Archive for June, 2011

First-time buyers becoming landlords

Thursday, June 30th, 2011


After years of paying rent, first time homebuyers in B.C. say it’s time they started collecting it. According to the 2011 TD Canada Trust First Time Homebuyers Report, 56 per cent of first-time homebuyers in B.C. are looking for a home with a rental unit. Eighty-five percent think the unit will generate between $500 – $1,000 per month and seven-in-ten say the extra income will go towards paying their mortgage. “Taking in a tenant can be an effective way to supplement your income and pay off your mortgage faster,” says Barry Rathburn, manager, residential mortgages, TD Canada Trust. The survey also found B.C. buyers to be saving up the longest for their first home and putting down the largest down payment. Nearly six-in-ten say that they have been saving for their first home for three years or more (57 per cent versus 47 per cent nationally) and they are twice as likely to be putting down a down payment of more than 25 per cent compared to buyers in other provinces. Not surprisingly, buyers in B.C. are most likely to need a mortgage to finance their purchase (93 per cent versus 87 per cent.) In B.C., 47 per cent of first-time buyers plan to purchase their first home on their own (rather than with a co-purchaser). Nationally, nearly six-in-ten men will buy on their own, along with 33 per cent of women. “Buying a home is a very big purchase and it’s great that so many British Columbians feel financially equipped to take on the expense independently,” said Rathburn. He recommends that people take on a mortgage that allows room in the budget to set some money aside for the future, because should the buyer’s financial situation change, he or she is the only person legally responsible for the mortgage. B.C. first time homebuyers are most likely to say they would not compromise on: – Price (53 per cent); – Number of bedrooms (44 per cent); or – Number of bathrooms (35 per cent). They are most willing to make concessions about: the proximity to recreational activities, features of the home and the home’s layout, the survey found. British Columbian first buyers were most likely to research mortgage options, calculate closing costs, and estimate the cost of heating and water this year than in 2010. The survey was done from April 29 to May 16, 2011 results were collected by Environics Research Group. Data was collected from 1,000 Canadians, including 131 from B.C. who had either bought their first home in the past 24 months or intend to buy their first home in the next 24 months. Copyright Real Estate Weekly

Faulty sub standard pipes cause headaches for homeowners leading to a class action lawsuit

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Karen Brady

A family rocked by a $13,000 plumbing bill is warning people to beware of potentially faulty plumbing lurking behind the walls of homes built or renovated in the last two decades.

Frank and Annette Cappellino built their dream home in LaSalle, near Windsor, Ont., about 10 years ago. Last fall, the Cappellinos came home to a flood in their basement.

“Water was just spewing out like a waterfall,” said Frank Cappellino. “A pipe had totally burst.”

Cappellino said after a home inspection by a plumbing distributor and a representative of the Canadian manufacturer IPEX, the rep told him the cause of the leak was defective pipes branded under the name Kitec — pipes that were running throughout the house.

“He said he had to take a part of it back to his company to get it tested but indicated that if it was his pipe, basically he would have it replaced,” Cappellino said.  

The Cappellinos contacted the company to find out the testing results, but said they were told they couldn’t have a copy of the report because a class action lawsuit was underway. IPEX provided the Cappellinos with the name of the Windsor law firm leading the suit. Cappellino said they joined the legal fight shortly thereafter.

On Tuesday, lawyers for IPEX Inc. and IPEX USA LLC announced they had reached an agreement in the lawsuit, and that a $125-million US settlement fund has been proposed.

Product used extensively

Another family, whose home was built the same year as the Cappellinos, also ended up replacing all the pipes in their home at their own expense, after finding issues with their Kitec pipes, manufactured by IPEX.

Plumbers in the region have been getting more and more calls about the Kitec brand of pipe, also known as PEX.

According to Kyle Fowler, co-owner of Fowler Plumbing in Windsor, if you built or remodelled your home in the last decade or so, it’s likely Kitec pipes were used. He said he gets at least one call a week that turns out to be Kitec-related, and he said the plumbing system was used in most of the newer subdivisions.

“I even have some in my house,” Fowler said. “Because we didn’t know. We thought it was good.”

