How all leaders can contribute to the employee experience

January 28th, 2020

Jen Jackson
Mortgage Broker News

Increasingly, culture and engagement, along with other lagging indicators, are being seen not as unique challenges owned by a specific function, but as outcomes driven by antecedents and behaviours — measures of the state of the employee experience.

Just as the value of a great customer or user experience is well-proven, new research is revealing the benefits of a great employee experience. A joint study by IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute and Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute found people who ranked in the top quartile of their Employee Experience Index reported 23 per cent higher job performance, invested almost twice the discretionary effort, and were half as likely to leave.

These results aren’t surprising. People experience work in exactly the same way as any other aspect of their life — a series of moments, perceived positively, negatively or neutrally, merged together to create memories and narratives. In this way, the employee experience is the story people recall and retell about their day, week, month, year and career.

Today, future-focused organisations are working towards providing a compelling and coherent experience through all stages of the employee lifecycle: from the employer brand and onboarding experience, to delivering on those promises through the performance, learning and development, safety and wellness experiences, among others.

It’s an approach driven by an emerging Employee Experience function, combining aspects of People & Culture, communication, marketing and service design. However, a seamless employee experience requires a cross-functional approach, where all leaders play an active role.

Fortunately, where culture and engagement were nebulous concepts, designing an experience is a surprisingly logical process. And far from requiring monumental changes, grand actions or groundbreaking events, it’s the small things that make a difference.

How do people experience a typical day? What’s their onboarding experience? How do they experience learning and development? How do they experience safety and wellness? By breaking these experiences down into the moments that matter — the daily conversations, touchpoints and connections — leaders transform the way people feel about work.

Every connection Work is built on countless connections: between leaders and their teams, people and initiatives, people and knowledge, people and the organisation, and people and peers. It’s not unlike an electrical circuit — if even the smallest connection degrades, everything breaks down. Conversely, by strengthening each connection, everything improves.

Leaders play a crucial role in creating the environment and opportunities for connection to occur. This includes fostering psychological safety, facilitating open and transparent communication, improving collaboration, and sharing purpose. Their behaviour sets the benchmark, and if they live and breathe the desired behaviours, their people will too.

As social isolation becomes a significant issue for society, meaningful human connections at work are more important now than ever before.

Every touchpoint Every point of contact, interaction, and piece of communication, regardless of the medium or channel, is a chance to seize people’s attention, surprise and delight them, inspire them, pique their curiosity, teach them something, change behaviour, foster collaboration, improve connection and build culture.

This doesn’t mean every touchpoint needs to be perfect, though. People’s memory of an experience isn’t the sum total of positive versus negative moments, it’s an average of just the peak and end moments.

Mapping an experience, be it onboarding, online learning, a wellness campaign, or even the overall employee experience, reveals the touchpoints with potential for improvement. Whether it’s simply removing friction or turning an everyday moment momentous, a single touchpoint can dramatically change people’s overall experience.

Every conversation No matter the channel — in-person; via email; or a Slack, WhatsApp or text message — every conversation can be transactional or a chance to build a relationship.       

Good conversations happen when leaders ask questions rather than lead with statements, bring curiosity and empathy rather than judgement, and listen and talk in equal measures. These conversations build trust and connection.

By looking for the opportunities in every connection, every touchpoint and every conversation, all leaders can contribute to a better employee experience.

Copyright © 2020 Key Media

Toronto detached housing veering towards crisis of availability

January 28th, 2020

December 2019 was the seventh straight month of price growth in the red-hot market

Ephraim Vecina
Mortgage Broker News

Single detached housing is becoming an increasingly rare resource in high-demand Toronto, according to the market’s real estate association.

Data from the Toronto Real Estate Board indicated that in December, the market saw 1,984 sales of detached homes, representing a 24.77% annual increase. The City of Toronto accounted for 465 transactions, which was 36.76% higher compared to last year.

During the same month, the number of new detached properties was just 1,627 listings, significantly declining by 22.15% year-over-year. In the City of Toronto, 366 detached homes were newly listed in December, inching down by 2.91% annually.

This relative scarcity has spurred substantial acceleration in the growth of detached home prices. The benchmark price of the asset class was $961,100 in TREB’s overall jurisdiction (up 5.8% from 2018 levels), and $1,157,100 in the City of Toronto (up 5.44%).

