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Vancouver Property Report - September 1st/2010

Metro Vancouver Has Hot Commercial Real Estate Prospects

Commercial real estate sales in Metro Vancouver have been brisk. The latest sale is the South Point Exchange in Surrey which just sold for $91 million to a private party. The new owner of the 267,000 square foot open air mall has not been named.

This follows the recent sales of Lougheed Town Centre ($133 million), Brentwood Town Centre ($100 million) and Semiahmoo Shopping Centre ($83 million), making Metro Vancouver the hottest commercial real estate market in Canada.

RealNet tends to agree.. They released their report on Tuesday for the second quarter of 2010 which showed Metro Vancouver had $1.24 billion in sales. This is a 65 percent increase from the first quarter of the same year which showed $747 million in sales. RealNet keeps track of all transactions of at least $1 million. The report from Avison Young, a firm that keeps track of all real estate sales of $5 million or more shows a similar upward sales swing.

It seems that retail properties and shopping malls are hot ticket items. As the economy strengthens, people have more money to spend and much of those extra dollars end up in the retail industry. Some of these Metro Vancouver properties may have been snatched up to take advantage of that business. Other new owners may have redevelopment in mind.

Vancouver Property Report - August 21st/2010

Why it May Be Okay to Pop the Housing Bubble

Canada’s seemingly unstoppable home sales are beginning to falter. Resale home sales in Toronto and Vancouver experienced significant shortfalls during the summer. For the first time in 16 years, condominium sales in Toronto actually declined during the second quarter.

This scenario was not unexpected by real estate experts, the government and economists. The introduction of the harmonized sales tax, combined with tougher lending regulations and creeping interest rates would inevitably shrink home sales for the balance of 2010, after a front-loaded first half.

Some believe that the Canadian government made it too easy for people to purchase homes, especially in the 2008-2009 recession. The ability to buy real estate may have occupied too much of a strategy to ease Canadians out of a financial meltdown. Rock-bottom mortgage rates of 0.25 percent remained in place for a good deal of 2009 and into 2010. They were viewed as one of the primary stimuli for people to purchase homes.

It is difficult to define the perimeter of a real estate bubble, but two factors include significant price increases as well as simultaneous rises in debt. Home prices are nearly twice what they were in 2000, but household incomes did not double. With the value of mortgages jumping from to a total of $930 billion in 2010 from $427 billion in 2000, average Canadian debt-to-income ratios are close to those existing in Great Britain and the United States.

More than 90 percent of Canadians believe the value of their homes will appreciate in value for many years. Approximately 25 percent contend that they can count on their home values to fund their retirements. With an aging population and the fact that 70 percent households own their own dwellings, values may not increase so significantly over the long run.

Popping this bubble may not be fatal for the Canadian economy, after all.

Vancouver Property Report - August 9th/2010

HST May Be Confusing the British Columbia and Ontario Real Estate Markets

Housing sales are down in British Columbia and Ontario. Is the newly imposed Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) the culprit? Toronto’s sales were 34 percent lower in July of this year than in the same month in 2009. Last year there were 9,967 sales logged, this year 6.564. The sales numbers are below what were expected.

In Vancouver the sales numbers have dropped as well. In the Greater Vancouver area there were 2,255 homes sold this July compared to 4,119 in the same month for 2009. This translates into a 45.2 percent decrease.

Real estate professionals, at least 43.9 percent of them, believe that the HST is playing a role in the slow sales. Then again, there is quite a bit of confusion on how the tax works as far as real estate goes. Over 57 percent of realtors field questions daily on how HST affects the bottom line on a home purchase. These figures are thanks to a survey done by Royal LePage Realty Service targeting agents in both provinces.

The HST took effect on July 1st. Buyers purchasing new homes will pay HST on the new home price. All real estate transactions will have HST added on commissions and service fees.

Vancouver Property Report - July 26th/2010

Survey: Vancouver Home Prices to Exceed Those for 2009

Heightened inventory will result in a decrease of real estate sales for the rest of 2010, per the latest Royal LePage survey. According to the realty firm’s second-quarter review, there was a surge of sales in the Vancouver area in the early months of this year, and prices thereby increased.

Bill Binnie, who owns Royal LePage North Shore, said that prices for the rest of the year would be impacted by the relatively high inventory. He said that the current inventory levels are creating something of a buyers’ market.

The Royal LePage report indicated heavy year-versus-year increases for Vancouver homes during the second quarter. Detached homes sold on the city’s east side experienced a 24-percent hike. Condominium sales in West Vancouver grew by 9.5 percent during the same period.

