Archive for March, 2006

Buying a used car privately, read this & don’t get ripped off

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Little research before signing dotted line goes long way to protecting yourself

Sun

March is national fraud prevention month and ICBC is advising consumers to be aware when purchasing used vehicles. By taking the proper precautions, ICBC says, buyers can greatly reduce their chances of purchasing a stolen or fraudulently altered vehicle.

“When buying a used car, a little research can go a long way. Arm yourself with knowledge about the vehicle before you sign the dotted line and hand over your payment” said Mark Francis, ICBC manager of regulated vehicle programs, in a news release.

“If at any point along the process something causes you concern, your best option is to walk away from the sale,” said Francis.

ICBC invests in more fraud prevention and investigation programs than most property and casualty insurance companies in Canada. ICBC seeks to identify instances of fraud to deter others, and actively pursues fraudulent claims through civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions to recover fraudulent payments.

But there are a number of precautions individuals can take to help protect themselves. The following list of suggestions is intended to help better inform customers buying used vehicles:

Inspect the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Since 1981, the VIN is a combination of 17 numbers and letters used to uniquely identify a vehicle.

Confirm the VIN on the dashboard matches the vehicle registration form.

Check for signs of tampering with the VIN. Signs to look for include: loose or mismatched rivets, scratched numbers, tape, glue or paint over the VIN.

Have a licensed mechanic check the VIN on the doorpost and engine firewall.

Insist on seeing the original Vehicle Registration form, not a photocopy.

A recent change by ICBC now requires the original computer-generated registration form to transfer the ownership of a vehicle.

Check that the licence plate on the vehicle matches the licence plate listed on the vehicle registration form.

Confirm that the vehicle make, model, and colour match the description on the vehicle registration form.

Ask the seller to provide photo identification.

Make sure the name on the vehicle registration form is the same as the person selling the vehicle. Make note of the seller’s valid home address and contact information.

Inspect the vehicle’s odometer for signs of tampering. Odometer fraud is the illegal practice of rolling back an odometer to display fewer kilometres than actually driven.

Look for marks on the odometer, and make sure the numbers are properly aligned.

Check to ensure the vehicle’s mileage is consistent with the condition of the vehicle.

Pay careful attention to the following high-wear points: the brake pedal, carpets, seats, steering wheel and seat belts.

Keep in mind that a car travels an average of 25,000 kilometres per year.

Uncover the vehicle’s claims history. Visit www.icbc.com and perform either an ICBC Vehicle Claims History report or the new more detailed CarProof Verified BC report. Both are specific to the vehicle; descriptions of the reports are available online.

Perform a lien search. A lien may have been placed on the vehicle by a person, a bank or other entity as collateral for an unpaid debt. A lien is attached to the vehicle, not to the owner of the vehicle. In the event the previous owner does not pay their debt, the car can be repossessed.

A lien search can be performed at an ICBC Driver Service Centre, some Government Agents Offices, or at the Personal Property Registry in Victoria at a cost of $10.

The CarProof Verified BC report includes lien searches from across Canada.

As well, be wary of sellers who don’t want you to come to their house to see the vehicle. They might suggest meeting at a mall or bringing the car to your house because it’s “more convenient.” These cars are sometimes the products of “curbers” who buy cars that have been written off in accidents and then do the cosmetic work to make them salable. Such cars can be a safety hazard.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

 

With real estate so hot, lenders create rental-investment options

Friday, March 31st, 2006

New equity mortgages base loan on property’s value rather than borrower’s credit

Fiona Anderson
Sun

Daren and Elaine Sanders of Steveston are taking their time while investigating buying an investment property in Vancouver for the potential capital gains. Photograph by : Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

With real estate prices continuing to climb, and new mortgage options making buying property possible again, the time for investing in a rental home may never be better.

“It certainly is much easier now [to invest in real estate] than it’s been, I think, ever,” said Steve Moffitt, a senior mortgage consultant with Equimac Mortgage Centre.

Moffitt says lenders are getting more “aggressive for the business” and are coming up with new products to attract borrowers.

One new product is the equity mortgage where a lender bases the loan on the value of the property, not the credit of the borrower, Moffitt said. From a borrower’s perspective, with the emphasis on equity rather than income, increasing property values means people who bought a few years ago are now sitting on a significant amount of money that can be taken out and invested in a rental property, Moffitt said.

A purchaser who paid between $150,000 and $250,000 three years ago now probably has a property worth $300,000 or $350,000, Moffitt said. So there’s at least an extra $100,000 in equity “that can translate easily into two other rentals,” he said.

“You’ve typically only got a certain amount of equity to work with, so the less you put down the more properties you can purchase and the more market value you can gain,” Moffitt said. “The best strategy if your service ratios will allow for it is high-ratio [mortgages] using other people’s money … and buying more in an active market.”

With current low rates, increasing the mortgage on a residential property to use for a down payment on a rental won’t translate into significantly larger payments, especially if the amortization period is lengthened, he said.

In March, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. began insuring 30-year mortgages on residential properties and Canada’s other mortgage insurer, Genworth Financial Canada, agreed to insure 30- and 35-year mortgages. The longer periods would come with an increased fee that would likely add only a few dollars to the monthly payments, said CMHC’s director of product development and strategic direction, Steve Mennill.

CMHC will go even further for rental properties, insuring mortgages for up to 40 years with only 15 per cent down, Mennill said.

While CMHC charges an additional premium for every five years added to the term of the mortgage, borrowers find they recoup that money through lower interest rates, Mennill said. And the interest is tax deductible.

“When it’s an investment property … it’s in your interest to keep your mortgage loan higher for longer because you can write off your interest payments against the income, which you can’t do as a homeowner,” Mennill said.

CMHC insures mortgages for rental properties to make rental housing accessible, Mennill said.