“December’s 5.8% increase marks the seventh consecutive month of acceleration,” Better Dwelling said of the TREB numbers. “The rate of growth is now at the highest level since October 2017. Prices are still down more than 8% from the May 2017 peak.”

And this pace will most likely last well into 2020, a Point2 Homes predicted earlier this month.

Throughout last year, Toronto sales across all housing types amounted to a total of 87,825. This was notably 12.6% higher than the 10-year low (78,015 sales) observed in 2018.

“Much of last year’s gains happened in the second half of 2019, with boosted buyer confidence thanks to decreasing mortgage rates and a stronger local economy,” Point2 Homes explained.

“The low-rise housing market experienced one of the most significant recoveries last year, particularly in 905-area communities around Toronto that hadn’t recovered as quickly as the city did after the 2018/early 2019 market correction.”

Copyright © 2020 Key Media

Canadian reverse mortgage debt reaches nearly $4 billion

January 28th, 2020

A significant driver of reverse mortgages appears to be weaker-than-expected purchasing power

Ephraim Vecina
Mortgage Broker News

Despite a decelerating pace of borrowing, Canadian seniors still pushed the nation’s reverse mortgage debt balance towards yet another record-breaking high of $3.98 billion in November, according to figures from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

This represented an increase of 14.09% year-over-year, and 1.49% from October 2019. The trends point to overall very strong growth, outweighing the slowdown observed in the few months prior.

“The rate is half of where it was since last year. It’s also at the lowest 12-month rate reported since February 2016,” real estate information portal Better Dwelling noted in its analysis of the OSFI data. “For a little context, the balance of reverse mortgage debt is rising 3x the speed of traditional mortgages. It’s slower than last year’s breakneck speed, but still a high growth segment.”

A likely driver borrowing among the nation’s elderly is the fact that retirement itself has not proven to be smooth sailing, according to a new Sun Life Financial Inc. survey released in late November.

Nearly three out of four (72%) Canadian seniors polled by Sun Life admitted that their purchasing power did not end up as strong as they anticipated. Around 23% said that they had to significantly dial down their expenses upon reaching retirement age, “following a strict budget and refraining from spending money on non-essential items,” the Financial Post reported at the time.

Meanwhile, 65% of those still working after retirement said that it’s because they need the additional income, not because they like working for working’s sake. And fully 44% of working pre-retirement Canadians are anticipating that they’ll still be employed full-time by age 66.

Copyright © 2020 Key Media

PropTech has reached critical mass, according to new report

January 28th, 2020

Data usability challenges continue to hinder productivity

Kimberly Greene
Mortgage Broker News

PropTech adoption has hit a critical mass threshold, according to the 2020 Altus Group CRE Innovation Report. For the first time in the five years since Altus Group began conducting this annual research, a majority of commercial real estate (CRE) leaders fully recognize the disruptive impact of PropTech, acknowledging that many advanced technologies can potentially solve their current challenges.

PropTech has been called the digitalisation of real estate, and can be used to describe companies, an enhanced consumer experience, and technology for everything from software to manufacturing. The report finds that online marketplace platforms in particular are gaining significant traction, with 61% of CRE leaders saying they will have a major disruptive impact on the industry. Recent years have seen new platform-based marketplaces connecting a broad network of market participants (such as buyers and sellers, tenants and landlords, lenders and borrowers, and investors and fund managers), and delivering transactional efficiencies as well as the collection and aggregation of data for the benefit of users. Lending platforms have experienced the largest level of adoption to date, with 63% of CRE firms having used an online lending marketplace for a recent transaction and 79% planning to increase use in the future.

As PropTech is here to stay, companies have successfully transitioned the structure of their organization to accommodate growing amounts of data and determining how to use that data effectively.

“CRE continues to rapidly accelerate its digital transformation and despite the growing complexity stemming from the proliferation of data, the industry is clearly shifting from a stage of ‘trial and testing’ to one of practical innovation to solve their current challenges today,” said Altus Group CEO Bob Courteau.

The challenges that CRE executives face today surrounding data are different from five years ago, and they report that the areas that they’re more concerned with now than they were in 2015 include: issues around the regulatory requirements of collection and management of data; lack of internal expertise/capability; lack of normalized data formats; and the lack of company desire to invest in technology.  

To help deal with these challenges, eight out of 10 CRE firms now have a chief data officer or equivalent senior executive who oversees their organization’s data strategy and data governance, compared to only 44% four years ago.

