In Scarborough, Ont., new condo owner Ricardo Cummings exemplifies a new breed of driver – and one who poses some new challenges for real estate professionals. When he moved into his unit in 2018 (after a pre-construction purchase in 2013), Cummings outfitted his sparkling new digs with furniture, art and tableware, and he also bought a premium parking stall for $35,000.
“The developer had four units available for sale – out of about 200 spaces in total – that were ‘EV ready,’” says Cummings. The stalls were roughed-in during construction and already board-approved.
Besides shelling out $13,000 more than he’d have paid for regular parking, plus $500 for an EV (electric vehicle) charging solution called Signature Electric, Cummings says he faced some waiting time for final approvals (as the condo board got up to speed). But he now enjoys the ability to “fuel up” his 2018 VW e-Golf at home.
“Despite the tedious process and the cost involved in the installation of a charger station, I would do it again,” says Cummings, citing not only ecological benefits and convenience but also considerable savings on fuel. “The price I pay for a full charge compared to a full tank of gasoline is $4 versus $40.”
Have you worked with clients like Cummings yet? In Canadian hotspots for EV adoption (including Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec), industry observers say we’re about to see a lot more eco-friendly buyers like Cummings, intent on amenities like onsite EV charging.
So how can Realtors prepare for the future? To learn more, we talked to representatives in several Canadian locations.
The first thing to note is, many real estate professionals are not seeing the EV trend revving up – yet. “Everyone knows that’s where we’re heading, but it’s really going to take some time,” says Bonnie Meisels, a real estate broker with Keller Williams in Montreal and a certified LEED Green Associate. “I think it’s a great advantage, but I don’t see a buyer yet saying. ‘Oh I’m not going to buy this house because it doesn’t have an EV charging station.’”
In plain numbers, EV sales account for only a fraction of vehicle sales today (3.3 per cent in 2019 Q2, according to Electric Mobility Canada). At the same time though, we’re seeing a slow-but-steady embrace of EVs. Fleetcarma’s 2018 Q3 EV update says that during the past five years, EV sales increased more than 66 per cent per year. And in early 2019, Electric Mobility Canada reported another milestone – more than 100,000 EVs are now driving on Canadian streets.
Surveys reveal that we Canadians are pretty open-minded. According to a 2019 poll by Clean Energy Canada, “Most (64 per cent) say that if it were up to them, electric cars would become the majority of vehicles that consumers drive at some point…”
To sum up, it’s fair to say that in the short term consumers are deterred by barriers like vehicle cost and limited battery range. Yet as those barriers are removed, analysts predict a tipping point. For example, in February 2019, considering major automakers’ greatly enhanced EV products for 2020, one CBC report concluded, “With the upcoming crop of improved electric vehicles, however, the market could be poised for a shift.”
So how to prepare for tomorrow’s EV-loving eco-friendly buyers? With strong government incentives, activism and above-average EV adoption, Vancouver is a great place to ask Realtors more about the finer points.
Willo Jackson, a representative at The Ruth and David Group, already works with plenty of EV owners. In Vancouver, she says the EV buyer group has traditionally been wealthy and/or youthful but is growing more diverse. Even if clients don’t drive EVs yet, Jackson says, “It’s mentioned in probably half of my buyer meetings now. People aren’t necessarily needing it with their current cars, but it’s on people’s minds.”
It’s all about home charging, which is a key must-have for EV owners. As Meisels says, “Having it at home while you’re sleeping, nothing beats the convenience of that.” As for the real estate buying process, Meisels says it all starts with budget. Can clients afford detached, new condo construction or older product?
Jackson says that with detached housing, to accommodate charging you’re tracking down homes with off-street parking and nearby power sources; 240-volt service will accommodate faster Level 2 EV chargers and allow buyers to avoid costly electrical upgrades and delays.
If buyers can afford newer condos, Meisels says it’s not as difficult to find developments with onsite EV charging in Montreal.
“These LEED buildings, or some of the more luxury condo buildings, are just building that way now.” With older buildings, she says, you have to hunt. “I’ve come across buildings where it’s been added as a feature in the garage. But that’s case by case. It has to go up to the syndicate, it has to get voted on.”
In Vancouver, Jackson says, “I’m definitely steering people towards newer product, because the newer the building the better the electrical systems they have in place and the less bylaw-heavy the council is.” (Condo councils, Jackson says, are not always keen to approve EV charging stations due to concerns over liability, maintenance and disruption).
“If buyers are entry level and we’re only looking at older buildings, then it’s a lot of work. I have to physically read the bylaws, contact the property manager, get things in writing, it’s very, very challenging to get everything as proof prior to writing an offer, or lodging a deposit.” Jacksons says it’s helpful for Realtors to keep a good running list of EV-friendly older buildings. “Whenever I come upon an older building that is talking about (adding charging stations) in their minutes, I get very excited and I log that building in my mind.”
To further ensure you’re ready to assist EV owners, Jackson’s advice is to keep on top of EV industry news and legislation, technology and associated costs and rebates. (See below for resources.)
Another step she recommends to so-inclined Realtors is industry advocacy. “I’m pushing forward with my real estate board to include EV charging as one of the detail options on MLS. I want it to be a searchable feature… I have enough buyers who want it. So I see that as a need.”
Finally, Jackson, who blogs about environmental issues and EV-related news, encourages real estate salespeople to develop an authentic niche for themselves around these issues and connect with youthful, engaged clients. “I’ve gotten many calls over the years just because of these blog posts… I think these are great talking points and it’s one way to create a little niche for yourself as a professional.”
Selected EV resources
- Association des Véhicules Électriques du Québec provides information and arranges e-mobility promotion events with partners, Nissan Canada and Intact Insurance.
- Canadian Automobile Association’s Electric Vehicle Portal includes information about vehicles on the market, cross-country charging stations and government incentives for EVs and EV charging stations.
- Electric Mobility Canada is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of e-mobility.
- Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta is a non-profit dedicated to promoting the adoption of EVs and charging infrastructure in Alberta
- Plug’n Drive (Ontario-based) is a non-profit organization that promotes electric cars; among its programs and services, Plug’n Drive offers news, information (about vehicles, used vehicles, condo charging) on its website and a drop-in test-drive zone in Toronto.
- Plug In BC is a program of the Fraser Basin Council that collaborates with government, industry, academic institutions, EV owners, NGOs and utilities to advance the uptake of electric vehicles in B.C.; acts as a central source for EV information.
- Toronto Electric Vehicle Association is a local not-for-profit organization committed to electric transportation advocacy, education and innovation.
- Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of electric vehicles.