking advantage of adding smart capabilities to building materials. These developments aim to help make buildings and structures safer, more durable, and technologically capable. Currently, there are a multitude of smart materials in development with applicable uses:

Smart Concrete

Whether a structure is intended for residential, industrial, or commercial use – concrete is a necessary and critical component of any building. Smart concrete is a recent development from the State University of New York at Buffalo and is not only stronger than traditional concrete, but can be monitored wirelessly for strain, stress, and damage before the concrete structure fails. With smart concrete, there will be no need for manual inspection or expensive embedded sensors. The composition of this new concrete can help in detecting areas where damage is present or likely to occur by using voltage monitors.  These monitors allow for timely repairs which is ultimately safer and more cost effective. There are even current developments working to create a version of this smart concrete that can self heal when it comes in contact with water. The applications of this type of concrete are endless, as it requires no special setup or additions as smart concrete is premixed with the necessary material.  To read more on smart concrete, check out this link.

Smart Glass

The future of windows is right around the corner. Smart glass is a new technology that enables glass panels to alter its transmission properties based on a change to either voltage, heat, or light. When a high amount of light is applied, smart glass can dim itself and transition from transparent to translucent.  Given that the glass can respond to a variety of different influences makes this smart material ideal for construction purposes. This glass can be used to replace static building envelopes, with the dynamic ability to respond to climate and adapt accordingly to save costs on electricity, heat, air-conditioning, and even the cost to buy and maintain traditional blinds and curtains. Smart glass is already being used by Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner – more on that here.

Self-Healing Coatings

Self-healing coatings are a revolutionary product set to greatly impact building structures of all types. These coatings are a polymer-based product that can be applied directly to a variety of material, which will repair themselves when influenced by heat, light, or water. The most interesting part about these coatings is they can be used on existing structures, creating self-healing properties for material such as metal, ceramic, paint, glass, and even concrete. Coatings can be used to create building envelopes that can intrinsically correct damage such as scratches, cracks, and even utilize anti-corrosion properties. The application of coatings such as these can potentially save hundreds of thousands in repair and maintenance costs for property owners or managers.

With smart materials such as the above being introduced to the market, we are on track for safer, more reliable, and more durable structures. These structures can respond appropriately to the elements, monitor and repair themselves, and provide useful alternatives to older building components and forms of construction.

Normac is Canada’s premier provider of insurance appraisals, with experience in multi-residential, commercial, light industrial, and unique properties. For more information on the current state of construction or how construction directly impacts the total insurable value of your property – download our most recent eBook here. If you are interested in a no-obligation proposal for an insurance appraisal, request a quote today.

The Legalization of Cannabis: Concerns Pile High for Condo & Strata Corporations

The legalization of cannabis has been one of the hottest topics in Canada since its proposal back in late 2012. Since then, the country has passed Bill C-45 otherwise know as “The Cannabis Act” and has been planning for the legalization of recreational use set for October 17th, 2018. This has left many companies, industries, and government factions scrambling to prepare, including condominium corporations. The multi-residential aspect of condominiums has presented a variety of questions on how corporations will effectively manage and adjust to recreational marijuana use.

The Issues at Hand

The new legislation will permit recreational use of cannabis, the ability to possess and share cannabis up to a certain legal amount, as well as grow a maximum of 4 plants per residence. The regulation of cannabis differs slightly from province to province which impacts the decisions condo boards will have to make across the country. In Alberta, laws will mirror tobacco use except for operating equipment (such as vehicles), which is the same for British Columbia however places where children are present are also prohibited. In contrast, Ontario is banning public smoking of cannabis altogether. The nature of this legislation has many condo boards in Canada racing to revise their bylaws before the legal date, as this CBC article explains. Many proactive condominiums in Canada are considering banning the substance altogether as issues of smoke in units, balconies, and common areas cannot be effectively contained and are bound to impact all others that call the property home via second hand smoke. However, smoke is not the only factor regarding this new legislation, as many condo boards are concerned with the overall issue of smell. As cultivation will soon be legal, concerns are growing about the implications of overall odor as well as excess unit moisture issues and increased utility consumption within the building. Smoking aside, growing cannabis plants in a condo residence is sure to be an issue, as possibilities of damage, voiding insurance, and decreased property value will need to be considered by all condo corporations. A recent article from the Edmonton Journal writes about a similar case in which a condo building was ordered to fix ventilation due to leaking tobacco smoke and the associated odor, costing somewhere in the hundred thousand dollar range.

Realistic Solutions?