Cappellino shows the Kitec hot water pipe that burst last fall. (Karen Brady/CBC)

The Kitec plumbing system consists of blue and orange flexible piping and brass fittings, used to carry cold and hot water through a home. Kitec products were also used in radiant heating systems.

The pipes were made from polyethylene and a thin inner layer of aluminum, and plumbers considered them to be an excellent product because they were cheaper than copper and their flexible nature made the product easy to install.

The class action lawsuits in Canada and the U.S. allege that the product was negligently manufactured, which caused the pipes to disintegrate prematurely.

The pipes were sold from 1995 to 2007, and potential claims have been filed by residents of Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, according to Dave Robins, the lawyer representing Canadians in the class action lawsuit.

Kitec was sold under various brand names, including PlumbBetter, IPEX, AQUA, WARMRITE, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls and Plomberie Amelioree.

Fittings recalled in 1990s

In 1995, IPEX recalled brass compression fittings from Canadian and U.S. distributors. The Canadian statement of claim alleged the fittings were faulty causing pipes to disintegrate. Plumbers say the brass reacted with the chemical composition of the pipe, causing it to corrode, or “dezincify,” and fail.

Tim Tiegs, a faculty co-ordinator for the skilled trades programs at St. Clair College in Windsor, said the only way for homeowners to make sure the allegedly faulty pipes don’t turn into costly water damage claims is to have them replaced.

“Most of what I’ve read and heard is the fact that if you have it, you need to replace it … that it’s gone from whether or not it will fail, to when it will fail,” said Tiegs.

Fowler said replacing pipes usually means cutting open walls — a costly repair.

“It’s the only way to absolutely guarantee that you’re not going to have any trouble, because you can fix leaks but that’s just the start. It will go through the whole house eventually,” he said.

Tiegs said at the very least, homeowners with Kitec plumbing systems should have a trusted plumber check out the condition of the pipes and fittings.

Property owners and those looking to buy a home should also be aware of the possibility of problems insuring homes if the plumbing is found to be faulty, he said.

Settlement agreement reached 

Nicholas Rosati of Windsor and Anthony Bellissimo of Toronto initiated the Canadian class action lawsuit, which was certified in February. There are two suits in Canada — one for Quebec and one covering the rest of the country. A multi-district class action suit was initiated against IPEX in the U.S. as well.

A settlement agreement was reached Tuesday.

A statement issued jointly by the lawyers of the Canadian and American plaintiffs said:

“IPEX denies these allegations and asserts that the Kitec system is not defective and that the vast majority of the systems will last throughout the warranty period [30 years]. The parties have agreed to the settlement to avoid the expense, inconvenience and distraction of further protracted litigation and to fully resolve this matter.”

IPEX Inc., which has offices in Toronto and Verdun, Que., refused to comment on the allegations about the company’s products or the lawsuit when contacted by CBC News.

Canadian lawyer Robins said the settlement fund will be open to claims for eight years “because the prospect of the product failing could materialize over some time.”

The settlement agreement still has to be approved in court, he said. None of the allegations against IPEX have been proven in court.

Advertisements ran in newspapers across Canada on Wednesday notifying the public about the settlement, and providing information on how people could determine if they qualify to submit a claim.

Copyright © CBC 2015

City drops $112,000 on Olympic Village promos

Monday, June 27th, 2011

About 139 units available, 189 yet to hit market

Cheryl Rossi
Van. Courier

As of May 17, just over half of the 737 strata units developed in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics had sold. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

