Central Okanagan benchmark home price falls for third consecutive month



For the first time in at least five years, the benchmark price of a single-family home in the Central Okanagan has dropped for the third month in a row.

Association of Interior Realtors released its July report on Friday, and it featured even more evidence that the housing market has cooled off substantially in recent months after running red hot through most of 2021 and the early part of 2022.

The benchmark cost of a single-family dwelling in the Central Okanagan last month was $1.06 million, which represented a relatively large drop of 4.7%. The benchmark hit a historic high of $1.13 million in April but has now slid in three consecutive months for the first time since at least the beginning of 2017.

AIR said the market in July simply returned to pre-pandemic activity, noting there were 1,196 residential unit sales across its region last month. That represented a 33.3% decrease from July 2021.

“Seasonally, it is not out of the ordinary to see a dip in sales in the summer, although real estate market activity across most regions in the province was below average last month, not just within the Interior,” AIR president Lyndi Cruickshank said in a press release.

“A number of factors, or even a combination of factors, such as the interest rate hikes, recommencement of travel and the school break, could all be reasons consumers pushed pause on their real estate plans as they focused on enjoying the hot summer days.”

Another reason for the price and sales decline is likely the number of homes available. There were 56.8% more listings across the entire AIR region in July compared to last year during the same month. There were 92.1% more listings in the Central Okanagan compared to 12 months ago.

“We are seeing inventory starting to accumulate, slowly moving upward to healthier levels of inventory, which is a welcomed relief for prospective buyers,” Cruickshank said. “However, the higher mortgage interest rates are still impacting the real estate market, with some home buyers finding it more difficult to qualify for mortgages.”

The benchmark price of a single-family home in the North Okanagan also dropped in July, falling from $798,500 in June to $774,400 last month. That price has fallen for the last two months, marking the first time it has gone down since April 2020.

The cooling market did not affect the benchmark price of townhouses in the Central Okanagan, as that figure increased 2.6% in July to $783,500.

Costco gas bar opens


The much anticipated opening of Costco’s new Kelowna gas bar has arrived.

The 24-pump gas station on Baron Road opened Friday morning.

Costco Kelowna general manager Omara Escobar sent out a brief video on the company’s Facebook page earlier this week saying the gas bar would open sometime this month, but no firm date was given.

Corporate communications officials suggested the gas bar wouldn’t open until later in the month, however, the open for business sign went up earlier this morning.

The price at the pumps, 134.9 for regular, 11 cents cheaper than other stations around the Central Okanagan.

The premium price is 144.9. The station is not selling diesel.

The opening has already caused some complaints about traffic in the area.

Construction on the nearby warehouse is continuing. It’s not expected to open until February or March of next year.

Central Okanagan School District has taken the next step toward construction of Wilden Elementary school


Wilden school moves on

The Central Okanagan School District has taken the next step in the process toward construction of a new elementary school in the Wilden neighbourhood.

The district has submitted a subdivision application to the city for the property it recently purchased at 2025 Begbie Road.

A school in the rapidly growing Wilden neighbourhood has been on the school district’s radar for several years.

The school started to become reality earlier this year when the district purchased the property for $7.4 million.

The province provided $1.9 million toward the purchase with the district supplying the remaining $5.5 million.

“Students and families want and deserve schools near their homes, and this new site ensures land is in place to build a school that can serve families in Wilden for generations,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education at the time of the purchase.

Development and building permits must still be applied for and approved by city council before ground can be broken on the new school.

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue seeking new volunteers


COSAR needs volunteers


Do you love the outdoors? Are you looking for a way to help people and hone your skills at the same time?

You might be the perfect fit for Central Okanagan Search and Rescue. It’s recruiting new volunteers after a record year for calls.

“We would like to have an intake of 15 people for our January training session, well January, February, March. And out of that, history has shown us that about half hang around for a year, and if we can get seven or eight competent members, we’d be ecstatic,” said COSAR volunteer Ed Henczel.

So, what does it take to make the team?

“There’s three things we’re looking for in a search and rescue volunteer,” explains Henczel.

“The first of course is understanding the outdoors. Some outdoors skills, can’t argue that, a certain level of fitness. The second one is you have to be a team player. No one person is responsible for an entire search and rescue task. You’re part of a bigger team, so you have to be willing to work in a team. And the third one is availability. You have to be able to, basically, at the drop of a hat come out on a task. You have to dedicate about four hours a week to search and rescue, whether it’s for training, for tasks or for administration.”

COSAR has responded to close to 90 rescues so far in 2021, the most in its 67-year history.

The volunteer-run organization is lobbying for funding to build a new eight-bay building at an estimated cost of $2.9 million. The current facility on Old Vernon Road is crowded and it’s believed they’ll have to move out in seven years when the city-owned property will be needed for airport expansion.

The recruitment open house goes Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. and you can find out more on the COSAR website.

Single-family benchmark price in Central Okanagan near $1 million


Home prices take big jump

The benchmark price for a single-family home in the Central Okanagan has had its biggest percentage increase in four months.

The price, which represents a dwelling with typical attributes to those traded in the area, jumped 3% to $961,800 last month, according to statistics the Association of Interior Realtors released Friday. The benchmark price just 12 months ago was $692,800.

AIR said the region remains a seller’s market because of chronically low inventory, although the number of available single-family homes in the Central Okanagan actually increased from 485 to 501 in August.

“The market has slowed down slightly due to a chronic lack of inventory, but it’s by no means slow,” AIR president Kim Heizmann said. “Listings are at record lows and not replenishing to meet the high demand.

“This chronic shortage of supply is putting upward pressure on pricing and making it a strong seller’s market.”