The state of cannabis legalization has condos in a tight position, as outright bans on the substance from condo property is essentially the only way to mitigate disputes and potential property damage down the road. Or is it? Many condominiums can stand by previous legislation including the prohibition of consuming combustibles, which will include marijuana. This issue does become more convoluted when considering the medical necessities of some cannabis users and these possible restrictions. Potential human rights issues have been a topic of discussion lately throughout Canada regarding these medicinal users. Furthermore, there are a variety of difficulties and potential legal issues associated with banning as well as enforcing a ban on home grown cannabis as outlined here by a recent CBC news piece. There are multiple additional considerations and possible resolutions that may work for your condominium, and interested readers are urged to review their bylaws and continue to research the potential implications and solutions to help make this historic transition happen as smooth as it can for all residents of condominium properties.

Condo Buildings Gear up for Electric Vehicle Readiness

In March of 2018, the City of Vancouver (COV) approved a bylaw that requires new multi-unit residential buildings to have 100% of parking stalls (excluding visitor stalls) be electric vehicle (EV) ready. This is to say that new buildings are required to have accessible electrical outlets fitted, that will allow multiple residents to sufficiently charge their electric vehicles without overloading an electric circuit. This recent change is a big jump from the city’s previous requirement of only 20% of parking stalls in multi-unit buildings developments to be EV-ready.

Developers must be ready to abide by the bylaw starting on January 1st, 2019, as per the Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Program. The program was put into action by the COV with the objective to encourage electric vehicle use, and ultimately improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and help save residents and businesses money in the long run. With ambitions to move into greener and renewable energy in the city of Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vancouver Council believe, “… Embracing renewable energy is crucial to restoring our climate and environment, and generates remarkable economic opportunities. It’s also about improving quality of life, health and affordability—now and for future generations,” (Renewable City Strategy).

So, what does this mean for Vancouver condo developers and its strata corporations?

According to developers currently in the process of building EV ready stations for residents, this may not be much of a shift with regards to cost. As outlined in COV’s Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Program, the additional costs to meet the requirement for 100% of stalls in new multi-unit residential buildings to be EV-ready would be up to $300 per parking stall. Also, reiterated in an interview conducted by Global News, Grant Murray of Concord Pacific says “… the cost of putting it in is not a big [or] serious problem.

The Renewable City Strategy has Vancouver increasing commitment and effort into a greener transition. There are other initiatives like the Curbside Electric Vehicle Pilot Program, that look to implement electric vehicle charging stations (or EVCS) around the city; where charging stations are available to public users, but require them to register their license, sign a licensing agreement, and carry the appropriate level of insurance.

The implementation and support of electric and renewable energy is looking to be a necessary pursuit as researchers from SFU have estimated the amount of EV sales will be rising steadily to about 9,300 to 25,000 units by the year 2024 and will continue rise eventually reaching 30,000 to 35,000 units sold by 2030.

As Canada’s premier Insurance Appraisal provider, Normac is committed to understanding and monitoring green energy initiatives and trends municipalities are implementing. The cost of fitted electrical outlets will impact the value of a building, and thus the building’s replacement costs. For more information or for a no-obligation insurance appraisal proposal, email us at info@normac.ca or request a quote here.

The Shortage of Strata & Condo Managers

The need for qualified strata managers is at its peak in BC and across Canada. There is fast expansion of homes and high rises throughout the Metro Vancouver region, and there are currently more condos in Vancouver than there are property managers to assist in overseeing them. To say the least, the city is quickly becoming a concrete jungle and the trend is sending ripples of repercussions to the Property Management industry.

THE NEED FOR STRATA MANAGERS

Strata Property Managers are an integral part of maintaining strata buildings; they’re responsible for managing and organizing repairs in common property areas of the building, they maintain specific documents and records essential to the maintenance of the building and enforce bylaws as they change over time. So, if property managers are essential to condo buildings and strata properties, why is there such a shortage?

Like many industries, Property Management suffers from a diminishing number of experts in the industry, many of whom are baby boomers, while there is a lack of interest or awareness to enter Property Management by younger generations. From an anecdotal perspective indicated in an article published by Stratawest Management it’s said, “…the industry itself does not have an accurate identity and simply does not fit into what the typical millennial is looking for.”

It’s important for new generations to gain interest in Property Management as Vancouver is estimated to gain 28,000 new strata units in the near future. Currently, the average strata agent is handling anywhere from 17 to 23 stratas, when it’s recommended to be handling about 12 properties at most. With a high volume of properties distributed to each agent and 28K more in construction, those in the industry will be stretched thin and forced to deal with 60 to 80 hours of work a week. This leaves many agents in the industry overworked, properties neglected, deadlines missed, warranties expired and even some properties left without management.

BARRIERS TO ENTRY

There’s also the issue of bringing in qualified strata managers. The veterans of in the industry know the role is not for the faint of heart, because becoming a property manager is essentially becoming a Jack-of-All-Trades. Property Managers are required to be on top of the changing legislations that effect all types of properties, while resolving conflicts internally and externally. They present annual budgets to strata councils, collect strata fees, obtain necessary insurance, and are required to be on- call as an emergency can arise at any moment. It’s a challenging role and obtaining the necessary licensing has been said to be a feat as well.