The city is spending $112,000 to showcase the former Olympic Village this summer. Ernst and Young Inc., the receiver for the development, has dedicated more than $100,000 from the proceeds of condo sales, market rentals and commercial leases at The Village on False Creek to event programming, with the hope that a vibrant atmosphere will translate into condo sales. “By promoting the village this summer and introducing more people to this incredible neighbourhood, we’re also supporting the real estate marketing campaign,” said Craig Munro, senior vice-president with Ernst and Young. “That means selling more condominiums and getting more money back into the hands of the lender and the taxpayers of Vancouver.” Munro said business improvement associations typically organize such special events. But only a liquor store and bank operate in the ghost town-like development. The receiver is working with community organizations, non-profits and the Creekside Community Centre to draw visitors. Munro said festivities are being programmed over four months with 23 individual affairs and 26 days of events, as highlighted on Just over half of the 737 strata units developed in time for the 2010 Winter Games had sold as of May 17, and 22 of the strata units were rented. Munro said the firm estimated that about 60 per cent of the strata and rental units were occupied as of May 17. All of the 119 purpose-built rental units have tenants. (These figures don’t include the 252 units built to be affordable and social housing.) Munro, who responded to questions from the Courier via email as per Ernst and Young’s policy, said about 139 units are available for purchase while another 189 have yet to be relaunched onto the market. Condo marketer Bob Rennie said in February that he’d urge Ernst and Young not to rent further strata units as sales were going well. But Munro said the firm is considering renting additional strata units to generate revenue and accelerate occupancy, depending on how sales progress over the next few months. Ernst and Young hired brand.LIVE, the events company that produces the Celebration of Light, Canada Day at Canada Place and the Live at Squamish music festival, in May. Catherine Runnals, president of brand.LIVE, says the recent Carnivale, with its 65-foot-tall ferris wheel and performances by Public Dreams, attracted 1,000 visitors to the fledgling neighbourhood. Outdoor yoga classes also run there every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Munro said Terra Breads operates a coffee kiosk in the development’s plaza and its café is slated to open in the neighbourhood in July. Upcoming events include an MEC Bikefest June 25, the Portobello West fashion and art market June 26, jazz festival performances July 2, and a Teddy Bears’ Picnic July 16. Thursday night outdoor movies start in August. The Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival moved to the area this year and reportedly attracted more than 100,000 visitors. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

What’s driving Vancouver house prices?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011


According to Colliers International, a real estate service provider, “the proportion of Chinese buyers in Vancouver’s property market is on the rise. At the end of the first quarter this year, it increased to 29 per cent of all home buyers.” The buying is attributed to a desire to move money out of the country, preferably into hard assets, as China restricts home ownership in the country in a bid to cool the market. This all matters because market watchers are increasingly anxious about the state of Vancouver’s real estate industry, with recent reports suggesting it is now the third most expensive in North America. Some are calling for restrictions on foreign investment – without knowing how much money is actually coming into the city. The report also states that “due to the latest financial push from China, the average price of a home in Greater Vancouver rose 12 per cent in 2010 and is expected to rise another 3 per cent this year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.” For those desperate for hard data on the effect of Chinese buyers in the Vancouver housing market, answers seemed to come from the most unlikely of sources – China’s state run newspaper. The China Daily ran a story – later picked up by a Forbes blog – which said that “according to Colliers International, a real estate service provider, the proportion of Chinese buyers in Vancouver’s property market is on the rise. At the end of the first quarter this year, it increased to 29 per cent of all home buyers.” The buying is attributed to a desire to move money out of the country, preferably into hard assets, as China restricts home ownership in the country in a bid to cool the market. This all matters because market watchers are increasingly anxious about the state of Vancouver’s real estate industry, with recent reports suggesting it is now the third most expensive in North America. Some are calling for restrictions on foreign investment – without knowing how much money is actually coming into the city. But alas, nothing is so transparent in a market such as Vancouver, which doesn’t actually track foreign investment. The Colliers report believed to be at the heart of the article – Marketshare First Quarter 2011 – doesn’t actually quantify the number of buyers and goes out of its way to play down the effect they may be having. “There seems to be more myths than facts about Mainland Chinese investing,” Colliers president Greg Ashley wrote in the intro. “This trend is certainly impacting single family housing values in Vancouver-West and Richmond. However, it is not the driving force behind all sales. A number of recent launches reported large numbers of Asian buyers — yet a significant portion of these buyers are actually local residents not foreigners.” In the last six months, said the China Daily, Chinese buyers spent $200-million through Colliers’ international property department with most of the money going toward Canada, the U.K. and Australia. But all three destinations feature some very expensive real estate. Even if you divide that by three – $66,666,666 per market – that seems like a small piece of the action. The resale market in Vancouver accounted for $2.1-billion of activity – in May alone. And there’s no logical reason to split it equally – London’s population is 7.5 million compared to Vancouver’s 580,000. Australia is a whole country. BMO Nesbitt burns recently said Vancouver appears primed for a correction, with the average house now costing “an astounding” 11.2 times a family’s average income – more than double the national average. The report also mentions the Chinese, but not investors. Instead, it points out that many immigrants have decided to live in the city to take advantage of business relationships and the school system – quite a different scenario than investors buying up expensive properties and leaving them vacant. It’s a trend that the city’s heaviest hitter backs: local high-end broker Bob Rennie said in a recent speech that while up to 90 per cent of the city’s properties selling for more than $2-million were being sold to the Chinese, “they have relationships here, will use their home and contribute to the economy.” The report also states that “due to the latest financial push from China, the average price of a home in Greater Vancouver rose 12 per cent in 2010 and is expected to rise another 3 per cent this year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.” CMHC – which actually tracks new housing prices – said in its latest report that prices are likely to increase by 14 per cent by the end of 2011. The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board said the residential benchmark price – a measure it uses to smooth its data – was $577,808 at the end of 2010, meaning prices gained 2.7 per cent in the year. Unlike some countries, Canada doesn’t track foreign investment in real estate. That leaves the private sector to fill the gap, and methodologies vary wildly. Colliers used Urban Analytics Inc. to gather its data, a company that relies on site visits and staff interviews to get an idea of what’s happening in the market. The research doesn’t have Colliers looking to close the city’s gates. “While debate is healthy, restricting foreign investment will not only affect our real estate market, development industry, housing supply and our economy it may also damage how we are viewed in the world,” Mr. Ashley wrote. “Personally, I’d rather live in a place that is envied and sought after by people all over the world.” Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said last week – from Vancouver – that some of the country’s cities need to be watched closely. But again, any data about foreign buyers is anecdotal and hardly the stuff to base policy upon. Instead, he’s watching the effect of low interest rates and exuberant buyers. “The risk is that expectations become extrapolative, prompting the classic market emotions of fear and greed – greed among speculators and investors, and fear among households that getting a foot on the property ladder is a now-or-never proposition,” he said.

