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What’s happening in the Victoria Real Estate Market? Fall 2018 Trends to Watch

While the regularly released Real Estate Board statistics provide an immensely useful overview of the market on a monthly basis, many of my clients often stop me to ask, “Dirk, what’s really going on out there?" I’ll share the inside track here that I’d usually walk them through, hopefully in comprehensive enough detail to help you make some sense of where things are headed from where I sit. Of course, if you have any questions, you can always shoot me a text or an email.

Overall, the economy’s position in the credit cycle, with rates rising and borrowing becoming more difficult for consumers, coupled with government interventions designed to cool the market has lead to a somewhat balanced (or even stagnant) market in Victoria, with increased inventory compared to recent numbers, but still well below the 10 year average. The market for Single Family Homes in particular market has softened, especially listings over $1 million, as a result of the factors above. As a result, there is still some stale inventory that has failed to sell as the market has slowed. This is inventory is gradually being reduced as we see a number of these homes coming off the market, Attractive, reasonably priced properties are absolutely still selling well, sometimes even bringing in multiple offers. As of this fall, Victoria’s real estate market has far less inventory in the more affordable $750K-800K-and-under bracket than we have seen in recent years, which contributes to this pressure. Given their more accessible price point, condos continue to perform well.

In addition, More advanced softening in the Vancouver market has led to a drop-off in the number of ‘Vancouver Refugees’ selling off and purchasing properties on the Island. In fact, this declining real estate trend is happening elsewhere, not just here - price declines are showing up in the news from areas in Europe, Oceania, and the U.S.

In Canada and the U.S., interest rates are expected to continue to rise, further increasing the cost of borrowing and putting downward pressure on demand, however, broader economic fundamentals appear to be keeping steady, with inflation reaching its 2% target.

What does this all mean? Expect a slightly slower, cooler market in the next six months, particularly as active buyers and sellers who haven’t succeeded in their aims this year begin to back off toward winter and wait until spring. I expect that higher interest rates leading into 2019 will continue to impact demand and the shift away from a strong sellers’ market will continue. Prices should flatten out, although I don’t see a significant decline on the way. This should contribute to a little more inventory available in the upcoming spring market, so for buyers - particularly those who are less dependent on financing to purchase properties - there will be more opportunities.




September 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

Victoria Real Estate Market Continues to Stabilize

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A total of 533 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this September, 16.7 per cent fewer than the 640 properties sold in September of last year, and a 10.3 per cent decrease from August 2018. Sales of condominiums were down 30.4 per cent from last year in September with 149 units sold. Sales of single family homes were down 9.2 per cent from 2017 with 285 sold this September.

"This year's housing market has continued to behave as we've expected, moderating after the record setting pace of 2016 and adjusting to various government measures such as tightening mortgage qualification rules that were intended to cool the market," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "We continue to see a reduction in sales when we compare to recent years and prices stabilizing across the market, with some variation in value in niche, higher end homes."

There were a total of 2,646 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of September 2018, an increase of 5 per cent compared to the month of August and 33.9 per cent more than the 1,976 active listings for sale at the end of September 2017.

"If you are considering buying or selling a home, you need to understand your local market, particularly in the context of your property type and price point," adds President Kerr. "Micro markets in our area behave very differently as they are influenced by different pressures. The under $800,000 housing market in some areas is under tremendous pressure as many buyers compete for these homes. The multimillion-dollar market in other areas is currently experiencing less pressure and we can see price flexibility coming into play in the 1.5 million dollar plus market. And although we saw a bump in inventory at the start the year, those inventory levels have stabilized as well. So buyers still face a market with much less inventory available than the historical average. Your local REALTOR® can help you understand the best way forward for your selling or buying plans based on current and granular data and market insights."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in September 2017 was $832,000, while the benchmark value for the same home in September 2018 increased by 6.2 per cent to $883,700, slightly lower than August's value of $888,300. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in September 2017 was $457,700, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in September 2018 increased by 9.9 per cent to $503,000, exactly the same as August's value.

August 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

Victoria's Real Estate Market Simmers at the End of Summer

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A total of 594 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this August, 19.3 per cent fewer than the 736 properties sold in August of last year, and an 8.8 per cent decrease from July 2018. Sales of condominiums were down 5.3 per cent from last year in August with 195 units sold. Sales of single family homes were down 22.1 per cent from 2017 with 304 sold this August.

