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This BC city just saw its biggest homebuilding boom since 1976 — will it continue this year?

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Photo: Tracy O/Flickr

Downsizing Baby Boomers and local job growth were among the major factors that spurred the highest level of housing construction in Victoria, BC, since 1976.

In December alone, contractors broke ground for 775 homes, up from 204 housing starts observed during the same month in 2017, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which tracks homebuilding activity each month through surveys and site visits.

Total 2018 starts in Metro Victoria numbered 4,273 units, up from 3,862 units in 2017.

“Rental units were half of all housing starts in 2018 in response to heightened rental demand and low vacancy rates,” writes CMHC in its December 2018 housing starts report.

Part of that demand stems from demographic trends, suggests Peter Gabey, a partner at DFH Real Estate, a Greater Victoria-based real estate firm. “Now we’re seeing the effect of Baby Boomers retiring,” he tells Livabl.

Not only are downsizing Boomers creating demand for condos in Victoria, they are also behind some of the increased interest in rental accomodations. “Our vacancy rate is super low, like we’re around 1 percent,” Gabey adds.

At the same time, low interest rates have favoured developers as they financed construction over the past year, Gabey notes.

There are other factors that have supported Victoria’s homebuilding boom. One of them has to do with a burgeoning local tech industry, says Bryan Yu, deputy chief economist for Central 1, a BC-based credit union.

“The region itself has benefitted from a very low unemployment rate [and] a strong labour market in recent years,” Yu tells Livabl.

“We’re actually hearing a lot of noise about more technology workers and technology companies setting up shop in Victoria because it’s cheaper,” he continues.

The same is true for the cost of owning a home. The average price of a single-family home in Victoria last month was $850,562, while the benchmark price of a detached home in Greater Vancouver was $1,479,000.

It should be no surprise then that Victoria’s relative affordability compared to Vancouver has been attracting homebuyers from the Lower Mainland.

“Some individuals who are looking for affordability can’t afford that [cost of housing] in the Lower Mainland, so they’re spreading their wings a little bit and going into other smaller cities,” Yu explains.

As demand has increased for ownership housing, prices have increased, pushing some local would-be buyers to the rental market, which has fed into that segment’s exuberant rate of construction for new apartments.

So will the homebuilding boom continue in 2019? Yu sees a calmer year ahead.

Province-wide Central 1 anticipates housing starts will drop by about 20 percent this year, due largely to mortgage stress testing and the weakened resale market, and Yu doesn’t expect Victoria will be spared from the effects of this either.

“I think it’s going to peter off. We don’t anticipate that this December bounce [in starts] is going to continue,” says Yu.

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14 gender neutral nurseries you’ll coo over

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Classic nursery designs that will grow with your child.

1. This bright and cheerful space with a handmade mobile.







Photo: almostmakesperfect/Instagram

2. This desert-inspired nursery featuring power-clashing patterns.







Photo: sarahsweeneyco/Instagram

3. This green and gold color scheme with a few DIY touches.







Photo: headygrimm/Instagram

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4. This subtly animal-themed nursery with pops of yellow.







Photo: jillian.harris/Instagram

5. This crib setup with a canopy in the corner and a faux-taxidermy llama head to boot.







Photo: jacksgot21/Instagram

6. This farmhouse-style twin nursery wrapped in shiplap.







Photo: houseon77th/Instagram

7. This vintage-meets-modern space that’s brimming with cozy texture.







Photo: carey_bears/Instagram

8. This sweet sanctuary complete with applied box moulding.







Photo: britt_horton/Instagram

9. This dark and moody nursery for a little guy with a lot of books.







Photo: havenbythebae/Instagram

10. This color happy space with a wallpaper mural inspired by The Great Wave.







Photo: lazymoms/Instagram

11. This room with a peachy keen paint job and boho decor accents.







Photo: mybreezyroom/Instagram

12. This eclectic space that boasts trendy indigo-dyed curtains.







Photo: _emilybolt/Instagram

13. This maximalist’s dream featuring funky banana-print wallpaper.







Photo: studiomunroe/Instagram

14. And finally, this Scandi-style nursery with clean lines and organic elements.







Photo: carlyamcdonagh/Instagram

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Lower mortgage rates won’t do much for Toronto homebuyers, says economist. Here’s why

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Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Those in the market for a Toronto home shouldn’t get too excited about the prospect of lower mortgage rates, says one economist.

This week in a widely reported move RBC revealed it was slashing its five-year mortgage rate, and other lenders are expected to do the same. But Stephen Brown, a senior economist with Capital Economics, suggests it won’t do a whole lot to boost activity in Toronto’s housing market.

“While such cuts may well help markets like Montreal where sales remain pretty strong, it’s hard to see them doing much for Toronto or Vancouver,” he writes in a Canada Economics Weekly report.

“In both cities, speculation has played a far larger role in driving up both sales and prices in recent years. For owner-occupiers to replace such buyers, either mortgage rates or prices will need to fall much further,” Brown continues.

Although Toronto sales fell by 16.1 percent in 2018, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), Brown is not sure substantial price drops are a foregone conclusion. While sales took a double-digit dip, the average price of a home in the GTA remained relatively stable at $787,300, representing a decline of 4.3 percent.

“Given high transaction costs, absent a severe economic downturn or a sharper rise in interest rates than we envisage, investors may simply decide to hold on to their assets,” Brown states.

