Archive for May, 2006

Wired Realtors – how realtors taking advantage of technology

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

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Wired Realtors – how realtors taking advantage of technology

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Other

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Sussession Strategies – planning your estate

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Sun

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Sussession Strategies – planning your estate

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Other

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Gateway to recreation – BC’s $3Billion Gateway Project helping boost rec values

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

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Virgin Mobile USA trades free air time for eyeballs

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Virgin Mobile in Canada says its looking at starting the same service this fall

Gillian Shaw
Sun

Cellphone users in the United States can earn free airtime by looking at online ads or responding to text-based advertising, and Virgin Mobile Canada says it plans to launch a similar service in Canada starting this fall.

Trading talk time for eyeballs, Virgin Mobile USA announced Tuesday that under its new program SugarMama customers can opt to watch streaming video ads or SMS messages in exchange for topping up their air time.

And in case the ad watchers think they can cheat to run up their free minutes, they must answer questions to prove they were paying attention.

Correct answers can earn minutes of free airtime, up to 75 minutes a month in the program which starts June 14.

“This is truly a win-win situation for everyone involved,” said Dan Schulman, chief executive officer at Virgin Mobile USA, said in a release announcing SugarMama. “Through this multi-faceted service, Virgin Mobile customers will earn free minutes as well as exclusive access to unique content and offers.

“Our partner brands will be able to enrich the lives of Virgin Mobile users while customizing how they engage with our base — all while adding a smart and targeted mobile channel to their media mix.”

The program, billed as a first for North America, is being watched with interest by Virgin Mobile Canada, a 50/50 venture of Bell Mobility and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and separate from the U.S. company.

“We are really interested to see how they do with the program, and we are currently testing the idea with our existing customers,” said Paula Lash, spokesperson for Virgin Mobile Canada. “You could definitely see us launching this kind of program sometime in the fall. That’s the current goal.”

Lash said while the company is only testing the concept now, the next phase would probably involve a test of the service as a lead-up to rolling out a full program.

“It is incredibly innovative and pretty new,” she said. “Everyone is interested in how people are marketing on mobile phones, so this is an interesting program.

Virgin Mobile USA has partnered with Microsoft’s Xbox, Pepsi-Cola North America, will initially feature Diet Mountain Dew, as well as The American Legacy Foundation’s national youth smoking prevention campaign.

“We’re always seeking opportunities to learn from our customers how we can deliver the best gaming experiences possible on Xbox360,” said director of Xbox marketing Chris Di Cesare said in the release. “Virgin Mobile’s SugarMama program provides us with a new way to drive consumer awareness yet gain valuable insight from our customers that helps us continually deliver new breakthroughs in gaming entertainment.”

Virgin Mobile USA customers must be 13 years of age or older to use the program.

SUGARMAMA’S SWEET DEAL

Virgin Mobile USA’s new program SugarMama allows U.S. customers to trade time spent watching ads for air time. The formula is thus (although the same will not likely apply

to future Canadian customers):

30 seconds of ad-watching time earns 1 minute of air time.

75 minutes: Maximum of free air time that can be earned each month.

Five minutes spent answering an online survey equals five minutes of free talk time.

One text message sent gets one minute of talk time, with a maximum of two minutes gained per week in the initial months of the program.

3.5 cents to 10 cents: Typical cost of a minute of air time, down from more than 25 cents a decade ago, according to Charter Equity Research.*

*all prices U.S.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

 

Vancouver realtor charged with theft, fraud

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Criminal allegations await man last contacted in Mexico

Derrick Penner
Sun

The Vancouver realtor sanctioned by real estate regulators for misappropriating the $45,000-deposit of a client last year now faces criminal charges of theft and fraud.

Ken Fraser, executive-director of investigations for the B.C. Financial Institutions Commission, said Tuesday the commission laid charges of theft, fraud and forgery against Smrat (Sam) Sharma in relation to the case.

If convicted, the maximum penalty under the theft and forgery charges is 10 years in jail. The maximum penalty for fraud is 14 years in prison.

Fraser added that a warrant has been issued for Sharma’s arrest. The authorities believe he is out of the country.

Sharma contacted The Vancouver Sun last week and said he was in Mexico. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“The warrant will remain outstanding until such time as [Sharma] returns to Canada,” Fraser added.

Last week, the Real Estate Council of B.C. cancelled Sharma’s real estate licence for a minimum of five years and slapped him with $15,000 in fines and enforcement costs, the stiffest penalty it has handed out since being granted stronger enforcement powers in 2005.

The Real Estate Council sanctioned Sharma for a long list of infractions between 2003 and 2005. The most serious was misappropriating the $45,000 deposit of a client by directing him to pay it directly to a company that Sharma owned, and not to his brokerage’s trust account, in a sale last March.

