Archive for May, 2003

Churchhill Gardens offers new townhomes on Vancouver’s West Side

Saturday, May 31st, 2003

Townhouses: Churchill Gardens offers a rare opportunity to buy a spacious new townhome on Vancouver’s West Side

Rod Nutt

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun The exterior of Churchill Gardens, where the townhomes have an attractive garden setting. Every unit has four bedrooms.

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun The living rooms of the Camelliia have fireplaces with upscale hand-set ceramic-tile surrounds.

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun The kitchen and dining nook of the Azalea at Churchill Gardens shows the contemporary open-plan layout that today’s home buyer seeks.

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun The master bedroom of the Camellia at Churchill Gardens, a Polygon development in South Vancouver.

Churchill Gardens located at Cambie and 58th offers one of the few opportunities to buy a new townhome on the West Side of Vancouver.

“Phase one of the two-phase development is just about finished and is ready for occupancy,” says Neil Chrystal, executive vice-president of developer Polygon Homes.

The garden townhome community contains 26 homes, all four-bedroom units.

‘The size of the homes are what you would expect to get in Richmond,” says Chrystal.

Polygon built the homes to attract professional families, typically with a couple of children.

“We didn’t target down-sizers or empty-nesters,” Chrystal says. “We wanted to attract people who were moving from single-family homes from, say, Richmond and Vancouver, who needed the space but wanted a maintenance-free lifestyle.”

The size of the townhomes was key to Cindy and David Webb buying in Churchill Gardens.

“Most of the townhouses in Vancouver are in the 1,500-square-foot range and are narrow,” says David Webb. “There are very few on offer on three levels that are 20 foot wide.”

The location with no bridges to cross to get into Vancouver and the quality also attracted the couple, who moved in at the end of April.

“This will be my wife’s third Polygon home,” Webb says. “She likes the quality.”

The surrounding schools are also a big draw for families.

Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School and Sir Wilfred Laurier Elementary School have excellent reputations as being among the best in the Lower Mainland,” says Chrystal.

Both schools are minutes away from Churchill Gardens by foot.

The development has three floor plans: The Azalea at 1,959 square feet and priced from $538,000; The Gardenia, which is 1,874 square feet, starts at $558,000; and The Camellia at 2,217 square feet is priced from $618,000.

Both The Azalea and The Gardenia, which is the best-selling plan, have four bedrooms, while the Camellia has four bedrooms and a den.

One of the showhomes (The Camellia) has lots of extras and is for sale at $688,000.

Strata fees range from $298 to $342 a month; all prices are exclusive of GST and subject to change by the builder without notice.

Churchill Gardens has a unique and intriguing history.

In 1912, the land was transformed from dense forest into a grand estate for shipping magnate Charles Gardener Johnson, and for years the the estate was known for its lavish gardens and lush lawns.

It has changed hands several times over the decades before being acquired by Polygon and then transformed into Churchill Gardens.

As part of the approvals process for rezoning to a townhome development, Polygon was required to provide a “greenway” between phase one and phase two that allows access to the nearby Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre.

Polygon has preserved the stands of oak, walnut and ash, and lawns are being replanted for a village-like green; new garden paths and flower beds will soon be in place.

As part of the preservation process, Polygon was also required to to renovate the original historic house, which is being converted into five apartments — two on the main floor and three on the second floor.

“We have maintained many of the brick fireplaces and faithfully restored the house,” says Chrystal, who notes that the apartments have not year been put on the market.

“It’s like subdividing an old Shaughnessy mansion,” he says.

Prices for the apartments are not yet available.

Chrystal describes the architecture as West Coast Arts and Crafts, inspired by the historic estate home.

The interior of the townhomes feature elegant entry foyers with polished porcelain tiles, living room fireplaces with hand-set ceramic-tile surround, traditional hand-painted wood mantels over the fireplace, nine-foot ceilings, and large multi-paned windows.

The kitchens are contemporary open-plan with island or eating bar and an adjoining breakfast nook. Solid granite countertops, full-height pantry, double stainless-steel sink, custom-crafted Shaker-style cabinets and energy-efficient appliances in stainless steel and black are all standard.

The bathrooms have Shaker cabinetry in chestnut or honey, porcelain floors, walk-in showers, deep soaker tubs in the en-suite, and full-width vanity mirrors with cosmetic light bar.

Conveniences include: Main level powder room, walk-in closets in master suites, cable outlets, CAT5E multi-media Internet connections, pre-wiring for Shaw high-speed cable, and washer and dryer rough-in.

Security is state-of-the-art featuring Weiser deadbolt locks on front-door entry, bright exterior lighting, hard-wired smoke detectors, sprinkler system and pre-wiring for security system on the main level.

All the homes have attached two-car garages plus on-site visitor parking, sundeck and/or patio for outdoor entertaining, and private front yards with picket fencing.

Polygon also offers a substantial number of options, including Whirlpool stainless steel 19 cu. ft. top mount refrigerator ($1,650), garage door opener by Liftmaster ($450), security system ($665), and Beam vacuum system ($925).