"Prices in our market are quite flat right now, with a slow, long-term trend toward a more balanced market," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "Listings have remained relatively static for months after an initial increase last spring. However, this plateau has included more high value inventory and similar to last month, fewer single family homes for sale under $750,000. Thirty per cent fewer homes this year were listed for sale at $750,000 or less than in the year previous, which means there is still pressure on lower priced homes in the Core and other popular areas. We do see a levelling out of prices month-over-month which is one factor helping to slowly return us to a more balanced market."

There were a total of 2,519 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of August 2018, a decrease of 3.4 per cent compared to the month of July but 31.4 per cent more than the 1,917 active listings for sale at the end of August 2017.

"Many demand-side measures were introduced this year - including a stress test on mortgages - which altered many buyers' purchasing power," adds President Kerr. "These new policies are having the desired effect of slowing the market, though it is likely that over time the market will normalize these changed conditions. Our strong local economy and high employment rates may bolster demand into the fall as people return to work after their summer vacations. Fall numbers will be an interesting indicator of our year to come as we continue to track low home inventory in a changing marketplace. For an up-to-the-minute understanding of your local market as fall sales unfold, connect with your local REALTOR®."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in August 2017 was $830,800, while the benchmark value for the same home in August 2018 increased by 6.9 per cent to $888,300, slightly lower than July's value of $888,700. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in August 2017 was $453,900, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in August 2018 increased by 10.8 per cent to $503,000, slightly lower than July's value of $507,700.

July 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

Victoria Housing Market Still Finding Its Balance

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A total of 651 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this July, 17.6 per cent fewer than the 790 properties sold in July of last year, and an 8.1 per cent decrease from June 2018. Sales of condominiums were down 22.6 per cent from last year in July with 188 units sold. Sales of single family homes were down 16.5 per cent from 2017 with 340 sold this July.

"We are in a different market now than what we have seen for the past two years," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "And while we see inventory creeping up after the drought in 2017, especially in the multi-million-dollar range, across our region there are 30 per cent fewer homes listed for sale under $750,000 than this time last year. This means that if you are shopping in the $750,000-or-less bracket, you are in a fast-moving market with low inventory. For example, of the 176 single family detached properties sold in our Core and Malahat regions during the month of July, only 59 (34%) were listed for $750,000 or less. And of those, 28 (47%) sold at or over list price. This illustrates the high demand for homes at or below this price point, and the pressure that is still pushing that segment of our market. If you are looking for a home priced at $1.5 million or above, there is more selection than last year and those homes are sitting on the market longer. For the first seven months of 2017 there were 481 single family detached properties for sale listed at $1.5 million or above. For the same time period in 2018, there were 664 properties for sale in this range, an increase of 27.6 per cent."

There were a total of 2,607 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of July 2018, an increase of 0.5 per cent compared to the month of June and 35.7 per cent more than the 1,921 active listings for sale at the end of July 2017.

"Each year we tend to see a plateau in inventory over the summer months," adds President Kerr. "It is possible that we will see more inventory come into the market through the fall when there is often a burst of activity in our market, but it's hard to predict how that inventory might be priced. Ideally, we will see more inventory come in at under the $750,000 level to help push our housing market into more balanced territory across all segments."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in July 2017 was $834,200, while the benchmark value for the same home in July 2018 increased by 5.5 per cent to $880,000, slightly lower than June's value of $889,600. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in July 2017 was $442,100, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in July 2018 increased by 12.1 per cent to $495,700, slightly higher than June's value of $496,500.

June 2018 Victoria Real Estate Market Conditions

Continued uncertainty brings predictable results for the Victoria real estate market

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A total of 708 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this June, 29.8 per cent fewer than the 1,008 properties sold in June of last year, and a 6.2 per cent decrease from May 2018. The sales of condominiums were down 25.1 per cent from last year in June with 230 units sold. Sales of single family homes were down 34.7 per cent from 2017 with 357 sold this June.

"June typically signals the conclusion of the busy spring market, and activity lightens into the summer," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "However, because of decelerating growth due to aggressive government implementation of policies to reduce demand, Victoria's real estate market has been hobbled since the start of the year when federal restrictions around mortgage qualifications were rolled out. Even demand side measures that are not yet live, like the Vancouver/Kelowna/Nanaimo/Victoria-specific Speculation Tax, are dragging the market down as many consumers stand aside to watch what happens."