Daren Sanders and his wife Elaine are thinking of taking the plunge and investing in a rental property as a way to further diversify their investment portfolio.

“At this point, from the perspective of investing, it’s a question of what do you do after you’ve topped up your RSPs,” Sanders said.

He was unaware of all the financing options.

“Certainly that would be something to factor in,” he said.

The Steveston couple are motivated by the potential for capital gains from a rising market, as well as the rental income, Sanders said.

“The obvious [investment] is residential downtown, because it’s a hot market. But the other side of that is it’s a hot market, so it’s expensive,” Sanders said.

What if there is a correction? Sanders asked.

So he and Elaine are taking their time looking around before jumping in.

Certified financial planner Biljana Manojlovic said the Sanders’ cautious approach is the right one.

There has been such a phenomenal real estate boom in the last few years with double-digit gains that real estate investing looks very attractive right now, Manojlovic said. So a lot of investors are looking for a quick fix rather than a long-term strategy. But people have to keep in mind there is no guarantee that these double-digit returns will continue.

“Real estate as an investment is very attractive because it appreciates in value,” Manojlovic said. “[But] the key to real estate investing is taking risks one can afford and not overstepping your financial means.”

“You need to be prepared if [the market] turns around,” she said. “Will you be able to service that debt?”

Owning a rental property makes sense as part of diversified portfolio if you already own stocks and bonds, she said.

“Does [real estate] have a place? Absolutely — for the right type of investor who understands the risks,” she said.

Diversification is key, said Adrian Mastracci, investment counsel with KCM Wealth Management.

“If you just have a property here in Vancouver you’ve got one property, one locale and you’re at the mercy of whatever happens in the local market,” Mastracci said.

A more diversified approach to getting into the real estate market may be to buy shares of a company that owns real estate or investing in a real estate income trust, he said.

Baskets of REITs are also available for even more diversification, he said.

“People that have done well in real estate will tell you they have had a diversified portfolio,” Mastracci said. “Sometimes they can make it on one or two properties, and it’s wonderful when they do.

“But if you’re in that local marketplace and that market turns against you, it’s a tough one.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

 

House prices rise higher still

Friday, March 31st, 2006

In B.C., the average cost is up 22% in a year

Eric Beauchesne
Sun

Large price increases for homes in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario are behind a national surge in real estate sales, with the average selling price of a Canadian home last month rising nearly four per cent to a record $268,215, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Thursday.

The national price jump, the second steepest increase in 15 years, left the average selling price up 12.3 per cent from a year earlier.

In British Columbia, average residential prices provincewide climbed to $380,420 in February, a 22.1-per-cent jump over the same month last year. Alberta posted a 23.1-per cent jump to $256,125 while prices in the Northwest Territories climbed 24.5 per cent to $307,813.

The overall housing market remains hot, and is hottest in Western Canada, said association chief economist Gregory Klump.

“A shortage of homes available for sale and the continuation of strong resale housing demand in Western Canada are resulting in substantial price increases there,” Klump said.

He added that part of the surge in prices may have been because of a larger proportion of more expensive homes in the mix. Month-to-month changes in the average selling price can be volatile, he noted.

The seasonally adjusted number of homes that changed hands in February edged up 0.2 per cent to 41,555, the fifth highest monthly level on record, as increases in sales in Ontario and Quebec more than offset a 1.1-per-cent drop in British Columbia.

Sales volume for the first two months of the year was running 17 per cent above the same period last year.

The value of sales in February was $11.2 billion, up 1.5 per cent from January and an all-time high, with new records being set in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, and all-time highs for the month of February in all the other provinces.

“Although the national resale housing market has so far shown few signs of slowing, rising interest rates and home prices are expected to gradually slow resale housing market activity this year . . . towards a soft landing,” Klump said. “We do expect that affordability will continue to erode.”

Earlier this week, RBC reported that its index of housing affordability deteriorated at the end of last year to its worst point in a decade. The index, based on the amount of pre-tax income needed to cover the costs of homeownership, rose to an average of 37 per cent from 35.6 per cent in the third quarter, with the index as high as 57 per cent in Vancouver.

The real estate association expects the benchmark five-year mortgage rate of 6.3 per cent will rise this year by no more than half a percentage point from its current level.

“Given that consumers can still negotiate discounts off the posted rate, rates this year will remain at very good levels for housing markets,” Klump said. “It’s just that the increase in administered lending rates, which are tied to the bank rate, will slow down consumer spending.”

City’s real estate manager to retire

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Bruce Maitland has a reputation as a tough negotiator

Frances Bula
Sun

VANCOUVER - Bruce Maitland has been the City of Vancouver’s master real estate manager, tough negotiator, co-parent of the city’s Southeast False Creek project, and fierce guardian of the now $1.3-billion property endowment fund for 20 years.

But he’s decided that it’s time for him to move on, making him the third top-tier Vancouver administrator to announce his retirement in the past two months.

The city’s two co-directors of planning, Larry Beasley and Ann McAfee, announced their departure in February.

Maitland, 60, was less well-known outside city hall, but inside he was seen as the person who was responsible for the city’s ability to pull off some unusual accomplishments.

“The city has had some tough situations and Maitland would go to work and, all of a sudden, up would come a deal,” says former mayor Philip Owen, who was on council when Maitland started pushing to assemble land in southeast False Creek, which was then a forgotten zone of old industrial sites. “He was very tough. The industry people used to say that he would squeeze the last nickel out of them. He looked upon [the city's assets] as if it was his own money.”

Former mayor Larry Campbell also praised him: “I think he’s one of the reasons the city is in such good shape.”

Maitland, whose official title is manager of real estate services, said one of the things he’s proudest of is that Vancouver never once lost an opportunity to get federal or provincial money for social housing because it didn’t have any land available, as other municipalities have.