Other barriers that may be preventing a new flood of property managers include long hours, industry standard for rates and fees that haven’t adapted to the cost of living or even matched prices to compensate for inflation in nearly a decade.

You may say that we are seeing the last vestiges of Strata Managers, the experienced agents retiring and not enough recruits from younger generations entering the industry. This is a cause for concern, as the knowledge is not retained, and many property owners are left with under qualified or in-experienced Strata Managers.

THE SOLUTION

The solution to this problem may be as simple as providing fundamental and sufficient education and awareness of Property Management as a career. Below are some website resources for further information on Property Management as a career in British Columbia:

Rising Construction Costs and the Impact of Tariffs

A noticeable Canadian trend has a lot of residents and potential home owners concerned. For the past few years the growth of condo constructions in various regions across the country, particularly in metropolitan areas like Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, has been on a steady and costly rise.

Earlier this year,  the Atlus Group’s annual report stated that Canada had experienced the tailwinds of economic and employment growth from its previous year, but the cost of owning a home is still a far reach for many. So then why are prices continuing to increase despite what the experts say?

Normac has observed multiple factors that contribute to the rising property and construction costs that make property development, and ultimately home ownership, increasingly challenging.

LOCATION

With single detached home ownership improbable for so many, urban centres are re-zoning and erecting multi-unit dwellings to accommodate this pressure on densification. The cities of Toronto and Vancouver remain leaders with regards to property demand, residential development and price. According to Stats Canada, the price of construction for new residential buildings increased by 9.6% for Vancouver and 8.3% for Toronto, year over year. Both Toronto and Vancouver were noted in Atlus’ report to be the most active markets in Canada with very strong consumer demands.

CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL COSTS & TARIFFS

In an article published by The Globe and Mail, it’s said that Toronto condo prices began to rise aggressively between the years of 2015 and 2017. We know that in recent months the increase in prices are largely due to the prohibitive costs of construction materials.

U.S President Donald Trump has deliberately increased $16.6 billion in tariff countermeasures on crucial components such as steel, aluminium, rebar, concrete and soft lumber. The implementation took place on July 1st, and as one of the United States’ biggest trading partners, Canada and its residents are experiencing the negative repercussions from coast to coast.

For the last few years steel has been on a steady incline worldwide, and will continue to rise up to 40% this year alone. It’s also estimated that aluminium will rise over 15% due, in part, to tariffs. Normac has observed the price of windows – which rely heavily on aluminium materials – to have increased to approximately $1,700/square metres (or $160/square feet) in some instances. Another component essential to the construction of condos and high rises is rebar, it is the steel used to reinforce concrete in condo towers, which has also been subject to President Trump’s tariff war on trading partners. It’s quoted in an article published by Global News, “… rebar makes up around 4 per cent of the cost of a condo tower, meaning a 25 per cent import duty would add up to one per cent in construction costs.” Lastly, B.C’s lumber industry has struggled largely due to frequent forest fires in the B.C interior which has limited lumber supply output while demand continues to soar.

It’s estimated that American tariffs on construction materials will be passed on to consumers and add to over $10,000 to Canadian condo and home prices.

LABOUR

Another trending factor to the surge in pricey condos is that of labour costs. Across Canada there are diminished numbers in skilled labour, and a lack of skilled labour means higher charges by contractors and construction companies. Since December of 2017, Global News has stated Canada’s construction industry has the third largest labour shortage. Additionally, immigration policies have become stricter in Canada and have contributed to the struggle of the construction and real estate industry. Due to matters such as this, labour costs are estimated to increase an additional 2-3% this year alone. BC construction wages are increasing in an upwards trend with no reprieve in sight.

 

(BC Labour Costs – Altus 2018 Construction Cost Guide)

CASE STUDY

In Toronto, the infamous Vaughan condo project is a good example of a development project that was not completed despite having all units sold out. It was estimated to have created 11,000 jobs and provided people in the community with 1,100 units of livable space. Unfortunately, the project was halted and eventually terminated because the developer was “unable to secure satisfactory construction financing.” Whether this was due to a combination of material costs, labour costs, or location, no one yet knows as the developer has not commented on the matter.

As insurance appraisal experts, Normac is always aware of current construction costs and attune to industry developments and trends. As a result, we ensure that your insurance appraisals are accurate, and that your properties are protected and appropriately insured to full replacement value.  For a no-obligation proposal, click here.  

Normac’s 20th Anniversary: Celebrating 20 Years of Service!

2018 marks an exciting year for everyone at Normac – we are celebrating our 20th year in business! And what a wonderful 20 years it has been.  To commemorate this milestone, we’d like to look back upon our last 20 years and all that we have achieved.