Apart from the schools, Churchill Gardens is close to Queen Elizabeth Park, Langara Golf Course, Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, Langara College, and shopping at Oakridge Centre.

All the homes are constructed using a rainscreen system and are covered by St. Paul Guarantee’s 2/5/10-year warranty insurance.

The showhome is open from noon to 5 p.m. every day except Friday.

For more information, log on to or call 604-322-1255.

© Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

Mortgage rates hit record low

Friday, May 30th, 2003

Buyers can lock in for five years as low as 4.75%

Michael Kane

CREDIT: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun Geri and Ben Karlstrom celebrate their new five-year, 4.8-per-cent mortgage. The rate is the lowest in recorded history.

Five-year mortgage rates dipped to the lowest in recorded history on Thursday, according to mortgage brokers Invis Financial.

Buyers could lock in for a five-year term as low as 4.75 per cent.

The last time the five-year rate came anywhere close to that was 1951, when Louis St. Laurent was prime minister.

Ben Karlstrom wasn’t even born then but Thursday afternoon he and his wife Geri signed on the bottom line with Scotiabank for a five-year term at 4.8 per cent.

The couple didn’t want to disclose the size of the mortgage to build their dream home at Millers Lane, near Panorama Village in Surrey, but said they were thrilled to be making what looks like an historic deal.

In fact, they were very happy with 5.5 per cent when they opened negotiations with the bank a few weeks ago. Since then rates have been falling steadily as gloomy economic news sends investors scurrying for the safety of the bond market.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the blended average mortgage rate posted by the chartered banks was 6.15 per cent as of Wednesday. The last time it was that low was in July, 1956.

Back then, however, it is highly unlikely that any but the most well-heeled and well-connected borrowers could have negotiated a discount, especially if they were self-employed like Ben, 39, and Jeri, 50. He’s a music producer and she’s an Internet marketer.

Today, of course, posted rates are just an opening position and lenders are falling over themselves to offer discounts, even to the self-employed with fluctuating incomes.

Rob Regan-Pollock, a senior mortgage broker with Invis Financial in Vancouver, said the best available discounted five-year rate is 4.75 per cent from HSBC Canada — although the rate comes with the condition that the client open an account with a branch.

HSBC spokesman Ernest Yee said that although HSBC mortgage clients are required to have an investment portfolio worth at least $50,000 if they wish to negotiate lower rates, this does not apply to the 4.75 offer.

The next-best deal is 4.80 per cent from Scotiabank for buyers with a solid credit history who can meet the standard debt-to-income requirements of no more than 32 per cent of gross joint income to meet housing costs and no more than 40 per cent of gross income for all debt servicing.

Most mortgage consultants offer five-year mortgages at Scotiabank at 4.85 per cent but Regan-Pollock says Invis was able to negotiate 4.80 per cent thanks to “loyalty and volume.”

Mortgage brokers can often beat the best rates available at financial institutions because they deal in volume, reduce the lenders’ overheads and boast better customer retention. In most circumstances, the broker’s commission is paid by the lender, not the person taking out the mortgage.

Regan-Pollock notes that today’s low mortgage rates are in contrast to warnings only a few weeks ago that rates were poised to take off again.

“With mad cow disease and SARs and the stronger dollar, the economic outlook is not as rosy at it was,” he said. “People have taken refuge in the bond market and that’s what has driven these rates down so low for the time being. I think there will be a recovery at some point but certainly this a real window of opportunity for some people.”

Fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest level for other terms as well.

For those interested in longer-term security, the 10-year fixed-rate mortgage is at an all-time low of 5.8 per cent. On the shorter end, TD Canada Trust’s best discounted rates are 4.55 per cent on a four-year term and 4.25 per cent for three years.

For borrowers with floating- rate mortgages, rates for converting to a fixed term change almost daily. On Thursday one of the best available deals was from National Bank which would allow variable-rate customers paying 4.60 per cent to convert to a five-year fixed term at 4.75 per cent.

“If you’re considering purchasing a new home or your mortgage is coming up for renewal, lock in your low rate now,” Regan-Pollock recommends.

“The wholesale cost of funds has increased slightly in recent days and we may not see current residential mortgage rates last as lenders respond to the increasing costs.”

Borrowers who get a mortgage pre-approved can hold their rate for 60 to 135 days. In the event that rates continue to fall prior to closing or the mortgage renewal, borrowers continue to benefit from the lowest rate available, just like Ben and Geri.

© Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

House sales remain brisk

Wednesday, May 28th, 2003


Decline predicted in hotel business

Wednesday, May 28th, 2003


1120 W. Georgia proposed development

Wednesday, May 28th, 2003


BC’s housing revival continues dispite deterioration in affordability

Tuesday, May 27th, 2003


B.C.’s housing revival continues despite deterioration in housing affordability, says RBC Economics

VANCOUVER, May 27, 2003 – B.C.’s housing market remains strong and is continuing to contribute significantly to the province’s economic growth, although the cost of owning a home has increased slightly, according to a report released today by RBC Economics.