He shows the greatest glee when he talks about the great deals he got for the city. Among them: the recent purchase of a building on Boundary Road for $24 million that the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee will use (now assessed at $36 million); the new library building where he got the province to build two floors and turn them back over to the library in 20 years, as well as getting the federal government to pitch in with building an attached tower; $24 million for the old library building at Robson and Burrard, plus saving the heritage building by using a new strategy he came up with — imaginary floor space that owners of heritage buildings could get from the city and sell off.

Maitland, Beasley and McAfee are part of a flood of senior city staff who could end up leaving in the near future.

Maitland’s retirement, which will take effect June 9, hasn’t been officially announced yet, nor has his replacement.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

 

‘First-time buyers going farther afield’

Friday, March 31st, 2006

No slowdown in demand showing across region

Ashley Ford
Province

It is no surprise record-high house prices are forcing buyers further afield, but there is no lessening in first-time buying demand, says Peter Simpson, CEO of the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders Association.

“While I certainly agree with the numbers that show buyers flocking to places like Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and Squamish for more reasonably-priced housing, there is also clear evidence that first-time-buyer interest is as intense as ever,” he said yesterday.

There is an intense and growing level of both condominium and single-family housing activity going on in these areas with more affordable prices being the magnet, Simpson says.

“I see this trend continuing with buyers going farther afield to acquire an affordable home, but despite this I foresee little change in demand across the region in the immediate future.”

Simpson said the fact the association’s annual seminar for first-time buyers is already practically full “simply proves to us there is no slowdown in first-time-buyer demand.”

The seminar, April 4 in the Guildford Sheraton Hotel, attracts some of the top real-estate professionals, who dole out free advice to potential buyers. It has already attracted over 700 registrants and that response is a strong as it was a year ago, Simpson says.

Speakers include Cameron Muir, senior market analyst, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp.; Ken Cameron, chief executive officer, Homeowner Protection Office; Jason Neziol, regional director, Genworth Financial Canada.

Also participating are Bill Niblett, residential mortgages manager, TD Canada Trust; Gregory van Popta, associate, McQuarrie Hunter Barristers and Solicitors; Rick Valouche, president, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver; and Tom Reeves, director of home warranty operations, Lombard General Insurance Co. of Canada.

Another key indicator of market strength will come this weekend when a rare three-acre waterfront building site with 63 metres of Fraser River frontage in Fort Langley is auctioned off to the highest bidder.

It is one of the last undeveloped, premium building sites in Fort Langley.

The land, assessed at $582,000, is expected to sell in a matter of minutes. “Selling homes by auction is a growing real-estate trend. We expect the property to sell very quickly,” said Dan Bouchard, founding partner of Vancouver’s Able Auctions, who is handling the sale.

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Slingbox gadget redirects local cable TV through an internet connection – similar to Sony’s Location Free TV

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Gillian Shaw
Sun

A little device that lets you watch your home TV programs from anywhere in the world is being launched across Canada today.

In B.C., London Drugs announced Wednesday it will be among the first retailers in western Canada to sell the Slingbox, a $299 box that redirects a cable or satellite TV feed through an Internet connection so users can watch their favourite programs on a computer or even a cellphone, wherever they are.

And Future Shop is offering the Slingbox for sale on its online site today, with the device expected on store shelves across Canada starting early next week.

It was first available in the U.S. last summer.

The brainchild of brothers Blake and Jason Krikorian and Bhupen Shah, the Slingbox had its start when the brothers were upset at missing games of their home team, the San Francisco Giants, in 2002 when it was in the midst of its hunt for the World Series championship.

The Slingbox, a sleek little device only 27-centimetres long and nine-centimetres wide and weighing less than a kilogram, grew out of that frustration.

Brian Jaquet, spokesman for Sling Media, the California company behind the device, said the Slingbox will be available for ordering across Canada starting today with stock already on some store shelves and others to follow next week.

“Wherever you can get a network connection, you can get the same control of your home TV as if you were at home,” said Jaquet, who said that since Slingbox is a one-to-one stream and not a broadcast and uses the same cable or satellite connection consumers have paid for, only in a different location, it has not raised concerns among cable and satellite providers.

Along with live television, the Slingbox also lets viewers tune into shows they have recorded on their personal video recorders (PVRs).

Since the Slingbox first emerged, Cedric Tetzel, merchandise manager for computers at London Drugs, said his company has been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to sell it here.

“We’re quite excited about it,” he said. “It was a technology we were keeping track of, but it needed Canadian certification, and that took a while.

“Now we can get our hands on it, it is really exciting.”

Tetzel, who has been trying out the Slingbox at home, said on a recent business trip to Germany he was able to watch the Canucks playing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks from his hotel room. On the WiFi-equipped plane ride back, he could watch his home channels on his laptop just as if he were sitting in his living room.

At home, when his children monopolized the family’s two television sets, Tetzel said the Slingbox allowed him to watch a Canucks game on his laptop.

“It is really great for people who travel and for people who don’t have enough televisions at home,” he said.

The U.S.-based makers of the device, Sling Media Inc., also recently announced the release of SlingPlayer Mobile, a new software package that lets Slingbox owners watch and control their television from any network-enabled mobile phone or handheld computer powered by Windows Mobile.

Anywhere you have a broadband Internet connection — whether wireless or wired — you’ll be able to tune into your home TV shows on computer or wireless device that has the Slingbox software loaded in it.

While London Drugs is listing the Slingbox at $299, Tetzel said it will be offered with a $50 rebate in an upcoming advertisement, dropping the price to $249.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Restaurant listings For March 30, 2006

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Critic’s Picks

Sun

A list of restaurants recommended and anonymously visited by Sun restaurant critic Mia Stainsby. Prices are per couple for three courses, with a glass of wine each, before tip and taxes.