So what makes a house “green”?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011


GOING GREEN: B.C. workers trained in BuiltGreen procedures complete a green demonstration house in Kamloops; a green house interior shows open space design, non-offgassing materials recommended by CMHC. Photo: CHBA-BC / ChicTip

The federal government has reinstated funding for green home renovations, the provincial government also offers rebates for such work and the City of Vancouver recently approved a one year pilot program to offer 500 city homeowners low-interest loans for energy efficiency retrofits with payments tied to their property taxes. And, according to a recent survey by Bank of Montreal, nearly half of Canadians plan to make energy efficient home upgrades this year. When it comes to why they’re making upgrades, 19 per cent said they wanted to improve their quality of life, while 75 per cent said making the effort to be environmentally conscious makes them feel happier. As well, 89 per cent said they would pay more for energy efficient features if there were evidence it would reduce energy costs. But what makes a home, either new or renovated, a green home? According to Canada Mortgage and Housing, the following are basic green features as outlined in its Equilibrium home projects: – An accessible and attractive open-plan concept: – Locally-produced and environmentally-appropriate building materials, to reduce pollution and enhance indoor air quality: – Energy-efficient lighting and appliances designed to reduce energy consumption by up to 17 per cent; – Water conservation features and fixtures, such as low-flow toilets, that reduces water use; – High-efficiency heating systems: – An air-tight, high-performance building envelope to provide a comfortable living environment; – High-efficiency windows and doors that reduce heat loss: and – The use of paints and sealants that do not produce harmful gases. Green options include passive solar heating and/or a solar collector system that helps heat space or domestic hot water. In renovation project, green features start with handling construction waste, looking first to recycling options to divert materials from landfills. Typical rent would cover a mortgage Rising rents in B.C. mean that, with today’s low mortgage rates, most tenants could probably swing a mortgage for the same cost. The average rent for a Vancouver two-bedroom apartment is now $1,181 per month, the highest in the country, while Abbotsford is at $797, for example. For that monthly payment, many tenants could purchase a condo apartment and enjoy the benefits and equity of homeownership. The apartment rental vacancy rate in British Columbia has increased to 3.7 per cent, compared to 3.1 per cent a year ago, according to a spring survey from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC.) In Vancouver, the vacancy rate is now 2.8 per cent, up from 2.2 per cent, while the vacancy rate in Abbotsford is unchanged at 6.6 per cent. Copyright Real Estate Weekly