There were approximately 3,000 active listings in August across the AIR area, which includes the Okanagan, Eastgate Manning Park, Revelstoke, Shuswap and South Peace River region. That was down 46% from the 5,556 that were active last August.

The benchmark price of a condominium in the Central Okanagan jumped 4.5% in August to $473,100, while the townhouse mark increased just 0.3% to $644,800.

It was a similar story for single-family homes in the North Okanagan, where the benchmark increased 2.4% to $682,700. On the other side of the coin, the townhouse price actually dropped 0.9% to $444,100.

City of Kelowna asks residents to water young neighbourhood trees


Help out thirsty trees

With an unprecedented drought hitting the Central Okanagan this spring, the City of Kelowna is asking residents to help out local thirsty trees.

Earlier this week, Agriculture Canada declared a “severe drought” in the Central Okanagan, and local flora may be having a tough time.

“We’re currently experiencing an unprecedented drought and not all of our trees are irrigated,” said Andrew Hunsberger, urban forestry supervisor with the City of Kelowna.

“We’re asking homeowners to help us care for the young trees planted on streets and boulevards near their homes. By working together to keep these trees healthy, we can all do our part to grow and nurture our urban tree canopy in Kelowna.”

Hunsberger says young trees need about a bucket of water every week for the first three years of their lives, before their roots extend deep enough in the ground.

“Water is a precious resource and we need to think carefully about how and when we use it,” said Hunsberger. “However, Kelowna’s tree canopy is also an incredibly important part of our city and will pay us back with shade that will reduce water use in the future.”

The city is asking residents to slowly release water at the base of young trees for at least 15 minutes one to two times per week, during cooler times of the day.

Hunsberger notes the city typically does not get enough rain to keep trees hydrated.

Speculation tax paperwork being mailed out in Central Okanagan

Spec tax forms mailed out

Residential property owners in the Central Okanagan can expect their speculation and vacancy tax declaration packages to arrive in the mail starting next month.

Owners can complete their declaration as soon as they receive the package. The quickest way to do so is online.

While more than 99 per cent of British Columbians are exempt, all residential property owners must go through the declaration process.

The provincial government says homeowners in Kelowna should start receiving their packages on Feb. 5 while West Kelowna will get them a few days later on Feb. 8.

All required declarations must be completed by March 31, 2021. If owners are not exempt, they must pay their assessed amount by July 2, 2021. Starting this year, a penalty may be applied on all owners who do not pay tax amounts by the due date.

Information on exemptions can be found here.

New daycare proposed

The YMCA of the Okanagan and Central Okanagan School District have partnered to seek funding to build a new child care centre in Lake Country.

SD23 board chair Moyra Baxter says there is a significant need for child care in the area.

“Both the school district and the YMCA are committed to providing the best possible services to children, and by working together we can offer more support to families who desperately need to find child care in a safe, caring environment,” says Baxter.

The centre aims to ease the struggle of families who’ve been waiting for child care spaces locally.

“The demand for child care in Lake Country is growing,” reports Danielle Miranda, child care general manager for the YMCA of Okanagan. “A significant need has been identified in the community over the coming years and this new centre will provide families an option for affordable, quality care for their children. We are looking forward to working in collaboration with Central Okanagan Public Schools on this community-minded project.”

If provincial funding is approved, the centre will be located on the grounds of George Elliot High School and will serve families with newborns to 12 years of age.

Construction would begin in early 2021 with the centre expected to open in Spring of 2022.Galleries

Trustees in Central Okanagan endorse Pride Month

Kelowna Pride
Kelowna has one of the largest Pride Celebrations in the Interior. Due to COVID-19, a large festival won’t be held this year.

Trustees with Central Okanagan Public Schools have expressed their endorsement of Pride Month.

A resolution to that effect was passed at Wednesday night’s board meeting.

“We absolutely support all our students, and we felt it was important to say that in a public way,” board chair Moyra Baxter said today.

But the motion was not without some controversy, as trustee Amy Geistlinger from Lake Country wanted to change some of the wording in the resolution.

However, no one seconded her proposal and the resolution was not changed.

A statement issued by the district after the meeting states: “Central Okanagan Public Schools gratefully acknowledges the courage and contributions of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including student diversity clubs, alliance clubs and community volunteers.

“Our schools are safer and more welcoming for all because of the staff and students who celebrate our LGBT2Q+ community in June and all year long,” the statement reads.

School superintendent Kevin Kaardal said education is the best way to fight discrimination.

“Just like adults, children often fear what they do not understand. We have a responsibility to help learners understand the lives of others so that everyone can feel safe at school and ready to learn,” Kaardal said.

Pride Month gatherings have been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many events moving online.

“Pride Month is a good time to remind ourselves that each individual in our community deserves to feel welcome, accepted, and safe,” Baxter said.

Home prices still climbing

The number of home sales in Central and North Okanagan are moving on an upward trajectory when compared to recent months – but they are nowhere near where they were a year ago, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board reported Tuesday that the number of May sales in its region, which stretches from Peachland to Revelstoke, was 446, up from 299 in April. However, that figure is down 42% from this time last year.

Prices also increased in both the Central and North Okanagan last month.

OMREB’s benchmark price, which represents a dwelling with typical attributes to those traded in the area, increased 4.8% for a single-family home in Central Okanagan (to $685,900) and 3% in North Okanagan (to $487,500).

“While we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, it is encouraging to see that residential sales are moving at an upward trajectory,” OMREB president Kim Heizmann said in a press release. “We are starting to see a return to real estate activity which looks promising for the future. However, we remain cautious about predicting future outcomes as many economic factors will have impacts.

“Virtual tours and alternative technological solutions have ensured that real estate transactions can continue to transpire responsibly.”

There was a 49% increase in home listings across the region when compared to April, but the number of homes on the market is down 16% when compared to last year at this time.