$ means $50 or less

$$ means $50 to $100

$$$ means more than $100

- – -

WEST COAST

Aurora Bistro The first fine dining room on Main St. Inventive food, hip spot. 2420 Main St., 604-873-9944. $$

Bishop’s Consistently one of the city’s best. Almost 100 per cent organic foods. 2183 West Fourth Ave., 604-738-2025. $$$

Bin 941 Tapas bar in tiny eclectic space. 941 Davie St., 604-683-1246. $$/$$$

Bin 942 Creative, delectable tapas dishes. 1521 West Broadway, 604-734-9421. $$/$$$

Cru Blurs the lines of fine dining, lounge and bistro. Lovely “small plates” or a four-course prix fixe. 1459 West Broadway, 604-677-4111. $$

Fiction Young crowd, great tapas dishes. 3162 West Broadway, 604-736-7576. $$

Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar Hip, happening destination. Creative chef. West Coast:

Lift Bar and Grill Gorgeously perched over Coal Harbour. Sibling to Monk McQueen’s. 333 Menchions Mews, 604-689-5438. $$$

Lucy Mae Brown Intimate space, assertive dishes. 862 Richards St., 604-899-9199. $$

Nu A sophisticated version of casual dining. Beautiful flavours, great atmosphere. 1661 Granville St., 604-646-4668. $$

Parkside Handsome room in residential West End, richly flavoured food. Great spot. 1906 Haro, 604-683-6912. $$/$$$

Raincity Grill A Vancouver moment by English Bay. Regional food. 1193 Denman St., 604-685-7337. $$$

West Vies for best restaurant in the city. 2881 Granville St., 604-738-8938. $$$

ITALIAN

Amarcord Food from the Bologna and Emilia Romagna area of Italy, elegantly presented. Clear, natural flavours. 1168 Hamilton St., 604-681-6500. $$

Cin Cin Restaurant and Bar A well-coiffed crowd. Entrees, pasta and pizzas. Nice summer patio. 1154 Robson St., 604-688-7338. $$/$$$

Don Francesco Ristorante Romantic, classic Italian restaurant with heart. 860 Burrard St., 604-685-7770. $$$

Il Giardino “New Italian” food, light with exotic elements. Big on game. 1382 Hornby St., 604-669-2422. $$$.

Quattro on Fourth An Italian restaurant with flair. 2611 West Fourth Ave., 604-734-4444. $$/$$$

CHINESE

Hon’s Wun-Tun House Slurp noodles and chomp on delicious potstickers. Huge menu. 1339 Robson St., 604-685-0871. $

Kirin Seafood Exquisite Cantonese food. City Square, 555 West 12th Ave., 604-879-8038. $$$

Sun Sui Wah Cantonese cuisine with light, finely tuned flavours. 3888 Main St., 604-872-8822. $$

Szechuan Chongqing An institution for those who love the incendiary fare. 2808 Commercial Dr., 604-254-7434. $$

Wild Rice Modern Chinese food in a sophisticated, hip setting. 117 West Pender St., 604-642-2882. $$

JAPANESE

Ajisai Sushi Bar Small neighbourhood spot with sushi that sings. 2081West42nd Ave., 604-266-1428. $

Chopstick Cafe/Shiru-Bay Great atmosphere, intriguing izakaya food, budget prices. 1193 Hamilton St., 604-408-9315. $$

En Japanese Restaurant Bucks the usual conformity of Japanese restaurants. Splendid food. 2686 Granville St., 604-730-0330. $$

Gyoza King Gyozas reign supreme. Open late. 1508 Robson St., 604-669-8278. $

Hapa Izakaya Young and stylish; great izakaya-style Japanese food. 1479 Robson St., 604-689-4272. $/$$

Tojo’s Restaurant The topper in this category. Japanese food at its best. 202 — 777 West Broadway, 604-872-8050. $$$

Toshi Sushi Tiny place always packed for the fresh, tasty sushi. 181 East 16th Ave., 604-847-5173. $/$$

Yuji’s Expect the unexpected. Food takes some creative turns. 2059 West Fourth Ave., 604-734-4990. $$

Zest Japanese Cuisine Grazing style modern Japanese menu in cool modern room. 2775 West 16th Ave., 604-731-9378. $$

FRENCH/BELGIAN

Bacchus Restaurant Some classics, some nouveau. Expect the best. Wedgewood Hotel, 845 Hornby St., 604-689-7777. $$$

Cafe de Paris Traditional French bistro. Lots of character. 751 Denman St., 604-687-1418. $$

Cassis Bistro Low budget but mod interior. Delicious traditional French bistro fare. Good value. 420 West Pender St., 604-605-0420. $$

Chambar Modern Belgian food. Hot hipster scene. Chef has cooked in a three-star Michelin restaurant. 562 Beatty St., 604-879-7119. $$

Elixir French brasserie in Yaletown; bistro food, haute quality. 322 Davie St., 604-642-0557. $$/$$$

Le Crocodile Refined French with incredible wines to boot. 909 Burrard St., 604-669-4298. $$$

The Hermitage Beautifully controlled classic French cooking. Quiet atmosphere. 1025 Robson St., 604-689-3237. $$$

Lumiere Chef Rob Feenie redefines restaurants in Vancouver. Tasting menus. 2551 West Broadway, 604-739-8185. $$$

Mistral Authentic Provencal food cooked by former Michelin chef. 2585 West Broadway, 604-733-0046. $$

Pastis French bistro with a lightness of being. 2153 West Fourth Ave., 604-731-5020. $$/$$$

Salade de Fruits Very good value French country bistro. 1551 West Seventh, 604-714-5987. $$

The William Tell A Swiss-French restaurant. Service excels. Georgian Court Hotel, 773 Beatty St., 604-688-3504. $$$