Per the study, the average price buyers will pay throughout all types of property will decrease slightly, from $669,000 in 2010’s second quarter to $659,000 by the end of the year. Despite the modest shortfall, the price will represent an increase of ten percent over prices reported at year-end 2009.

Phil Soper, Royal LePage CEO, was quoted in the report, advising that the Canadian real estate market has undergone unusual activity. The typically active spring selling period was superseded by inordinately high sales volume during the last quarter of 2009. Soper contended that so far, sales activity in 2010 is following a pattern that is more consistent with previous years.

Binnie said that would-be buyers, once in a frenzy to acquire reasonably priced homes, are now considerably less engaged. June sales data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver support Binnie’s contention. Among areas surveyed by the Board, there was a 30-percent decrease versus June 2009, representing the second consecutive month in which prices declined over a year ago.

Vancouver Property Report - July 20th/2010

Come to Canada, See the Sights, Buy a Condo? China Unveils New Tour Theme

You are one of the rich and perhaps famous in booming China. You have become enamoured with Canada during the impressive 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. You want to perhaps sink a half-million in a condo with a view. The logical thing to do is….join a real estate tour group for a ten day visit to Canada.

This is perhaps a new twist in the travel/tour/real estate industry. It is timeshare marketing on steroids…relatively speaking. Guests pay to join the tour, true enough, but the excursion takes them to the two hottest real estate markets in Canada, Toronto and Vancouver, for a personal look-see at prime properties as well as the tourist attractions.

Canada and China now have a group tour agreement in place that allows large groups to visit the country. These affluent investors aren’t wasting any time. Rumour that a potential bubble in the Chinese real estate market is getting well-heeled investors to look elsewhere for buying opportunities.

Canada’s 2009 5.2 percent gain, which had people in this country fearing a domestic bubble, was nothing compared to China’s 25.1 percent increase on the mainland. Hong Kong’s increase topped that, at 27.6 percent. Canada’s real estate prices are even more welcoming now, with the recent glut of properties listed and the slow down in sales, particularly in the Vancouver area in which Chinese investors are most interested.

Vancouver Property Report - July 6th/2010

Controversy Surrounds Elaborate Laneway Houses

The concept of laneway homes in Vancouver started with the best of intentions. The homes were regarded as a way to provide affordable housing in older, established single-family-home towns. However, many of the homes are now becoming as ornate and overdone as the “McMansions” that have replaced vintage homes in countless communities.

Oliver Gilbert, who lives in Dunbar, said that he originally believed laneway homes were a smart alternative for people who may have wanted to create residences for their relatives. He now believes that many of the homes are affecting the character of his neighbourhood, commenting that some of the houses seem to be two storeys in height.

Design consultant and retired architect Peter Selnar initiated a campaign to notify people about the size of the homes. Last year, the city approved a policy regarding laneway homes, and since then, 89 houses have begun to spring up in Vancouver. According to policy, the residences may be rented, but cannot be sold apart from the main house.

Vancouver Planning Director Brent Toderian said there have been relatively few complaints about the homes. However, he said, a few of the larger houses represent grounds for some adjustments in the policy. He said that most of the complaints are with regard to the presence of larger units on small lots. After the initial 100 applications are completed, which should happen soon, Toderman will deliver a report to council, and will likely make amendments to the code. It is not likely that the height limit will be reduced from 1.5 storeys, the current allowed limit.

Three houses have been the subject of several complaints. The houses are located on West 21st Avenue, West Eighth Avenue and West 46th Avenue. Selnar has made his own list of about six egregiously large laneway units. The home on West 21st Avenue is listed for sale for $2.83 million, and is part of a total teardown on the lot.

Builders are happy about the prospects for this type of housing. K. Bagheri, a co-owner of Zagross Construction, said she is receiving positive feedback from a laneway home her company constructed on West 16th Avenue.

Vancouver Property Report - June 29th/2010

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, the HST Clock Is Ticking Away

The HST clock is ticking. There are only a few more days before the July 1st initiation of the controversial Harmonized Sales Tax in British Columbia and Ontario. Residents of these two provinces are trying to make as many purchases as possible before that dreaded deadline.

One industry that is benefiting is funeral homes. People are prepaying their funeral arrangements to save taxes. Yes, funeral and final expenses are not exempt from the HST like they were from provincial taxation. This will make the cost of a funeral jump an extra seven percent in British Columbia and an extra eight percent in Ontario.

The HST can be confusing but an easy way to figure it out is that if you paid GST on an item before July 1st, you will pay HST on it on “D” day and beyond. That means groceries, prescription drugs and most other health expenses will be exempt, as will childcare and the majority of education services. Dining out will incur the tax, unless you are in Ontario and your meal is under $4.00. British Columbians will be spared the tax on gasoline.