In its enforcement order, the Real Estate Council said Sharma also signed an addition to the contract in the seller’s name without the seller’s knowledge.

The client was left scrambling to raise money to cover the deposit at the last minute when he learned the deposit hadn’t been paid.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

 

Vancouver flirting with ‘bubble-like’ house prices

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Conditions not in place yet to ‘pop the bubble,’ economist says

Derrick Penner
Sun

Canada’s made-in-the-West housing boom is heating up, “potentially dangerously so,” just as the United States’ boom is tailing off, a senior BMO Nesbitt Burns economist warned Tuesday.

Douglas Porter, the investment bank’s deputy chief economist said in a note that price increases in Canadian markets have surged ahead of the U.S. in recent months, led by Western markets.

U.S. housing sales peaked last year, Porter wrote, but in Canada, “there are signs that the Canadian housing market is actually heating up.”

“I think there are certain areas that are showing bubble-like conditions, and I think Vancouver is flirting with that territory,” he added.

A bubble can stay a bubble a long time, Porter said, but “I don’t believe the conditions are in place yet to pop the bubble.”

Employment growth has been stronger than in the U.S., consumer confidence remains high, and interest rates remain “very low,” Porter said.

Vancouver, and B.C., he added “have a lot going for [them] economically.”

Porter added that a sound economy “doesn’t justify even higher real estate prices.”

Porter’s concern is that “the bubble might inflate even more” over the next 18 months “because there’s nothing standing in the way of it getting even bigger.”

Almost every major city in Western Canada has posted double-digit percentage increases in home prices so far this year, “led by a jaw-dropping 28.9-per-cent spike in Calgary,” Porter said.

Vancouver is not far behind, posting an average price increase of 21.7 per cent and average house prices pushing above $500,000.

Vancouver is the least affordable housing market in the country.

The danger he sees is that “if prices get a bit divorced from reality,” coupled with an economic slowdown, “[the boom] could end suddenly.

“And when prices go in reverse, that can have a very nasty consequence for the economy.”

Porter said residential construction’s share of the total economy is approaching the level it reached at peaks of the past two major market cycles in the early 1970s and the late 1980s.

“While the first episode was largely justified by underlying labour force trends, the latter was not, and it ended in tears,” he concluded.

“The longer the current boom lasts and the higher it climbs, the greater the risks of an ugly end to this housing cycle.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Jameson House designed to exceed LEED standards

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Janet Collins
Other

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RealPageMaker.com – online satellite Real Estate Mapping company

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Brothers from Edmonton hope service will be in central Canada by year-end

Ron Chalmers
Province

EDMONTON — Twin brothers from Edmonton hope their software that links real-estate listings with satellite images to create online maps of homes for sale — along with arterial roads, schools, parks and shopping centres — will be available in central Canadian cities by year-end.

Known as RealPageMaker, Andy and Sam Prochazka’s software already gives realtors and clients in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver up-to-the-minute access to listings also provided through mls.ca. The image bank includes properties throughout the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast areas

Since their start in 2002, the Prochazkas added three in-house software developers, three sales agents — and online listings in the Calgary and Vancouver markets.

The newest enhancement starts with the Google Earth databank of high-resolution images of most of the Earth’s surface. A user can zoom in from a perspective high above the planet to a close-up view of any continent, country, province, city or neighbourhood.

You can see your own home, and even count the cars on the street.

Most homebuyers already use the Internet as part of their search, Andy Prochazka says.

With RPM, linked to Google Earth, a realtor or homebuyer client can view any preferred neighbourhood, with superimposed icons that locate every listed property.

“Buyers start by deciding the amount they can afford,” Sam says. “Then, they look by area.”

RPM can show all the listed homes for sale in any area — or can sort by price range, size or style.

By viewing an image close-in, then backing away to see more of the surroundings, a client gets a good sense of the neighbourhood, Sam says. “Property searchers will never need to ask, ‘Does this house have southern exposure?’ ‘Does the property have good tree coverage?’ or ‘Is this house near a busy commercial area?’” he says.

“Now, they can see for themselves without leaving their computer.”

An RPM image also reveals the view from the property.

And it can help a busy shopper to plan an efficient route for a tour of several homes.

By clicking on any icon, the user can see listing details and interior photos of the particular property.

The Prochazkas sell access to RPM for $49.99 per month to realtors who use it themselves and enable free access by their clients.

“We sell to realtors but our product is only competitive if buyers want to use it,” Andy says.

Because RPM is Internet-based, “we can change the system and upgrade everybody’s software at the same time,” he says.

RPM, with the Google Earth link, retains the original feature of giving clients access to listing information almost immediately after a property is listed.

© The Vancouver Province 2006