GREEK

Apollonia Well-prepared Greek food and very good pizzas. 1830 Fir St., 604-736-9559. $/$$

Kalamata Greek Taverna A popular souvlaki stop dressed in the familiar white and blue. 478 West Broadway, 604-872-7050. $$

The Main Friendly, funky spot. Wonderful roast lamb. 4210 Main St., 604-709-8555. $$

Maria’s Taverna Friendly service. 2324 West Fourth Ave., 604-731-4722. $$

Simpatico Thirty-plus years old; traditional Greek restaurant with the addition of good pizzas. 2222 West Fourth Ave., 604733-6824. $/$$

Stepho’s Nightly lineups because of low prices. 1124 Davie St., 604-683-2555. $

INDIAN

Akbar’s Own Mogul-style Indian cuisine. 1905 West Broadway, 604-736-8180. $$

Chutney Villa South Indian cuisine, with dosas, idli and vadas. 147 East Broadway, 604-872-2228. $/$$

Clove An alternative Indian restaurant, funky, cheap beyond belief. 2054 Commercial Dr., 604-255-5550. $

Clove Upscale sibling to Clove on Commercial. Modern Indian cuisine. 735 Denman St., 604-669-2421. $/$$

Maurya Fine Indian food in glam surroundings. 1643 West Broadway, 604-742-0622. $$$

Rangoli Vij’s casual and take-out next-door sidekick. Impressive. 1488 West 11th Ave., 604-736-5711. $

Samosa Garden Smooth sauces, lovely food, good service. 3502 Kingsway, 604-437-3502. $$

Tamarind A hip spin-off from the traditional Rubina Tandoori restaurant with modern elements. 1626 West Broadway, 604-733-5335. $$

Vij’s Dishes are a symphony of wondrous flavours. 1480 West 11th Ave., 604-736-6664. $$

Yogi’s Hip, contemporary Indian food, perfect for The Drive. 1408 Commercial Dr., 604-251-9644. $

SOUTHEAST ASIAN

Banana Leaf Homestyle Malaysian food. 820 West Broadway, 604-731-6333 and 1096 Denman St., 604-683-3333. $$

Chi Modern take on Malaysian and Thai cuisines. 1796 Nanaimo St., 604-215-0078. $$

Kedah House Halal Restaurant Malaysian food with a light, nimble touch. 5750 Fraser St., 604-325-9771. $

Monsoon An “East-West” brasserie with tropical Asian dishes, loads of atmosphere. 2526 Main St., 604-879-4001. $$

Montri Thai Restaurant Some of the best Thai food in the city. 3629 West Broadway, 604-738-9888. $$

Phnom Penh Largely Cambodian but includes Chinese and Vietnamese flavours. 244 East Georgia St., 682-5777. $

Pondok Authentic Indonesian dishes, freshly cooked. 2781 Commercial Dr., 604-872-8718. $$

Salathai Thai Dishes are freshly prepared and consistent. 3364 Cambie St., 604-875-6999. $$

Sawasdee Thai Gracious service keeps the regulars hooked. 4250 Main St., 604-876-4030. $$

Simply Thai On the A-list for Thai food. 1211 Hamilton St., 604-642-0123. $$

SEAFOOD

Bluewater Cafe and Raw Bar Handsome spot. Impressive seafood, impressive wine list. 1095 Hamilton St., 604-688-8078. $$$

C Chef Robert Clark takes seafood to a new level. 1600 Howe St., 604-681-1164. $$$

Cannery Seafood Fine dining in rustic nautical decor on working waterfront. 2205 Commissioner St., 604-254-9606 $$$

Coast Restaurant Yaletown chic, shares kinship with Glowbal Grill and Satay. Seafood emphasis. 1157 Hamilton St., 604-685-5010. $$$

Go Fish Fab fish and chips and much more, dished out of a catering truck, made with fish from the adjacent Fisherman’s Wharf. 1505 West First Ave., 604-730-5040. $

Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House Fresh shucked oysters, cedar plank salmon, grilled chops. High energy. 777 Thurlow St., 604-669-1940. $$$

Rodney’s Oyster House Specializes in very fresh shellfish and oysters. 1228 Hamilton St., 604-609-0080. $$

AMERICAN

Memphis Blues Barbecue House Slow-cooked, southern style BBQ. Delish. 1465 West Broadway, 604-738-6806; 1342 Commercial Dr., 604-215-2599. $

VEGETARIAN

Bo Kong Buddhist-based menu using very fresh ingredients. Mild flavours. 3068 Main St., 604-876-3088. $

Habibi’s Lebanese food. Not the same old, same old. 1128 West Broadway, 604-732-7487. $

The Naam Wide variety of vegetarian fare. Quiet patio in summer. 2724 West Fourth Ave., 604-738-7151. $

Om Vegetarian Flavourful, fresh Buddhist-based vegetarian food. 3466 Cambie St., 604-873-6878. $

LATIN AMERICA

Banano’s No-frills Venezuelan/Colombian cafe. Delicious arepas. 1223 Pacific Boulevard, 604-408-4228. $

Baru Casually chic South American food for discerning diners. 2535 Alma St., 604-222-9171. $$

Havana Cuban food, tweaked for Commercial Drive. 1212 Commercial Dr., 604-253-9119. $

Latin Quarter Mexican and Mediterranean tapas dishes as well as music in the evenings. 1305 Commercial Dr., 604-251-1144. $$

Lolita’s South of the Border Cantina Casual Mexican food with sparkle. Lots of buzz in the room. 1326 Davie St., 604-696-9996. $$

Mexico Sabroso A slice of Mexico. Very inexpensive, authentic Mexican cafe. 440 West Hastings St., 604-688-7426. $

Mouse and Bean Fresh, homey Mexican food, in a funky space. 207 West Hastings, 604-633-1781. $