PropTech has been disrupting the residential housing landscape for almost a decade, and Michael Cook, SVP of product marketing for Altus Group, says that the CRE space has actually been ahead of the residential space when it comes to investment in technology. The focus for investors and operators, however, has been different.

“In the residential space, the focus has typically been on the marketing process, end-user convenience, efficiency, and speed of transactions, while many of the CRE PropTech solutions are focused on functional applications, data management, and insights leading to increased performance from their assets, both financially and physically,” Cook said. “Because CRE has been mostly limited to institutional investors and trades much less frequently, the space has remained driven by a gobal network of experienced relationships across the industry. Many of the incumbent technology vendors were founded in the 1980s and early 1990s, before the arrival of the internet.”

Cook said that the recent boom in PropTech investment has been driven in part by the traditional tech ecosystem of VCs and founders discovering the CRE insutry and building startups geared specifically to accommodate the nuances of CRE.

Even as CRE executives have moved to accommodate changes that PropTech has required, views are still mixed about the impacts and opportunities that new technology affords.Three-quarters of CRE leaders said automation will eliminate jobs, but almost as many said that it will introduce new types of jobs within the industry and 67% said that positions will shift toward higher value-add tasks. While CRE leaders recognize both the impact on jobs and the short-term productivity benefits that automation can deliver, a major challenge is to anticipate how it shapes the future of the CRE workforce. 

Eighty-nine percent of CRE executives said that significant consolidation is needed for PropTech to more effectively deliver on the needs of the CRE industry. Almost half (43%) indicate the push is already underway or will occur within a year. The areas that CRE execs feel are most likely for consolidation include property management, property transactions and listing services, and financing and lending firms.

The annual Altus Group CRE Innovation Report provides an outlook on technology trends and highlights the current digital transformation impacting the global CRE industry. It is based on a global quantitative survey of 400 CRE C-level and senior executives in both front and back office positions at owner operator and investor firms in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Altus Group Limited is a leading provider of software, data solutions and independent advisory services to the global CRE industry.

Copyright © 2020 Key Media

Planning to buy a snowbird retreat in Florida?

January 28th, 2020

Florida’s housing market is constrained by tight inventory

Steve Randall

Florida’s housing market is constrained by tight inventory which is not likely to improve significantly due to several challenges cited in a new report from Florida Realtors.

Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor sees robust growth for the market with strong immigration and low unemployment in the state. Home sales are expected to gain 4% year-over-year in 2020, similar to 2019.

Last year, Florida saw an uptick in sales despite a 9% pullback from international buyers.

“It was exciting to see the almost 6% growth (5.9%) in closed single-family sales in 2019 from 2018,” O’Connor said. “Florida topped over $100 billion (total of “$101.9 billion) in volume in home sales last year, up 8.3% from 2018; for condo-townhouses, we reached $31.6 billion in volume, up 1.8% over the 2018 figure.”

But with new listings down 11.4% year-over-year for single-family homes and down 9.7% for condos, prices are set to rise around 4%, although O’Connor doesn’t see that as a problem currently.

“The median sales price still continues to rise, but looking at what the monthly mortgage payment is, that’s still a lot lower due to current historically low mortgage rates,” O’Connor said. “And that continues to drive sales and makes it a good time to buy.”

Supply side issues
The challenges to increased supply in Florida were discussed at the 2020 Florida Real Estate Trends summit during last week’s Florida Realtors Mid-Winter Business Meetings.

One of the panelists was Kristine Smale, senior vice president, Meyers Research, who says that there are three main factors restricting supply: higher construction costs, which moderated slightly in 2019 but are expected to rise again in 2020; a shortage of labor – 2019 had the largest amount of construction job postings since the Great Recession; and a lack of available, affordable land supply.

Copyright © 2020 Key Media Pty Ltd

BC considering allowing extra homes on agricultural land

January 28th, 2020

Farmers may be allowed additional options for residences

Steve Randall

Farmers may be allowed additional options for residences on their land under new proposals being considered in British Columbia.

The provincial government is weighing the potential for people living in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to enable landowners to have both a principal residence and a small secondary residence on their property, provided they have approval from their local government. This would not require ALR approval.

“We are continuing to do the work necessary to help farmers farm and protect farmland for future generations,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “The ALR is B.C.’s best food-producing land and is just 5% of our province’s land base – it’s so important for food security. The proposed changes, if implemented, would provide additional residential flexibility in the ALR. Under the proposal, a small secondary residence would be available for farm-workers, family members or anyone else, provided there is local government approval.”