Click here to view Normac’s Timeline.

1998 – The Beginning

Cameron Carter, Normac’s founder and President started the company from his home office as a one man show.

He recognized a gap in the insurance appraisal business that he sought to fill: a lack of quality service. He felt he could easily deliver faster, improve customer service and build better relationships, and effectively make Normac’s clients’ lives easier. So, he set out to do a better job than the rest and garnered the support of some insurance brokers who helped him to grow his portfolio.

Interesting fact: Ever wonder where the name Normac came from? It’s Cameron backwards (without the E)!

2000 – First real office and Normac’s first hire

Cam was thrilled with all of the appraisal requests he was receiving, but it soon became too much for just one person. In 2000, Normac opened its first professional office on Spruce Street in Vancouver and the company doubled in size with the hiring of a Client Services Manager! While nervous about taking on another person’s salary, having someone else who shared Cam’s vision was crucial to Normac’s success. In this case, the reward far outweighed the risk and the business began to roll in.

Adding a Client Services Manager to the Normac team was important to preserve one of Normac’s core values: “Do What You Say You Are Going To Do.”

2002 – Master Appraisal Programs Established

This was one of many “a-ha” moments for Normac. Master Appraisal Programs (MAP) were secured in BC with some of the country’s largest property management firms. This trend continues today as property management companies sign on with Normac to ensure consistency, quality, and familiarity for their clients. A MAP is a reflection of the trust and loyalty that Cam set out to deliver from day one.

2005 – First jobs in Alberta

This is the year that Normac’s cross Canada expansion began when we started securing jobs in our neighbouring province of Alberta. Many of the clients that we first appraised 13 years ago are still getting appraisals from us today.

2007 – First Property Loss

One of our appraisal clients experienced a devastating loss in 2007. A manufacturing plant in Alberta was victim to a massive fire that took out most of their facility. For years, the plant has never engaged the services of an appraiser, only estimating their replacement costs. When Normac was referred to them, the Total Insurable Value we provided was $13 million more than what they had been estimating. When the plant burnt down, it was because of Normac’s appraisal that the company was able to endure the disaster and continue to thrive well after the rebuild was complete.  This was a truly validating moment for Normac whose main concern is the security of our clients.

2008 – The Big Move to Downtown Vancouver

With a continually expanding team and a desire to be more central, Normac moved its office to a downtown location at 780 Beatty St.

2011-2012 – New Legislation and New Opportunities

In 2011, BC legislation was passed that mandated Depreciation Reports for all stratas. While it allowed two years for compliance, Normac jumped at the opportunity to deliver Depreciation Reports to current and prospective clients.  For the second time, Normac’s team doubled in size with the hiring of qualified Engineers, Certified Reserve Fund Planners, and additional Client Service Administrators to support this department.

Normac also invested much effort in establishing an automated system to ensure accuracy and efficiency in the funding models. This proprietary system helped Normac cement our reputation for providing accurate, comprehensive, and easy to read reports.

In the first year, Normac presented over 1000 proposals for Depreciation Reports.

2015 – Cameron Carter Nominated for Contributor of the Year

Since the beginning, participation with various industry associations has been an integral aspect of Normac’s success. It’s important for Normac to contribute to the property management and construction industries through sponsorship, speaking engagements, volunteering, and networking. In 2015, President Cam, was nominated for a PAMA Industry Contributor of the Year. Today, we are engaged in over a dozen different association chapters across Canada, encourage our team to pursue various accreditations, and are heavily involved in the promotion of education for all in our industry.

2017 – Expansion to the East Coast

With roots firmly planted in BC and Alberta, in 2017 Normac started receiving inquiries from Ontario. We were quick to set up an office and are continually growing our presence around the greater Toronto area. We have since had an influx of proposal requests from as far east as the Maritimes and are developing programs to fit these markets’ needs.

2018 – Where We Are Today

Today, Normac is the largest provider of insurance appraisals in BC with targets set to match this title across Canada. We’ve experienced steady and sustainable growth thanks to our experienced team, intelligent systems, and the relationships we’ve built with our clients and partners.  We’ve appraised and delivered reports to over 400 hotels, some of the most notable properties in Western Canada’s biggest cities, and continue to expand our reach into the country’s largest and most remote communities.

Looking Forward

When asked what comes next, President Cam Carter responds “Total World Domination” with a chuckle. All jokes aside, Canada and the US seem like a pretty good place to start. Cam is focused on furthering Normac’s reputation as the premier provider of insurance appraisals and building science services. Normac’s goals include refining our technology and systems, increasing efforts to develop the Normac team and company culture (a spot-on Canada’s 100 Top Employers list, perhaps), and further improving the client experience.  Cam believes that there is no “we-made-it” moment; we must always be improving and asking how we can do better. As for new market opportunities, the options are endless.