RBC’s Housing Affordability Index for B.C. — which measures the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home – climbed to 42.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, from 42.2 per cent during the previous quarter. This translates into a monthly payment of $1,586 for an average detached bungalow (principal, interest, tax and utilities), and compares with a national average of 32.5 per cent, or $1,264 per month.

“Housing market conditions in B.C. are the tightest in the country, as there is a severe shortage of available listings and high demand,” said Carl Gomez, RBC economist. “Further increasing demand are low mortgage rates that have left open a window of opportunity for prospective home buyers.”

As for Vancouver, the city remains the most expensive in Canada in which to own a home. In the first quarter of 2003, its housing market was one of the hottest in the country with existing home sales up five per cent from the previous quarter. Tightening market conditions due to a slowdown in new listings caused RBC’s affordability indicator to rise to 49.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2003.

“With a modest increase in borrowing costs expected later in the year, affordability in B.C. is likely to continue to erode, especially if prices continue to rise,” said Gomez. “To maintain a strong housing market over the long-term, there will have to be an improvement in other underlying fundamentals such as income growth and employment. Better cyclical prospects for B.C.’s economy do suggest that these fundamentals will be moving in the right direction.”

The RBC report notes Canadian home ownership costs ranged from a low of $923 in the Atlantic region to a high of $1,586 in British Columbia. The affordability index in Canada‘s three largest cities breaks down as follows for the first quarter of 2003: Vancouver (49.4 per cent), Toronto (39.7 per cent) and Montreal (30.1 per cent).

The Housing Affordability Index, which RBC has been compiling since 1985, is based on the costs of owning a detached bungalow, a typical target home for first-time buyers. The higher the index, the more difficult it is to afford a house. For example, an affordability index of 50 per cent means that home ownership costs, including mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, take up 50 per cent of a typical household’s pre-tax income.

Highlights from across Canada:

  • Alberta: Like other regions in the country, rising house prices marginally eroded housing affordability in Alberta, with RBC’s indicator sitting at 28.3 per cent or a monthly payment of $1,227 during the first quarter of 2003. However, Alberta is the second most affordable market in Canada behind only the Atlantic region. This is largely due to strong underlying economic fundamentals that have sustained the province’s solid household income growth.
  • Saskatchewan: The cost of home ownership in Saskatchewan continues to be among the lowest in Canada behind the Atlantic region and Alberta at 29.9 per cent of household income in the first quarter of 2003. While housing prices, on average, increased in the first quarter, housing demand is showing signs of moderation, as existing home sales fell two per cent in the first quarter of 2003 from the previous quarter.
  • Manitoba: RBC’s housing affordability indicator for Manitoba rose to 31 per cent in the first quarter of 2003 from 30.7 per cent in the previous quarter. Market conditions remain extremely tight due to a severe shortage of supply.
  • Ontario: Affordability mildly eroded during the first quarter with RBC’s index climbing to 31 per cent from 30.7 per cent in the last quarter of 2002. While borrowing costs were lower in the first quarter, the increase in house prices, and to a lesser extent higher utility costs, pushed the average monthly payment for owning a detached bungalow to $1,390. The pace of house price appreciations in the province is beginning to cool as market conditions are steadily making their way to more balanced conditions.
  • Quebec: Housing affordability continued to deteriorate in the first quarter of 2003 as a sharp rise in housing prices offset the gains from lower borrowing costs. RBC’s affordability indicator climbed to 30.5 per cent during the first quarter of 2003 from 29.7 per cent in the previous quarter. This translates into a monthly payment of $1,064 for an average detached bungalow. An improvement in new listings, coupled with a slowdown in sales activity, is expected to bring Quebec‘s housing market into balance.
  • Atlantic region: Ownership costs for a detached bungalow in the Atlantic region remain the most affordable in Canada at 26.8 per cent of household income in the first quarter of 2003, slightly higher than the 26.6 per cent level posted in the last quarter of 2002. Like the rest of the country, rising housing prices due to tight market conditions was the main contributor to the decrease in affordability.

The full RBC Housing Affordability Index report is available online at

About RBC Financial Group
Royal Bank of Canada (TSX, NYSE: RY) uses the initials RBC as a prefix for its businesses and operating subsidiaries, which operate under the master brand name of RBC Financial Group. Royal Bank of
Canada is Canada‘s largest financial institution as measured by market capitalization and assets, and is one of North America‘s leading diversified financial services companies. It provides personal and commercial banking, wealth management services, insurance, corporate and investment banking, and transaction processing services on a global basis. The company employs 60,000 people who serve more than 12 million personal, business and public sector clients through offices in North America and some 30 countries around the world. For more information, please visit


Raising the bar

Sunday, May 25th, 2003


Leaks in High-rise buildings much slower to surface

Wednesday, May 21st, 2003

Van. Courier

1530 W8th – Pintura

Sunday, May 18th, 2003


New Yaletown Elementary to be built by Sept. 2004

Monday, May 5th, 2003