There were a total of 2,595 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of June 2018, an increase of 8.4 per cent compared to the month of May and 35.5 per cent more than the 1,915 active listings for sale at the end of June 2017.

"The good news is that inventory is slowly being added to the market, though we are still very far off from our ten year average inventory level of 4,100 listings" adds President Kerr. "The slower pace of the market has created more time for buyers who may have been hesitant to jump in during the high pressure market conditions of recent years. Homes are spending a bit longer on the market and there are fewer multiple offer situations than in the past, and if we see more listings over the next few months we may be heading back into a more balanced market situation. Every type and location of property is a separate segment of our market, and there are varying pressures and demands, so if you are buying or selling it is wise to take advantage of the services of your local REALTOR® to help navigate this changing market."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in June 2017 was $829,600, while the benchmark value for the same home in June 2018 increased by 7.2 per cent to $889,600, higher than May's value of $878,100. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in June 2017 was $430,400, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in June 2018 increased by 15.4 per cent to $496,500, slightly higher than May's value of $493,900.

May 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

Price Pressure Continues on Lower-Priced Housing in the Capital Regional District

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A total of 755 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this May, 25 per cent fewer than the 1,006 properties sold in May of last year, and a 2.5 per cent decrease from April 2018. The sales of condominiums were down 17.4 per cent from last year in May with 237 units sold. Sales of single family homes were down 23 per cent from 2017 with 406 sold this May.

"It's no surprise that our current market is very different than it was last year," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "Due to recent changes in mortgage qualification rules, many buyers' purchasing power has been reduced. Unfortunately, in our area we have one third fewer single family homes for sale under $750,000 when compared to last year, so we're seeing pressure from increased competition on a smaller number of homes, which is really pushing the under million dollar market. We have a much larger inventory of higher value homes this year. For listings priced at $1.5 million and above, the number of active listings is almost 50% higher than last year at this time. Arguably, many of these properties may be listed due to new and incoming taxes from the provincial government. The Foreign Buyer Property Transfer Tax, the Speculation Tax, and the increased School Tax are putting pressure on those high value home owners. Unfortunately, these taxes are not resulting in what the government said it intends - to increase the availability of affordable housing."

There were a total of 2,394 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of May 2018, an increase of 19.6 per cent compared to the month of April and 26.3 per cent more than the 1,896 active listings for sale at the end of May 2017.

"We're in an interesting time here - we are seeing different levels of price pressure and price relief in micro-climates of our area," adds President Kerr. "You may find more flexibility if you are shopping for a multi-million dollar estate in certain areas. You may be in for a competition if you're shopping for a lower priced home or condominium. If you're thinking of buying or selling, it's a good idea to meet with a local REALTOR® to understand how the current environment will affect you."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in May 2017 was $820,800, while the benchmark value for the same home in May 2018 increased by 7 per cent to $878,100, higher than April's value of $866,700. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in May 2017 was $426,900, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in May 2018 increased by 15.7 per cent to $493,900, slightly lower than April's value of $495,100.

April 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

Slower start to spring does not signal lower prices for Victoria real estate market

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A total of 774 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this April, 12.5 per cent fewer than the 885 properties sold in April last year, but a 12.5 per cent increase from the month previous. The sales of condominiums were down 21.6 per cent from last year in April with 225 units sold. Single family homes were 8.1 per cent down from the year previous with 420 sold this April.

"We're now into the spring real estate market, which is traditionally the busiest time of the year for buying and selling homes," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "Last year, the months of May and June were the busiest, so we may see this pattern again but on a slightly smaller scale than last year, since our sales for the year thus far are down about 18 per cent when compared to 2017. Although January to March was quite far behind last year's pace, we may see that margin get smaller as we progress through the spring months and people adjust to the new mortgage qualifying rules."

There were a total of 2,002 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of April 2018, an increase of 13.4 per cent compared to the month of March and 18.5 per cent more than the 1,690 active listings for sale at the end of April 2017.