People trying to take last minute vacations and mini trips might want to hurry up. You can still buy tour packages, airline tickets and hotel space before the HST goes up, but you must complete travel before July 1st. That would make for a very quick trip.

Vancouver Property Report - June 23rd/2010

Metro Vancouver Real Estate Market Slows, Buyers In Bargaining Mode

Metro Vancouver’s rocketing real estate market finally flattened out this past May. There were fewer sales and prices were holding steady and in some cases dropping a bit. The amount of listings in the MLS system, 17,492 as of May, gave buyers a greater selection and more bargaining power.

There were 3,156 sales through the service in May, which is ten percent less than the number of sales in May of 2009. Sales were still above the same time period in May of 2008. New listings for the month totalled 7,014, which is 48 percent more than the number listed in May of the prior year. It is less than the 7,648 listed this past April.

Average price for a single family home in May was $810,175 which is 19 percent higher than the average in May of 2009. It is one percent lower than in April of this year when the benchmark price was $818,403. Condos showed an average price of $398,783 which is 14 percent higher than May of last year and on par with this past April. Townhouses averaged $500,339, a 15 percent increase over May of 2009, and also almost the same as April 2010.

Vancouver Property Report - June 10th/2010

Vancouver Real Estate Prices Ease

Vancouver home buyers are being presented more options at lowering prices after months of jumping housing prices. May 2010 was the third month in a row where over 7,000 homes were listed on the market. Total properties listed equal 17,492, a 10 per cent increase over April which gives buyers more breathing and shopping room.

Sales were also down in May in Metro Vancouver, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. Sales decreased 10 per cent on MLS for a total of 3,156, down from May 2009 but still up from May 2008.

Approximately 7,014 listings were added in May, 48 per cent more over May 2009 but 7,648 less than April 2010.

Realtors report that buyers feel less rushed in their decision making and are bargaining harder as prices ease.

The average price for a detached home was $810,175 in May, a 19 per cent increase year-over-year, and a 1 per cent decrease from April’s average of $818,403.

The average price for a condo was $398,783 in May, a 14 per cent increase year-over year, and a near equivalency to April’s average of $397,779.

For townhouses, the average price was $500,339, a 15 per cent increase year-over-year, but a slight decrease from April’s average of $502,399.

Vancouver Property Report - May 18th/2010

Olympic Village Property Buyer Pays For Million Dollar View, Gets Concrete Triangle

Buying a property on spec can be a risky business. If you do decide to take that plunge read the fine print, and then read it again or you may find yourself in the same predicament as Leo Chen. He bought a 1,000 square foot condo for a cool $1.4 million that was supposed to have a panoramic view of False Creek and the downtown Vancouver skyline.

Was…is the key word. He did know that his condo, part of the former Olympic athlete village, was going to be next to a community centre and on the architectural renderings that centre was a low rise building. Upon completion the centre ended up with a huge triangular concrete structure on its top, right in front of Chen’s million dollar view.

Leo Chen wants out of the deal and his $140,000 deposit back. The developer did offer an alternate unit but he is simply not interested. As a form of protest, Chen is wearing a sandwich board and marching up and down in front of the complex to bring his problems to the attention of other buyers. The remaining condos are scheduled to go on the market this Saturday.

Vancouver Property Report - May 11th/2010

Toronto May Be Number One On The Collier’s List, But Vancouver Has Mother Nature’s Blessing

Vancouver, tied with Montreal, came in second on the list of places commercial real estate investors most want to put their money into. Colliers International just released their survey this past Tuesday and the leader turned out to be Toronto. Considering the sheer size of Canada’s largest city, that is not really a surprise.

But Vancouver has a sort of cash-flow security that not many other places in Canada enjoy. There is a limited amount of buildable space in the Greater Vancouver area, surrounded by borders created by Mother Nature. The Pacific Ocean makes for a long, eye-popping, water view coastline that encourages building up rather than out. Encourages is probably not the right word. It’s more like necessitates.

Extensive building is not an option in most of Vancouver’s mountainous areas. Much of this space is protected parkland or privately owned ski resort territory. What builders are left with is the space in-between these two natural barriers. This limited space impedes growth somewhat, but almost guarantees that property values will, over time, increase. Supply versus demand.

Of the 26 Canadian property investors polled in the Collier’s survey, 85 percent want to keep their money in country. It is a good bet that many of them will be looking towards Vancouver for not only its beauty but for its good investment potential. Having an international airport that functions as Canada’s gateway to the Pacific isn’t so bad either.