Rinconcito Salvadorean Restaurant Fresh Salvadorean cuisine. Lovely pupusas. 2062 Commercial Dr., 604-879-2600. $

Tio Pepe’s Yucatan food, nicely prepared. 1134 Commercial Dr., 604-254-8999. $

MEDITERRANEAN

Circolo Italian, French, and a little bit of New York. Awesome wine list. 1116 Mainland, 604-687-1116. $$$

Provence Mediterranean Grill The menu is a marriage of French and Italian. Lovely flavours. 4473 West 10th Ave., 604-222-1980 and 1177 Marinaside Cres., 604-681-4144. $$

EASTERN EUROPEAN, CENTRAL ASIAN

Accent Eastern European, French, Russian accents on a continental theme. 1967 West Broadway, 604-734-6660. $$

The Budapest Big doses of Hungarian comfort. Smouldering goulash soup. 3250 Main St. 604-877-1949. $

Rasputin Large selection of vodkas, wonderful live music and dishes such as grilled Georgian cornish game hen. 457 West Broadway, 604-879-6675.$$

NORTH SHORE

Beach House at Dundarave Pier Spectacular setting for brunch by Dundarave Beach. West Coast cuisine. 150 25th St., West Van, 604-922-1414. $$$

Brown’s Restaurant and Bar Casually chic and bustling bistro with burgers, rice bowls, entrees. 1764 Lonsdale Ave., North Van, 604-929-5401. $/$$

Dundarave Fish Market Charming spot; fabulous seafood from the adjoining fish market. 2419 Marine Dr., West Vancouver, 604-922-1155. $

Gusto Di Quattro Cosy, warm. Italian food. 1 Lonsdale Ave., North Van, 604-924-4444 . $$/$$$

La Regalade A truly, deeply French bistro. Wonderful atmosphere. 2232 Marine Dr., West Van, 604-921-2228. $$/$$$

Mythos Whitewashed walls, azure blue trim say “sun-drenched Greece.” 1811 Lonsdale Ave., North Van, 604-984-7411. $$

Nobu Tiny, with just enough room to make the lovely sushi. 3197 Edgemont Blvd.,North Van., 604-988-4553. $

Palki An Indian restaurant with a good grip on the spices. Fresh ingredients. 116 East 15th St., North Van, 604-986-7555. $$

Saltaire Gorgeous roof patio. Good value West Coast food. 2nd floor – 235 15th St., West Van, 604-913-8439. $$

Zen Japanese Restaurant Creative kitchen, quality ingredients. Good sake list. 2232 Marine Dr., West Van, 604-925-0667. $$/$$$

BURNABY/NEW WEST

Anton’s Gargantuan portions of pasta. No reservations. 4260 Hastings St., Burnaby, 604-299-6636. $$

Boat House Conservative seafood menu. Restaurant overlooks Fraser River. 900 Quayside, New Westminster, 604-525-3474. $$

Bombay Bhel Lovely Indian food. Menu features Mumbai-style snacks. 4266 Hastings St., 604-299-2500. $/$$

The Hart House In Tudor mansion. Exacting West Coast fare. 6664 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby, 604-298-4278. $$$

Orange Room Casual tapas. International flavours. 620 Sixth Ave., New Westminster, 604-520-6464. $$

Pear Tree Small menu, sublime continental food. 4120 Hastings St., Burnaby, 604-299-2772. $$$

Stefanos Restaurant Live music and dancing, Friday and Saturday nights. Mediterranean food with Greek dishes. 315 Columbia St., New Westminster, 604-520-9911. $$

Taverna Greka Greek cuisine. View of Fraser River. 326 Columbia, New Westminster, 604-526-6651. $$

COQUITLAM, POCO, PORT MOODY

Joey Tomato’s Mediterranean Grill Casual family retaurant. 550 Lougheed Hwy., Coquitlam, 604-939-3077

Kirin Seafood Restaurant Chinese food for the discriminating palate. 2nd floor, Henderson Place, 1163 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam, 604-944-8833. $$/$$$

Pasta Polo Organic wheat pastas, pizzas. Family restaurant. 2754 Barnet Highway, Coquitlam, 604-464-7656. $/$$

RICHMOND

Also Lounge and Restaurant A blend of Italian/French with Asian accents and high-end presentation. 4200 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, 604-303-9906. $$

The Flying Beaver Bar Funky bar overlooking the Fraser River. 4760 Inglis Dr., Richmond, 604-273-0278. $/$$

Globe at YVR Impressive food, sleek contemporary decor with view of U.S. arrivals terminal. Fairmont Hotel, Vancouver Airport, Richmond, 604-248-3281. $$$

Hon’s Wun-Tun House Noodles and delicious pot stickers, panfried or steamed. 4600 No. 3 Road, Richmond, 604-273-0871. $

Quilon Restaurant Southern Indian cuisine with notably delicious dosas. 6030 No. 3 Road, Richmond, 604-303-0011. $$

The Rainbow Vegetarian Restaurant Deliciously prepared vegan and vegetarian Buddhist Chinese food. 8095 Park Road, Richmond, 604-273-7311. $

Shanghai River Shanghai style cuisine. Dumplings and noodles made in open kitchen. 7831 Westminster Highway, 604-233-8885. $$

Shiang Garden Part of a successful Taiwanese restaurant chain. Impressive seafood. 2200 — 4540 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, 604-273-8858. $$

Sun Sui Wah Impressive way with seafood. 4940 No. 3 Rd., Richmond, 604-273-8208. $$

Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine Multi-coursed tasting menus and personalized dinners. Excellent. 2015 — 8580 Alexandra Rd., Richmond, 604-233-0077. $$$

SURREY, WHITE ROCK, DELTA, TSAWWASSEN

Big Ridge Brewing Co. A Mark James restaurant and brew-pub. Families welcome. 15133 Hwy. 10, Surrey, 604-574-2739. $$