What’s being considered? The new ALR residential options and specific conditions with each option such as size, siting, and quantity being considered by government include:

  • garden suites, guest houses or carriage suites;
  • accommodation above an existing building;
  • manufactured homes; and
  • permitting a principal residence to be constructed in addition to a manufactured home that was formerly a principal residence.

The secondary residence would not have to be a manufactured home only for an immediate family member. This is currently the case.

“Publicly sharing this proposed policy direction now gives those interested an opportunity to review and comment, leading to better outcomes,” added Popham.

Copyright © 2020 Key Media Pty Ltd

Wowa expands AI-powered real estate marketplace to BC

January 28th, 2020

A real estate marketplace for agents

Steve Randall

A real estate marketplace for agents which has seen success in Ontario is planning nationwide expansion.

Wowa is an AI-powered solution that helps home buyers and sellers search for real estate agents with a combination of experience, services, personalities, and pricing that is best-suited to their individual needs.  

It launched almost a year ago with 10 agents and now has more than 250 registered agents and 20,000 monthly visitors to its platform, which can be accessed on any device.

Having established a presence in every major city in Ontario, the firm is now targeting British Columbia for its next growth phase.

“One of the major barriers in online hiring platforms is the lack of trust and personal chemistry,” says Wowa CEO Dr. Hanif Bayat, “With Wowa’s detailed profiles, crowdsourced reviews, and integrated media solutions, Wowa establishes trust and relationships between real people – our customers and our agents.”

As well as profiling agents, the platform also provides several tools for home buyers and sellers including a mortgage affordability calculator and first-time buyer calculator.

“We found that most home buyers were confused about how they were being assessed for mortgage affordability, especially after the introduction of the mortgage stress test.” added Bayat. “To help them understand conflicting estimates from different lenders, we developed an all-in-one calculator that combines various models with a comprehensive and intuitive visual interface and guide. The response we received from our visitors has been fantastic.”

Copyright © 2020 Key Media Pty Ltd

TREB is now TRREB as real estate board gets a makeover

January 28th, 2020

Toronto Regional Real Estate Board replaces TREB

Steve Randall

A major name in Canadian real estate has a new name and look after a brand refresh.

Toronto Real Estate Board has become Toronto Regional Real Estate Board this week, with a new logo and colour scheme along with its new name.

“The icon in the new logo is meant to represent Toronto Regional Real Estate Board Members as a unified force for positive (upward) movement of growth in the real estate profession. It showcases the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board as a progressive and transformative force in the industry,” said TREB President Michael Collins.

Since 2002, the Board has had a regional nature and the name reflects this wider geographical focus.

The new logo includes 15 circles, each of a different size which aims to create a sense of movement and momentum while also suggesting a built form.

“The new tagline, ‘Professionals connecting people, property and communities’ speaks volumes about who the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board Members are and what the organization is,” said Toronto Regional Real Estate Board CEO John DiMichele. “Above all, the new tagline emphasizes the professionalism of our Members. It puts their good name first by highlighting what our Members do – they build communities and help people find their dream homes.”

The Board has 56,000 Realtor members.

Copyright © 2020 Key Media Pty Ltd

Vancouver amongst world’s most expensive markets

January 28th, 2020

Vancouver’s housing market maintained its position as the second most expensive in the world

Gerv Tacadena
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

Vancouver’s housing market maintained its position as the second most expensive in the world, according to the latest edition of the Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.

Vancouver came in second to Hong Kong, which retained its position as the least affordable housing market across the globe.

“Vancouver had already developed severely unaffordable housing, which has been associated with its urban containment policy, adopted more than four decades ago. Vancouver has experienced significant housing affordability deterioration among major markets,” the study said.

Toronto also cracked the list, placing sixth. It was tagged by the study as “severely unaffordable.” The worsening housing affordability in Toronto could have stemmed from the adoption of the urban containment policy in the mid-2000s, according to the study.

The study said Toronto has the second-worst housing bubble risk in the world, worse than Hong Kong and Vancouver.

“The province of Ontario imposed a foreign buyers tax in 2017. Since that time, Toronto’s house prices have become less volatile, especially in more expensive housing. However, housing affordability in Toronto has continued to deteriorate at the middle of the market,” the study said.