Vancouver Property Report - April 30th/2010

Luxury Home Sales Are Having a Banner First Quarter in 2010

A luxury home in greater Vancouver will set you back about $2 million. In Montreal, and greater Toronto, the price tag is a little less, $1.5 million. Those figures aside, luxury homes are almost flying off the MLS listings. The luxury market has recovered from the recession, and then some.

ReMax Canada just released its Upper End Market Trend Report and the first quarter of 2010 has outshined all previous sales records in nine of 13 regions in the study. Reasons given are not only the improved economy but immigration, increased foreign investment and more personal wealth.

Even taking into account that the first quarter of 2009 was one of the most dismal on record, the numbers for 2010 are impressive. Certain areas of the country showed record increases over sales from several years past. Among these areas are St. John’s, Halifax-Dartmouth, the Island of Montreal, Ottawa, the greater Toronto region, London-St. Thomas, Winnipeg, Victoria and the most expensive area studied, greater Vancouver.

ReMax defines a luxury home as any property that falls in the top one to five percent of sales in any given area. The disparity is great. What would cost you that $2 million in Vancouver you could get for $400,000 in St. John’s.

The luxury market is fairly balanced right now, allowing buyers to ease into that home purchase. The general real estate market is not quite as balanced, but is rather in favour of the seller at the moment. Bidding wars are starting to occur, driving the average price of homes in general up. Part of the rush to buy in the lower value markets may be the rush to get into a home before the increase in the mortgage interest rates sometime this summer. Those living in British Columbia or Ontario are also in a rush to beat the implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which begins July 1st.

Vancouver Property Report - April 22nd/2010

Greater Vancouver Real Estate Prices Keep Climbing

Real estate in the Greater Vancouver area has seen some almost unbelievable price increases during the past year. Comparing March of 2010 with March of 2009, Vancouver’s West Side, with a 47 percent rise in the average price of a home, at $1.66 million, works out to be the most expensive part of Vancouver to live in.

Richmond, an area near the Vancouver International Airport, also showed a 35.1 percent increase with an average home going for $899, 416. This puts Richmond third behind West Vancouver and North Vancouver, whose average price for a home is $927,122. Yaletown and Coal Harbour condo buyers did especially well in their equity earnings.

Richmond has also done well in the apartment and attached housing markets. The suburb has experienced a 17.9 percent increase in apartment prices over the last three years, topping out at $337,202 in March of this year. The two most expensive areas, apartment wise are still West Vancouver at an average of $651,881 per unit and the West Side at $509,246 per apartment home. These two areas also saw the greatest increase in apartment prices during the past year. West Vancouver’s increase was 22.1 percent and the West Side’s was 20.6 percent.

The least expensive apartments were found in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, both coming in at $247,594 in March of 2010. They are followed by Port Coquitlam at $254,674 and Coquitlam at $295,585.

Vancouver Property Report - March 24th/2010

Buyers in the Dark About True Condition of Prince Rupert Condos

Ozzie Jurock, David Barnes and Ralph Case are facing a class action lawsuit as a result of a real estate sale in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The partners allegedly sold substandard condo units in the Roosevelt Apartments to unsuspecting and uninformed owners and that these units are in dire need of repair. Almost 30 people have joined forces in the suit, stating the condo complex will need at least $500,000 to make the structure safe and liveable.

It is also alleged that the trio hired an engineering firm to inspect the complex but only wanted a superficial examination of the grounds and buildings rather than the more thorough look over that is the norm. Even the cursory inspection revealed flaws that were not included in the disclosure statement, nor were the facts that the inspections were limited and that they were done 18 months prior to the transaction.

The class action suit seeks damages to enable them to complete needed repairs to the buildings. The amount is being left up to the courts to decide. The units sold for roughly $75,000 each, which given the condition is allegedly far above current market value.

Defence attorneys for the accused have already sent the plaintiffs a letter denying the charges and that they will spare no expense in fighting the charges. A formal statement of defence must be filed by Jurock’s attorneys within the next two weeks. The three men and their counsel refused to make any public statements.

Vancouver Property Report - March 17th/2010

Home Ownership Costs on the Rise, per RBC Report

The cost of owning a home became more expensive in all housing categories in 2009, as a result of an increase in home prices. A rise in costs began in the last three months of last year and will probably continue through 2010, according to the RBC’s quarterly housing report released March 15.

Per Robert Hague, senior economist with RBC, high demand and lower inventory are driving home ownership prices on an upward trend. He also noted that affordability would lessen when interest rates inevitably start to climb.