Crescent Beach Bistro Rustic country spot. Straight ahead food. 12251 Beecher St., 604-531-1882. $$

Giraffe Charming place, eclectic West Coast menu. 15053 Marine Dr., White Rock, 604-538-6878. $$/$$$

La Belle Auberge In a heritage house in Ladner. Sublime French food. 4856 48th Ave., Ladner, 604-946-7717. $$$

Pearl on the Rock Modern Pacific Northwest cuisine with emphasis on seafood. Delicious fare. 14955 Marine Dr., White rock. 604-542-1064. $$$

Southside Grill West Coast cuisine, tasteful ambience. 1201 — 56th St., Tsawwassen, 604-948-2662. $$/$$$

Uli’s Restaurant Continental cuisine on busy restaurant strip. Water view. 15021 Marine Dr., White Rock, 604-538-9373. $$

FRASER VALLEY

Bacchus Bistro At Domain de Chaberton Estate Winery. Limited hours. Mediterranean food. 1064 — 216th St., Langley. 604-530-9694. $$

Bravo Bistro Swish little bistro, run by former Delilah’s restaurant veterans. 46224 Yale Rd., Chilliwack. 1-604-792-7721. $$

Paliotti’s Ristorante Italiano Cosy, old-fashioned Italian restaurant. Kids’ menu too. 12018 Edge St. (at Dewdney Trunk Rd.), Maple Ridge, 604-463-8926. $$

SQUAMISH AND WHISTLER

Araxi Restaurant & Bar Handsome Tuscan looks, regional cuisine. Outstanding wine list. 4222 Village Square, Whistler, 604-932-4540. $$/$$$

Brew House Rustic with cedar and timbers. Casual food for the family and house brews. 4355 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, 604-905-2739. $$

Ciao Thyme Small and crowded but a budget-minded jewel. Great breakfasts. 4573 Chateau Boulevard, Whistler, 604-932-7051. $

Caramba! Mostly Italian but Spanish, Asian and regional flavours sneak in. 4314 Main St., Whistler, 604-938-1879. $/$$

Fifty Two 80 Bistro Every dish a ‘wow’. Gorgeous room. Four Seasons Hotel, 4591 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, 604-935-3400. $$$

Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Co. The brew pub serves casual fare. The Red Heather dining room offers a finer menu. 37801 Cleveland Ave., Squamish, 604-892-2603. $/$$$

Il Caminetto di Umberto Umberto Menghi’s high-end Whistler restaurant. Features include game. 4242 Village Stroll, Whistler, 604-932-4442. $$/$$$

The Roadhouse Diner at Klahanie Pasta, light meals, entrees with West Coast flavours. Shannon Falls, Highway 99, 604-892-5312. $$

La Rua Refined tastes of the Mediterranean with B.C. backups. Romantic. Le Chamois Hotel, 4557 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, 604-932-5011. $$/$$$

Quattro at Whistler Contemporary Italian cuisine. 4319 Main St., Whistler, 604-905-4844. $$/$$$

Rim Rock Cafe Chalet style restaurant consistently offers exquisite food. 2117 Whistler Rd., Whistler, 604-932-5565. $$$

Trattoria di Umberto Tucked away from the throngs but always packed.Lovely affordable Italian food. 4417 Sundial Place, 604-932-5858. $$/$$$

Val d’Isere Fine French, but casual atmosphere. Bear Lodge, 4314 Main St., Town Plaza, 604-932-4666. $$$

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

 

B.C. homes Canada’s least affordable

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Michael Kane
Sun

Soaring prices in the fourth quarter of 2005 pushed the cost of a standard two-storey home in B.C. to $435,000 or an affordability of 62.8 per cent of average household pre-tax income, making the province the most expensive in which to own a home, RBC Economics said Wednesday.

For other housing types, the RBC Affordability Index stood at 29.9 per cent for a standard condo, which remains the most affordable housing type. A standard townhouse is next at 43.2 per cent, followed by a detached bungalow at 54.9 per cent.

In Vancouver, rapid price gains, slower household income growth, higher mortgage rates and increased utility costs all contributed to eroding affordability across all housing types, RBC said.

Housing affordability for a two-storey Vancouver home was pegged at 64 per cent of household income, detached bungalows slipped to 57.5 per cent, while condos hit 29.4 per cent and townhouses reached 43.6 per cent.

The decline in affordability spanned all provinces and all major cities, with the largest deteriorations in B.C. followed by Manitoba and Alberta.

RBC anticipates that affordability will continue to erode as the economy continues to boom and strong in-migration persists. Land shortages coupled with labour and capacity restraints will intensify demand for homes and are expected to continue to drive price appreciation.

The higher home prices combined with rising mortgage rates are expected to slow British Columbia’s booming real estate market by the end of this year.

By 2007, the erosion of affordability will reduce demand and the market will trend to more balanced conditions, said Cameron Muir, senior market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in Vancouver.

“We are not expecting any kind of crash but we are expecting prices to level off rather than grow at double digit rates.”

Price growth across B.C. is expected slow to about 10 per cent this year, compared to 15 per cent in 2005, said Helmut Pastrick, chief economist of the Credit Union Central of B.C.

However, Pastrick sees the market holding up in 2007 and prices continuing to rise about seven per cent.

“Affordability will continue to worsen over the next year or two,” he said.

“If you look back at previous housing market upturns, we have always gone through this kind of situation where prices have risen substantially and we wonder how long it can go on. It seems to go on until something quite negative happens in the external environment and, in my view, the external environment isn’t going to be negative for the next couple of years, if not longer.”

CMHC’s Muir said affordability measures are climbing to levels not seen since previous market peaks.

“When we combine the price increases we have seen over the past few years with the expected increase this year and gradually rising mortgage rates, it is going to begin to impact demand in the marketplace by the end of this year,” Muir said.