Real estate market remains on steady footing

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Five-year mortgage rates below four per cent

Deb Abbey
Van. Courier

According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver [REBGV], May sales of residential properties in Greater Vancouver increased seven per cent over the same period last year and 4.7 per cent over last month. The market is steady, but has slowed down considerably from the frenetic pace we saw in February and March. Hockey anyone? Of the properties that have sold on MLS so far this year, 21 per cent have sold for more than $1 million and 20 per cent have sold for $350,000 or less. The MLSLink Housing Price Index (HPI), the benchmark price for all types of residential properties in Greater Vancouver, has increased 6.2 percent, from $590,662 in May 2010 to $627,568 in May 2011. If you’re browsing the MLS listings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a house in Vancouver at that price level unless it’s on a tiny lot in East Van and/or the house is a fixer upper–meaning tear-down. That’s because this version of the HPI tracks the price movement of “middle of the range” homes of all types, including condos, in Greater Vancouver. The Board uses benchmark pricing that excludes the extremely high and low-end properties and provides a clearer picture of market trends than average pricing would. It works for overall market trends, but if you’re looking for a single family home, a townhouse or a condo, the benchmark price of “all types” of homes doesn’t help much. To make it work for buyers and sellers in different segments of the market, they’ve broken out benchmark prices for single family homes, attached properties (such as duplexes and townhouses) and apartments. The benchmark price of single family homes in Greater Vancouver has risen 10 per cent in the past year to $890,833. Attached property (townhouses, duplexes, etc.) prices are up 3.5 per cent to $517,787. Condos are up 2.2 per cent to $407,419. Depending on the type of property that you own or would like to buy, these numbers will give you a better sense of market trends in your part of the market. If you go to the REBGV website (, you can customize the HPI to see what the numbers look like in your area. On the interest rate front, for most of the past decade, five-year fixed term mortgage rates have been at historically low levels in Canada. They started bumping up near the end of 2010, and since then we’ve heard a lot of talk of rates increasing over the next 18 months. If you’ve been paying more attention to hockey scores than mortgage rates, you may not have noticed that there’s been a reprieve –at least short-term. In the past few weeks, falling commodity prices and concerns about European debt have had investors looking for a safe haven in the bond market and that’s dragged down bond yields. Fixed-rate mortgages are tied to the yield on government bonds so they’ve come down as well. If you’re planning to buy a home, it’s a good time to get pre-approved and lock in a rate. A number of lenders are offering rates below four per cent for five-year fixed terms. The credit unions have been offering the lowest rates recently, but with lower bond yields stabilizing, the banks are playing catch-up. If you have a relationship with a bank or credit union, check out the current mortgage rates in B.C. on one of the many websites that track them before you apply for your mortgage loan. It’s a good starting point if you’re trying to negotiate a lower rate with your financial institution. Alternatively, a good mortgage broker can prequalify you and help you find the lowest rates available from many of the banks and credit unions. Before you agree to anything, make sure that you understand all the features of your lower rate mortgage. Pre-payment options and penalty clauses can have a huge impact on the actual cost of your financing. Sometimes it’s better to have a slightly higher rate with better bells and whistles. Deb Abbey is a real estate agent at Royal LePage City Centre in Vancouver. She is the author of two best-selling books on sustainable investment. Contact her at [email protected] © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

Sub Area MLS Boundary Changes to areas surrounding False Creek on April 16, 2011

Friday, June 17th, 2011


Harrison Highlands in the Fraser Valley: views, value just the beginning

Thursday, June 16th, 2011


MOVE IN TODAY: River view homes at Harrison Highlands start at just $464,900 in a 90-acre master-planned community with resort-level amenities. The Discovery Centre is open daily from noon to 4 p.m. at 2010 Lougheed Highway, Agassiz. Phone 1-888-796-1056, email [email protected], or visit the web site at