"We continue to see low inventory in our market, and good homes in desirable locations are still seeing multiple bids," adds President Kerr. "One interesting development we are tracking is the increase of prices in a market of fewer sales. Part of the reason for this is that there is strong pressure on lower-priced properties. After the new mortgage rule changes this year, many consumers have seen a reduction in their buying power, so more are competing for lower-priced properties and in multiple offer situations, pricing is pushed up. Our area just doesn't have the supply or mix of homes needed to meet the demand. We are working with government at all levels to identify ways to meet this demand in the CRD."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in April 2017 was $800,100, while the benchmark value for the same home in April 2018 increased by 8.3 per cent to $866,700, higher than March's value of $859,400. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in April 2017 was $418,200, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in April 2018 increased by 18.4 per cent to $495,100, which is higher than March's value of $490,000.

March 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

March 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

Outside Influences Impact Spring Real Estate Market in Victoria

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A total of 688 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this March, 25.9 per cent fewer than the 929 properties sold in March last year, but a 26.2 per cent increase from the month previous. The sales of condominiums were down 28.2 per cent from last year in March with 211 units sold. Single family homes were 30.8 per cent down from the year previous, with 337 sold this March.

"As we expected, March sales are tracking lower than in 2017," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "This is likely due to a number of factors that have created hesitation in consumers, including recent heavy measures by the provincial government to reduce the value of home prices and the federal government's new mortgage qualification rules. Combine these factors with rising interest rates and you've got a housing market that is in transition due to outside influences. Every time there is intervention into a market, it takes a few months for the market to rebalance. With the continual changes of late from different levels of government, our market is experiencing a new cycle of ongoing uncertainty."

There were a total of 1,766 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of March 2018, an increase of 14.3 per cent compared to the month of February and 13.5 per cent more than the 1,556 active listings for sale at the end of March 2017.

"Despite all of the above, we continue to see benchmark price increases across our market and demand persists - partly due to low inventory - but also because of our highly desirable location," adds President Kerr. "Specific areas and price points are experiencing varying pressure on price and demand - which creates micro-markets. We are still seeing multiple offers and above asking price sales in some segments. Active buyers in our market may see some relief as inventory is slowly growing. This showcases why it is important to work with your local REALTOR® in this transitioning market to ensure you have the most up-to-date information to make purchasing and selling decisions."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in March 2017 was $785,600, while the benchmark value for the same home in March 2018 increased by 9.4 per cent to $859,400, higher than February's value of $840,300. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in March 2017 was $409,700, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in March 2018 increased by 19.6 per cent to $490,000, which is higher than February's value of $472,600.

2018 Expanded Foreign Buyer Tax and New Speculation Tax. A Rant.

By now, I’m sure you’ve read the headlines about #BCBudget2018, so I won’t go to pains to explain what the newly announced taxes are, but I will say that the more time I have to absorb the news and consider the implication of these clumsy, poorly thought out measures, the more I feel the need to rant. Here we go.

First, the “speculation tax,” actually a new, extra, annual, provincial property tax on property owners who don’t reside in the property they own. What? It’s good optics for the NDP to appear to be doing something to curb real estate speculation since most people believe speculation is causing prices to rise, however, a true speculation tax would be better designed to hit actual speculators. Case in point: anyone flipping a property within a short period of time won’t face a heavy tax burden from the new “speculation tax,” right? Conversely, someone who holds a property for years will pay tens of thousands, year after year - but that person doesn’t strike me as a speculator. What about those who speculate on pre-construction condo assignments? They’re selling agreements, not property, so …? The budget announcement suggested the government intends to put measures in place to track pre-construction projects, but it’s a hard market to track, with vast amounts of time between initial deals, contract flips, and property titles being registered. The bottom line? I’m not against the idea of implementing taxation to curb property speculation, however, this tax misses the mark big time, and many Canadians and British Columbians with second homes here will be unfairly affected.

Further on that point: it’s no surprise to be told that left-of-centre governments tend to favour progressive taxation, where higher earners are taxed at a higher rate. But what surprises me is seeing this government make the leap from taxing citizens’ incomes to taxing their equity and property assets. British Columbians didn’t sign on to having their provincial government expropriate funds from their privately held assets. Or to having the provincial government force them to rent out their private assets through measures like this as if those private assets were public housing stock. The finance minister suggests that there will be a tax credit in place to lessen the burden on BC residents - details are scant at this point - and she hasn’t indicated that anyone would be exempt on a second home used part-time, like a cottage, or small pied-à-terre in another city. Residents who have worked hard enough and made the sacrifices to enjoy the use of a second personal property have surely already been taxed through the income they earned - and are we forgetting that they’re already paying annual taxes on both of those properties?

