Great News for Ottawa as Municipal Land Transfer Tax Scrapped

Just as a more hopeful atmosphere has swept into Ottawa in the wake of the federal election, the city’s real estate market has received a major boon with the news that the municipal land transfer tax (MLTT) will not be implemented across Ontario.

House_winter_for_sale.jpgThe Ontario government announced in early December that the MLTT—a 0.5 to 2 per cent tax that Toronto home buyers must pay up front in addition to the provincial land transfer tax—will not be expanded beyond Toronto. The Ontario real estate industry had been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the municipal tax would not see the light of day.

“This is excellent news for Ottawa’s real estate market,” comments Patrick Morris. “Home buyers will no longer be charged extra thousands of dollars up front, and sellers can breathe a sigh of relief that they won’t have to contend with this tax. If the MLTT had gone through, I’m certain Ottawa would have seen up to 15 per cent fewer home sales. A lot of people, myself included, are delighted with the announcement.”

In other positive news, Ottawa’s real estate market has begun to return to its normal state—that is, steady as she goes. “It’s a little better,” observes Patrick. “Overall we’re in a balanced market, but it depends on the neighbourhood, price range and style of dwelling.”

The graphs at right outline the sales-to-new-listings ratio for the Ottawa residential and condo real estate markets. According toResidential_Sales_to_New_Listings_Ratio_Graph.JPGCondo_Sales_to_New_Listings_Ratio_Graph.JPG CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), “a sales-to-new-listings ratio below 40 per cent has historically accompanied prices that are rising at a rate that is less than inflation, a situation known as a buyers’ market. A sales-to-new-listings ratio above 55 per cent is associated with a sellers’ market. In a sellers’ market, home prices generally rise more rapidly than overall inflation. When the sales-to-new-listings ratio is between these thresholds, the market is said to be balanced, where home price growth remains in line with overall inflation.”

The sales-to-current-listings inventory to December 1, 2015, demonstrates that 17 per cent of residential homes on the Ottawa MLS system sold in November, while 12 per cent of condos sold. Although these numbers aren’t terrific, they are consistent with the monthly results for 2015 and are a slight improvement over 2014.

Higher-priced Ottawa properties, however, are taking much longer to sell. This is not unusual, notes Patrick, because there are a limited number of buyers who qualify for high-end homes. “The supply in this upper price range is high, and the demand is low.”

The condominium market remains a challenge for sellers, as there is a large inventory of units for sale. The sales-to-new-listings ratio graph at left demonstrates that we are on the border of a balanced and buyers’ market. “It’s going to be like this for a while to come,” says Patrick.

Fortunately, he adds, there are signs the Liberal government will be more supportive of the public service, the city’s main employer. “Only time will tell, but a lot of people I’ve talked to seem encouraged with what they’ve seen so far, and they hope the Liberal government will show more of a willingness to work with the public service.”

CMHC forecasts that Ottawa’s real estate market is poised to be “steady” for the next couple of years. “That’s very much in line with our forecast,” says Patrick. 

Source of Graphs: Statistics provided by OREB, CMHC

ASK PATRICK

I’m interested in buying a home, but I’m not sure how old it is. What are some ways to figure that out?

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Knowing the age of a home and its components (such as furnaces and windows) can be helpful for many reasons, including assessing structural safety and energy efficiency. Here are a few techniques for guessing the approximate age of a house if you don’t know the date of construction.

Check the foundation.
Stone foundations were used extensively from the 1800s until around 1930. Brick foundation walls were in style from 1910 until the 1930s, while rubble foundations (the first generation of poured concrete) were used during the 1920s and 1930s. Apart from custom-built homes, most houses from the 1940s to mid-1960s have concrete block foundations. Since 1970, house foundations have been built almost exclusively with poured concrete. Each type of foundation has strengths and weaknesses; make sure you are familiar with how these relate to your home.

Look underfoot.
Most houses built before the mid-1960s had plank subflooring. From the mid-1960s until the early 1980s, plywood was used. After that, wafer board became the material of choice to decrease construction costs.

Check the wires.
Aluminum wiring was used residentially starting in 1965. At that time, the cost of copper was high by comparison, due in part to the Vietnam War effort. Sufficient bad press about aluminum wiring led to a halt in its use in the mid-1970s. In the present day, aluminum wiring has affected the insurability of some homes.

What are the walls made of?dreamstime_house_entrance_landscaped_yard_cropped.jpg
Houses built before 1960 had plaster walls and ceilings; today, new houses are built with drywall.

Check the plumbing.
From 1920 to 1950, water supply plumbing was often made of galvanized steel. Since then, copper has been the number one material, although home builders have recently started using PVC plastic. Waste plumbing was made from cast iron until around 1960, when copper was used for a short time (it was too expensive to keep using). PVC plastic is now the predominant material used.

Rails and ducts offer clues.
Some homes built just after the Second World War have railway rails in the basement used as support beams; Ottawa was once an industrial city and had many old rails and ties. Houses built during the WWII era used tin for ductwork because it was cheaper than using steel, which was needed for munitions. Tin ductwork is typically more shiny than steel.

Look at the bricks.
Some brick homes can be dated by type of brick. For example, the salmon-coloured Glebe brick was manufactured and used on homes built in the 1920s. This particular brick was produced in Ottawa, in the area now occupied by Billings Bridge Shopping Centre.

Investigate other outdoor features for clues.
In newer subdivisions, you can sometimes pick up dates from manhole covers, sidewalks and curbs.

How old is my furnace?
You can check the month, date and year of manufacture; this is usually stamped on the blower fan inside the furnace, by the filter. You just have to make sure this part is the original to the furnace! As for the oil tank, most recent furnaces will have a plaque with the date welded on the tank. This date is required by most insurance companies.

Porcelain plumbing fixtures usually have a date of manufacture stamped inside, or on the rear portion of the tank. Again, is this the original?

Thermal pane windows typically have a metal strip between the two panes that shows their date of manufacture. Are they replacement windows?

Houses built just before the 1980s often have a HUDAC sticker (for Housing and Urban Development Association of Canada) on the electrical panel indicating the original date of construction. n

Steve Clayton, Registered Home Inspector with Capital Home Inspection, has generously contributed to this article.Tel.: 613-233-4515; www.capitalhomeinspection.ca