There’s a story behind every house with a for sale sign

There are five houses for sale on my block. Five. That means 32 per cent of my block is up for grabs. They range in price from $1 million to $2.3 million. If they all sell at the asking prices, that’s $9.4 million worth of transactions. That’s a lot of cash in a housing market that has been struggling lately.

When a for sale sign goes up in my neighbourhood, I’m instantly curious because I know there’s a story behind every move. It may be a job transfer, a divorce, downsizing or upsizing, but more likely it’s the new reality, home owners are getting old. 

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Here are the five stories from my block: My divorced neighbour died suddenly of cancer last fall and his children are selling his locally designed waterfront home. A much loved elderly couple who have lived in the neighbourhood for over 30 years are moving to be near family because of their failing health. Elderly landlords have asked their longtime tenants to move out because it’s time for them to sell. A widow is selling because, understandably, she wants to move closer to her family in the city. A beautiful waterfront house, built by the original owners 39 years ago, has been vacant for years after the owner went into long-term care. Now her children are selling their beloved family home.

In my little corner of South Delta the future of real estate is here. There’s no speculation or land assemblies happening and flipping houses is no longer viable; most sellers are local longtime families who must sell for personal reasons.

South Delta is a desirable, stable community and many people have raised children and retired in their single detached homes, but increasingly our neighbours are getting old, and sometimes sick, and they will be forced to sell. The question is who will buy their homes? Not our children, they simply can’t afford starter homes in the $1 million range.

The days of relying on foreign investors to swoop in and buy our overpriced homes is gone. A speculation tax and stricter ownership rules have made sure of that. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver released its April stats and to no surprise sales and prices are dropping. We are in a buyer’s market with a glut of listings popping up like dandelions.

Cost and profits aside, it’s a social shift that’s at the heart of this change. There are a lot of worried seniors, and soon to be seniors, who are relying on their house sale as a financial windfall for retirement. Dropping house prices will surely put a different spin on that scenario, especially if you have a hefty line of credit. 

Aging baby boomers are already defining the housing market so while we can celebrate a price correction for first-time buyers, there are going to be some people caught in the wake. Let’s be thoughtful to the sellers because there’s always a personal back story that we should all heed.  

Ingrid Abbott is a freelance broadcaster and writer who knows real estate is an easy story when it’s a slow news day, but there are never slow news days in Beach Grove.

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