Many experts predict the Bank of Canada will continue to gradually increase interest rates this year. But Capital Economics has repeatedly predicted the central bank will need to reverse at least one of the five hikes it has announced since July 2017, in part because of the struggles of the country’s oil industry.

While Capital Economics remains an outlier, some observers are now entertaining the possibility that the central bank will sit on the sidelines for 2019.

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How this coastal-chic Los Angeles home blended high- and low-end decor

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Photo: Amy Bartlam

When designer Genna Margolis of Shapeside was approached by her clients to customize their 6,000-square-foot new-build in Los Angeles’ upscale Brentwood neighborhood, she was immediately struck by the sheer size of the project. “This house is huge and each room is extremely large,” explains Margolis. “One of the biggest challenges was just making sure everything fit to scale.”

The family of five was conscious about spending where it mattered, and saving where they could get away with it. It takes a lot of furniture to fill up a home of this size, and Margolis had to be strategic. “The key to achieving a high-low mix is spending more on the big pieces that take up the majority of the space, and spending less on the trendy accent pieces,” notes Margolis.

The Cape Cod-style residence had a traditional feel (or “stuffy” as Margolis calls it), which clashed with her clients’ contemporary taste. “A lot of the furniture you find in retail stores that’s young and cool is made to fit tiny apartments,” says Margolis. It took quite a bit of trial and error to source pieces that were not only substantial, but stylish.

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Photo: Amy Bartlam

The minimalist design of the entryway came at the request of the homeowners. “This family has three young kids, so they didn’t want to have a lot of stuff in the way when they walk through the door,” says Margolis. She paired a concrete and brass console table from West Elm with a custom-made bench to house shoes and bags. The pegs above complement the leather strap detail on the bench, and allow scarves to be looped through.

Margolis chose a leafy indoor tree to occupy an empty corner. “The more furniture there is, the more structured a plant I will choose. If there’s less furniture, I’ll choose something wider and looser.”







Photo: Amy Bartlam

The open-concept living space, which is defined by two fireplaces on either end, presented yet another design challenge. Ultimately, Margolis decided on two separate seating areas — one for everyday relaxation and another for more formal entertaining. “Since the space is so big and open, I decided to custom-make a really large coffee table that took up a lot of space,” she explains. “The coffee table is almost five feet in diameter and we have an 11-foot long sectional in a dark grey linen.”







Photo: Amy Bartlam

The homeowners did not want the grand piano to be the sole focal point of the space — it was an inherited piece, but they feared it would come across as overly formal. “To make it feel more relaxed, I knew I needed to add a chair, but it couldn’t be just any chair,” says Margolis. “This one is upholstered in a blush fabric and has really dainty legs. I wanted it to be modern, but still inviting and chill.” She also flanked the fireplace with two fiddle leaf figs. “Adding organic factors helped to loosen it up. The piano is there, but it feels like it’s more in the background.”







Photo: Amy Bartlam

The dining room was a lesson in compromise. “The wife wanted everything to be very romantic, but there are four other people who live there, too,” says Margolis. “I needed to incorporate some of those aspects, but overall, make it feel like a family home.”

The jumping off point for the space was the crystal chandelier. To prevent it from from looking too glam, Margolis opted for smoked glass. “From there, I wanted to balance it out with a more rustic dining table.” The blush velvet dining chairs were sourced from ABC Home, while the striped area rug, which “made the space way more cool,” was found online at Serena & Lily. To amp up the texture in the space, Margolis wrapped it in a grasscloth wallpaper and added a statement-making fringed mirror. “The mirror literally reflects the chandelier,” she points out.







Photo: Amy Bartlam

For the master suite, Margolis took her inspiration from a luxury hotel room in Tulum, Mexico. “If you’ve ever fallen down the Instagram rabbit hole, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s very organic, very beachy, but luxe.” To offset all the white, she chose dark bedding and wood furniture. “I tried to make the room feel very textured, but overall I wanted it to be simple.”







Photo: Amy Bartlam

In the expansive ensuite bath (Margolis swears it’s much larger than the photo suggests), she warmed up the space with a West Elm settee and an area rug from Anthropologie. “It’s perfect because it has accents of blush, which my client loves, but it’s still pretty neutral.” The bohemian tassel chandelier over the tub was purchased from Lulu & Georgia for less than $200. “It works for the scaling and adds a lot of texture,” adds Margolis.







Photo: Amy Bartlam

All three kids rooms are playful and whimsical, but able to grow with them as they get older. Margolis stumbled across a large-scale floral mural from Anthropologie for the family’s only daughter. “I love it because it has a white background, which takes away from the busyness, but it has all the colors she loves, like pink and purple,” says Margolis.







Photo: Amy Bartlam

The nursery is “neutral and calming,” painted a grey hue with a blue undertone and jazzed up with striped curtains that feature a tassel trim. “It’s a simple space, but one that’s really nice to be in.”







Photo: Amy Bartlam

“The third room is an eight-year-old boy’s room — he wanted a really cool bed,” says Margolis. The Moonrise Kingdom-esque cabin bed fit the bill, and was paired with a blue striped rug for a punch of pattern.

“We really worked hard on every single room of this house,” says Margolis of the project. “I wanted it to reflect my clients. I didn’t want them to feel like, ‘Oh, this designer came in and did what she wanted.’ Every piece is different, everything comes together, and it’s also exactly what they were looking for.”

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