Secondly, the expanded Foreign Buyer Tax. Expanding the FBT outside of Vancouver simply isn’t supported by the numbers we have at hand. We haven’t seen vast sums of foreign capital driving up the market in Victoria; in fact, VREB’s figures suggest that about three quarters of the market activity here is just amongst locals, with only around three percent selling to buyers who reside outside of Canada. In Vancouver, the reported numbers are higher, but still, the initial introduction of the tax had little effect aside from a brief stall in the market while everyone took their foot off the gas for a moment to see what was going to happen, followed by a rapid return to rising prices.

Questionable foreign money does seem to be a serious issue in the lower mainland, which is a large enough market to consistently skew province-wide figures. There is no shortage of anecdotal chatter amongst Vancouver real estate industry folk, and a number of more prominent voices stating publicly that it’s a bigger problem than the statistics produced by the real estate industry or various levels of government suggest. The excellent report recently released by Transparency International Canada (read it here) about the various anonymous models of property ownership available to speculators and foreign purchasers is, frankly, eye opening. I’d bet most people have no idea. To that end, a much more meaningful move would be for the government to start pursuing enhanced disclosure around property ownership. The problem with this, of course, is that it costs money up front, rather than generating new tax revenues. Ugh, sounds like work. The real light about all of this goes on when one considers that all this new taxation announced in the budget is expected to raise $5.5B more for government coffers - which should neatly cover the $5.2B in new spending that was announced in the budget.

And the cherry on top? The finance minister’s own admission that the government specifically designed these measures to push down the real estate market, a statement that in itself suggests that the government is willing to risk putting thousands of homeowners underwater on their properties, owing more money than they’re even worth. Even more appalling, that the government openly admits that it didn’t thoroughly consider or predict at the impacts these manipulations would have on the housing market before putting them in to place. That is beyond irresponsible.

I’m already turning a few of the points from this rant into a strongly worded letter to the finance minister expressing just how galled I am at their short-sighted, tax-and-spend approach, opportunistically targeted at real estate as it’s an eye-catching source of news headlines. I encourage you to do the same. Not to be forgotten: real estate and construction are among the largest contributors to BC’s economy as a whole. I hope for my clients’ sake and yours that all the worst case scenarios I imagine don’t unfold as we deal with the as-yet unforeseen consequences of Budget 2018. Stay tuned.

Dirk


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February 2018 Victoria BC Real Estate Market Conditions

Victoria Real Estate Market Adapts to Changing Policy Landscape

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A total of 545 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this February, 19.3 per cent fewer than the 675 properties sold in February last year. The sales of condominiums were down 15.5 per cent from last year in February with 174 units sold. Single family homes were 24.4 per cent down from the year previous, with 260 sold this February.

"We certainly anticipated that we would see some lower numbers this year compared to last," says Victoria Real Estate Board President Kyle Kerr. "Right now prospective home buyers are met with many hurdles as they start shopping for their new home. They're in a market that's experienced long-term low inventory, which means more price pressure and competition on homes. Buyers are navigating increasing interest rates and the new mortgage stress test. These factors all combine to constrain our market. Like any changes to consumer experience, there is a period of response before consumers adapt to the new rules. We saw an increase in buyers in November and December who bought early to avoid the mortgage stress test, and this likely means less buyers in the current market. However, with continued historical low inventory levels, demand is still outpacing supply."

There were a total of 1,545 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of February 2018, an increase of 3.6 per cent compared to the month of January and 0.5 per cent more than the 1,537 active listings for sale at the end of February 2017.

"The provincial government recently rolled out its budget, which includes an admirable commitment to spend six billion dollars to build 114,000 units in ten years," adds President Kerr. "These units will take years to come to market, and it is difficult to predict how many we will see in Victoria. The government needs a long-term approach to supply needs in our area, and that initial commitment is a good start. A reasonable way to bolster their commitment and improve current conditions is for the province to work with our municipalities to reduce the timelines and costs associated with bringing new housing to our market."

The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single family home in the Victoria Core in February 2017 was $771,100, while the benchmark value for the same home in February 2018 increased by 9 per cent to $840,300, slightly higher than January's value of $831,900. The MLS® HPI benchmark value for a condominium in the Victoria Core area in February 2017 was $394,400, while the benchmark value for the same condominium in February 2018 increased by 19.85 per cent to $472,600, which is slightly higher than January's value of $460,500.

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