While the markets in British Columbia and Alberta continue to power forward, RBC expects the pace of demand for new and existing homes in the rest of the country to slow moderately over the next two years because of the decline in affordability.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Vancouver homes least affordable, another study finds

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Housing’s share of pretax income highest in decade

Ian Austin and John Colebourn
Province

Vancouverites spend more on housing than anyone else in Canada.

A new RBC Economics study found that the city’s residents spend an average of 57.5 per cent of their pretax household income to purchase a detached bungalow.

That number — the highest in a decade — far outweighs other cities across Canada.

In Toronto, the second-most expensive city, residents spend 42.7 per cent of their gross income on detached housing, followed by 35.6 per cent in Calgary, 34.1 per cent in Montreal and 33.1 per cent in Ottawa.

In her 18 years of selling real estate, Vancouver realtor Brenda Boyle has seen the market through good and bad times.

Right now, she wonders where the red-hot market is going in Vancouver and who really will be able to afford a home, as prices continue to be unrealistic for many average wage-earners and first-time buyers.

“Homes have gone up drastically in the last two years, and it’s driving everybody out of the city,” said Boyle, who works for Coldwell Banker Premier in Vancouver’s West End.

“The prices people are getting continue to astound me,” she said. “Is it going to end?”

Those who can afford a down payment, she noted, often have the help of family.

“I think it is the baby boomer generation encouraging their kids to get into the real-estate market,” she said.

Paul Fenney, a mortgage broker with Home Loans Canada, calls the market “crazy right now.”

Fenney said high real-estate prices have some of his clients “unable to buy where they want to live.”

“The complaint I hear from people is they can’t purchase the home they want,” he said. “It’s outside their qualifying budget.”

And if people are just scraping by now with big mortgages, Fenney warned that there could be a big reality check in the coming years as they go to renew and rates are higher, as economists predict.

“Five years down the road when their mortgages come up for renewal and the rates are significantly higher and their incomes have gone up only modestly, people are going to be very stressed,” said Fenney.

At the Urban Futures Institute, executive director David Baxter said people who buy in the Lower Mainland are getting much more than just a home.

“In buying a home in the Vancouver area, part of what you’re buying into is much better job and income prospects,” he said. “The lifestyle and quality of life are in that [home] value.”

The B.C. picture is no more encouraging, said RBC.

“The two-storey home took up 62.8 per cent of a typical household’s pre-tax income in the final quarter of 2005, costing a whopping $435,000,” RBC reported.

“The closest runner-up was Ontario, where two-storey homes cost $325,000.”

RBC sees no break in B.C. prices: “The significant deterioration in affordability is expected to continue as the economy continues to boom and strong migration to the province persists. Land shortages coupled with labour and capacity constraints will intensify demand for homes and [are] expected to continue to drive rapid price appreciation across the province.”

PDAs open new world for people on the go

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Marc Saltzman
Sun

As a communications consultant and executive coach, Simon Atkins is in demand — and on the move.

So, the president of Socratic Communications, who serves clients in the Toronto area, relies on a pocket-sized e-mail device so he can stay in touch while out of the office.

“In the business I’m in, it’s critical that I’m accessible, especially to journalists who may be on deadline” explains Atkins. “It’s my conduit for doing business, and staying connected and productive.”

Atkins relies on the Palm Treo 650 hand-held “as it seamlessly integrates with my Apple computer [and it] can also play music and video files.”

“And I’m a recent convert to the game Sudoku” Atkins says with a smile.

Products such as Atkins’s beloved Treo and the wildly popular BlackBerry devices from Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion, have become indispensable business tools capable of “push e-mail.” That is, instead of logging onto the Internet to “pull” e-mail down to the handset, “push e-mail” devices let users know when a new e-mail has arrived in real-time via a chime or vibration. You can then read the note and decide to type a response on the fly.

Whether it’s for business or pleasure or a bit of both, the following are a few of the popular “push e-mail” solutions available today:

- BlackBerry 7130e ($99 for a three-year service plan with Bell Mobility or Telus Mobility; www.rim.com)

Unlike the wider BlackBerry handsets on the market, the candy bar-sized 7130e is a popular pick among mobile executives for its slim form. The trade-off, however, is the alphanumeric buttons instead of the QWERTY keyboard, but Research in Motion’s proprietary SureType technology is super smart as it completes your words for you. This CDMA-based handset also runs on the EVDO network for fast download speeds. It’s also a phone and speakerphone, and supports Bluetooth peripherals.

- Palm Treo 650 ($299 to $349 for a three-year plan with Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless or Telus Mobility; www.palm.com)

Consider it the digital Swiss Army Knife of mobile gadgets. This popular handset with backlight thumb keyboard offers push e-mail, web surfing, games, text-messaging and cellphone functionality. It also includes a digital camera, MP3 player and support for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook files. It’s also fully customizable: It’s a Palm O/S-based PDA (personal digital assistant), so users can tweak the look and functionality of the device with thousands of free downloads.

- UTStarcom PPC 6700 ($399 for a three-year contract with Telus Mobility; www.utstar.com)

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the UTStarcom PPC6700 is one souped-up gadget with a lot under the hood. For one, it’s the first Pocket PC-based handset in Canada with the brand new Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. It also operates on Telus Mobility’s high-speed wireless CDMA 1xEVDO network for fast downloads (400 to 700 kilobits a second), although this feature is only available in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal. Bundled apps, such as Microsoft Office PowerPoint Mobile, Excel Mobile, Word Mobile and Internet Explorer Mobile make this pocket-sized device with slide-out keyboard feel more like a full PC than a smartphone. Bell Mobility customers may want to consider the Audiovox PPC 6600 ($599 with a three-year contract; www.audiovox.com).

© The Vancouver Sun 2006