Homes are very much in demand due to currently low mortgage rates as well as the desire to purchase homes before the imposition of an additional sales tax in Ontario in British Columbia. Also, the federal government initiated action to prevent a housing bubble in February when it tightened home-buying regulations for certain buying classifications, especially speculators and first-time purchasers. When these changes are in place next month, they could impact upon the market’s level of activity.

The RBC affordability measure is derived from the percentage of pre-tax household income that is necessary to pay the costs of home ownership. The bank reported a modest increase in those prices in the last quarter of 2009. Hogue said that a slight decrease in mortgage rates mitigated the effects of heightened home prices.

In spite of last quarter’s increase, affordability measures in all housing categories remained significantly under their year-ago levels, per the report. A large decrease in mortgage rates contributed to the affordability of homes during the first three quarters of 2009.

According to The Bank of Canada, interest rates will probably remain low until around June. However, rates are expected to rise dramatically as the economy continues on its slow recovery from the 2008-2009 recession.

Vancouver Property Report - March 13th/2010

Stager Offers Common-Sense Advice to Refresh or Sell a Home

When Susan Powell was growing up, she aspired to become an archeologist.  Powell, who owns InFocus Design in Crete, Illinois, says she has achieved that goal, in a way.  In her work as a home stager, she says, she can see the layers of her clients’ lives.  

Powell specializes in staging homes for homes that are for sale, or just need a fresh look.  Having earned a degree in interior and digital graphic design in college, Powell chose Julea Joseph, one of the first stagers in the Chicago area, as her mentor.  

The first step Powell takes with a customer is to evaluate the home. If repair work is necessary, she advises clients to complete it before any staging is initiated.  She provides recommendations for contractors to do the repairs.  

Powell begins with paint colours. The ubiquitous “builder’s white” is not a colour, she says, urging clients to choose warm, inviting shades for their homes.  She then empties rooms of clutter, saving only the major furnishings.  She continues to edit furniture and accessories, and sometimes substitutes rental furnishings when a home is for sale.  

When she is helping a customer to sell a home, Powell suggests that the client view the residence through the eyes of a potential buyer.  She advises that highly personal items such as collectibles, religious pieces and firearms be stowed away.  

De-cluttering is essential, per Powell.  She often tells customers to rent a storage facility for some items, but to donate or discard other unnecessary pieces.

Vancouver Property Report - February 13th/2010

Six Million Dollar Home Renovation Dream Job for Local Contractor

If you had six million dollars, would you renovate a house with it?  Buy doorknobs that cost $500 each or toilets that set you back $4,000 per fixture? One family, who bought a three story, 6,000 foot Tudor style heritage home did just that.  And the lucky contractors, Artisan Construction, won the bid to do the work. The two founders, brothers Darren and Brent Repin, were most certainly happy campers.

Since the house had heritage status, renovations had to stick to stringent planning regulations that required the home’s features to be kept intact.  This means if a portion of the home, like part of the façade, was too damaged to be restored; it had to be recreated in kind.

Parts of the home that were too damaged to let stand were the window sills, doors, baseboards, even some of the structural support beams. These were replaced with solid walnut, all carved to mirror the original look.  Leaded glass windows needed to be replaced with those of the same style, only upgraded to be double glazed.

Within the vintage framework, a host of new age comforts and technological innovations took root.  The shower in the master en suite incorporated a sound system, heated mirrors that won’t fog up and a floor made of travertine.  

One entire downstairs room houses a home automation system that controls the heating, video, audio and security controls for the entire home. The owners can even set a different mood for each room, putting light dimmer switches and selected music on a timer.

It took about 2 ½ years and over 100 skilled tradespeople to complete the work on this dream home. With its 14 foot ceilings and hand blown chandeliers and oversized fireplace in the entry way it is meant to impress…and it does.

Vancouver Property Report - January 28th/2010

Local Businesses Hope to See Major Impact from Games

While athletes at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver will be competing for gold, local businesses are planning to fight and compete for customers to gain ever dollar possible in these tough economic times.

The businesses in Vancouver have been planning for over eight years to gain the most lucrative position for these two weeks where the world will descend upon British Colombia.

Many people are wondering what type of effect the 2010 Winter Games will have on Vancouver's real estate market.  the year of 2009 was almost the worst on record since '62 for housing starts.  Luckily, there was a surge in starts in December '09.

One situation that will play out is the $1.2 billion athletes village facility that had to be built for the games.  After the original developer went bankrupt during the global credit crisis, the City of Vancouver and its taxpayers were forced to fund the project so the city could host the athletes.

City officials say that they hope the games will bring all eyes on Vancouver, prompting people from around the world to want to move to Vancouver.  Experts agree that the hype surrounding the games has kept Vancouver from slipping into a deep financial slump.

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