With luxury-finished ranchers from $220 per square foot and fully serviced building lots from $109,900, Harrison Highlands is more than the largest river view master-planned community in the Fraser Valley: it is the best real estate value in the Lower Mainland. With houses ready for move in, those looking to escape the city to a spacious dream home can do so now, without spending through the roof. Ideal for downsizers, retirees or young families looking for a change of pace in the beautiful outdoors, without sacrificing quality and amenities, Harrison Highlands is just 90 minutes from downtown Vancouver and mere minutes to golf, skiing and world class fishing and outdoor recreation. Located between Mission and Harrison Hot Springs on the Lougheed Highway, Harrison Highlands is a 90-acre development comprised of fully serviced lots, single family homes, a gated community, commercial zone and the multi-family Ridge Resort all on the side of Mt. Woodside that offers breathtaking natural views of the Fraser and Harrison Rivers. Harrison Highland luxury dream home ranchers start at just $464,900, or $220 per square foot, less than half the per-square-foot price of a Metro Vancouver townhouse. Buyers can choose from 10 completed homes today, or purchase one of the large view building lots from $109,900 and build their own home following the development’s building guidelines. The average price of an older detached house price in Richmond and Burnaby is north of $900,000 – twice the price of a new luxury house with a view at Harrison Highlands. With a vision to accommodate an active outdoor lifestyle, Harrison Highlands will feature RV parking, about one kilometre of private walking trails and access to the exclusive 13,000-square foot Ridge Resort clubhouse, with outstanding amenities such as a luxurious spa, swimming pools and mineral water hot tubs. Every aspect of Harrison Highlands is designed with a green strategy in mind, including geo-thermal heating options. All homes are built to Built Green Standards for energy efficiency and comfort, and buyers are backed by the 2-5-10 new home warranty. Stop by and and discover one of the best housing buys and intelligent master-planned communities in the province today. The Harrison Highlands Discovery Centre is open daily from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 2010 Lougheed Highway, Agassiz. Phone 1-888-796-1056, email [email protected], or visit the web site at www. Copyright Real Estate Weekly

REBGV Market Update for May 2011

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Rosario Setticasi, president, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, discusses real estate market activity the Greater Vancouver area.

Buyers from China make up 74 per cent of luxury house and condo sales

Thursday, June 9th, 2011


ARCHITECT AWARDED: The Architectural Institute of B.C. has awarded the Creekside Community Centre on False Creek, a LEED Platinum design, a Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia Award in Architecture for architects Walter Francl Architecture Inc and Nick Milkovich Architects Inc. The awards recognize excellence in architectural projects completed within the past seven years and led by a B.C.-registered architect Photo: AIBC

Anecdotal evidence of buyers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC)- Mainland China – buying up luxury houses and condominiums on the West Side of Vancouver and Richmond are true, according to a unique survey done by Landcor Data Corp. of New Westminster. If anything, the accounts may be understated, at least in the very high-end market. The study found that nearly three-quarter of high-end housing sales on the West Side of Vancouver and Richmond are to buyers from Mainland China, Landcor, which has data on every real estate property in B.C., looked at all residential sales from 2008 to 2010 of luxury homes, priced at $3 million or more on the Westside and Richmond luxury condo sales ($2 million or more). These sales include both MLS transactions and any private sales that went through the Land Titles Office. Landcor then matched the sales against the buyers given names and family surnames and drew off quintessential PRC or pure Chinese names (excluding Western names and any remotely non-Chinese variants). The names were winnowed down by Landcor’s senior data analyst, who was born and raised in the city of Wuhu in Anhui province in Mainland China. According to this criteria, of the 164 luxury homes sales on the West Side and Richmond in 2010, 74 per cent of buyers were from the PRC, up from 68 per cent in 2009, and 46 per cent in 2008. Now fresh anecdotal evidence says the wave of PRC buyers is rolling into South Surrey, White Rock, Coquitlam and Burnaby. Copyright Real Estate Weekly