Below is the list of the 10 least affordable metropolitan housing markets in the world according to the Demographia study:

Least Affordable Housing Market List:

  1. Hong Kong (China)
  2. Vancouver, BC (Canada)
  3. Sydney, NSW (Australia)
  4. Melbourne, VIC (Australia)
  5. Los Angeles, CA (United States)
  6. Toronto, ON (Canada)
  7. Auckland (New Zealand)
  8. San Jose, CA (United States)
  9. San Francisco, CA (United States)
  10. London (United Kingdom)

Interestingly, Canada also has the most affordable market in the world, with Fort MacMurray in Alberta at the top of the list. Two more Canadian metropolitan markets cracked the top 10: Fredericton and Saint John, both in New Brunswick.

Most Affordable Housing Market List:

  1. Fort MacMurray, AB (Canada)
  2. Peoria, IL (United States)
  3. Davenport, IA-IL (United States)
  4. Rockford, IL (United States)
  5. Utica-Rome, NY (United States)
  6. Akron, OH (United States)
  7. Fredericton, NB (Canada)
  8. McAllen, TX (United States)
  9. Saint John, NB (Canada)
  10. Syracuse, NY (United States)

Copyright © 2020 Key Media Pty Ltd

BCREA report forecasts increased sales, prices for 2020

January 28th, 2020

Moderate growth for the provincial housing market in 2020

Clayton Jarvis
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

In its first quarter forecast, the British Columbia Real Estate Association projects moderate growth for the provincial housing market in 2020. Led by returns to average levels of activity for Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, sales in BC are expected to increase a robust 10.3 percent this year, coinciding with a 4.8 percent improvement in the average MLS sales price.

While sales in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are expected to rise by 18.8 and 12.4 percent, respectively, only one other real estate board, Victoria, is predicted to see an improvement of more than 5 percent. Price growth in most areas of the province is forecast to be modest, with only three – Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and BC Northern – showing the potential for an increase of more than three percent.

The numbers don’t jump off the page, but their upward trajectory points to the enduring appeal of B.C. real estate and the strong fundamentals supporting the provincial economy, a fact many in the province are quick to point out. A commonly held belief in British Columbia is that it wasn’t a lack of economic activity or population growth that slowed the BC housing market; it was a bevy of new taxes and lending restrictions that shocked the market into paralysis.

The effects of those changes are now fading, only slightly behind schedule.

“We did quite a bit of research on what happens when the CMHC or the Department of Finance changes mortgage rules or makes mortgage regulations more strict,” says BCREA chief economist Brendon Ogmundson. “In the past, it’s had a pretty immediate impact: the peak of the impact is three to six months and by 12 to 15 months it’s faded away. We got that to a certain extent with B-20 [aka the mortgage “stress test”], except it was much deeper than any of those other policies and it took a lot longer to turn the corner.”

Now that consumers have had a chance to adjust to the new landscape, Sam Hanson, CEO of South Street Property Group, says they are more than ready to get back into the market.

“We’re very optimistic about the next two to three years in the residential markets in B.C.,” Hanson says. “People are moving here. People are creating jobs here. People are setting up high tech businesses here. Prices are more attractive than they were a year ago and people are now able to step up and justify their purchases.”

Most economic indicators are pointing in the right direction. BCREA projects GDP growth of 2.4 percent in 2020, along with strong growth in wages, employment and retail sales. But housing supply will continue to be an issue. Housing starts were at a record high in 2019, but they are expected to shed 16.1 percent in 2020 and a further 8.5 percent in 2021.

“I think the province will always play catch-up,” in terms of housing supply Hanson says. The natural bounty that makes B.C. such a desirable place to live – the ocean, the lakes, the mountains, fertile agricultural land, etc. – also limits the amount of available real estate. “We see development, of course, but it’s basically infill development within the confines of an area.”

“We’re going to be somewhat undersupplied as long as demand continues to recover,” says Ogmundson, “especially over the next five to 10 years, with a lot of the millennial cohort aging into their prime household forming years. There’s not going to be a lot of supply to match demand, so I think we could have some tightening of markets.”

Shrinking supply, growing demand and a healthy economy fuelled the last housing boom in B.C. No one appears to have the appetite for another one, but if that’s all that’s being served up in 2020, investors may have no choice but to dig in. 

Copyright © 2020 Key Media Pty Ltd