Archive for April, 2012

Do Not Call Facts (D/N/C – DNC)

Saturday, April 28th, 2012


Download Document

Wow Factor Condo Features: What Buyers Want Now

Friday, April 27th, 2012


In the Greater Vancouver real estate market, the condo is the first step on the equity ladder for most buyers. The current benchmark price is $375,100,  just over one-third of the price of a detached house. And depending on size and location, there are plenty at lower prices.

But that’s still a lot of money, so buyers want to be blown away. For developers, the design and feature options they offer can be the difference between instant sellout and the dreaded “unsold inventory.” 

These are the hot-button features for condos that sold in the last half of 2011. They either sold much faster than average or fetched a higher-than-average asking price according to the Condominium Market Opportunities Report (CMOP), prepared by industry consultants Strategics and MPC Intelligence. Clean and sleek was definitely the preferred look.

High-rise condo buyers salivated over these features:

  • Laminate hardwood kitchen flooring
  • Viking and Liebherr kitchen appliances
  • Quartz kitchen countertops
  • Vinyl bathroom flooring
  • Glass door bathroom cabinets
  • Quartz bathroom countertops.

Low-rise buyers went for these features in a big way:

  • Engineered hardwood kitchen flooring
  • Stainless steel kitchen appliances
  • Bosch , Samsung or Fisher Paykel kitchen appliances
  • Glass door kitchen cabinets
  • Quartz bathroom countertops
  • Glass door bathroom cabinets

Meanwhile, the 2012 TD Canada Trust Condo Poll interviewed people who have recently bought or intend to buy a condo. Vancouver respondents were almost unanimous about the major elements that help them decide to buy a condo they’d looked at:

  • Low condo fees (97%)
  • Good building security (96%)
  • Attractive interior design (95%)
  • Energy-efficient building features (93%)
  • A balcony (92%)

The TD study found differences between men’s and women’s condo-shopping preferences. More men than women want a newly constructed condo. Women are more likely than men to look for environmentally friendly features and a balcony.

Single women a force in the condo market

An earlier TD study estimated that single women make up 30 per cent of first-time home buyers, and they overwhelmingly choose condominiums.

According to Mark Belling, of Surrey-based Fifth Avenue Marketing, “Single women are now a power in the local condominium market. They easily outnumber single men.” He adds, “Young women seem to become financially mature earlier, with the ability to save for a down payment.”

Witness the new HGTV show, Buy Herself, with Realtor Sandra Rinomato guiding single women to a home purchase. Rinomato says that making a smart investment is the primary driver. Women say to her, “Well, you know it’s time for me to buy a condo as an investment that I can make money off of, that I can also live in, that I can nest in… I can paint it and decorate it to my taste…  Why not do it?”

Safety, a balcony and entertaining space are important to women, she says. Condos offer greater security, which is a top concern among women living alone. A balcony gives them safe, private outdoor space for chilling out. And a party room or rooftop deck lets them entertain more people if they have a matchbox-sized living space.

Developers are listening. An example is the Meccanica project in False Creek South. Hani Lammam, VP of development for Cressey, talked about it with Business in Vancouver’s Strategic Marketing columnist, Judy Bishop.

Meccanica incorporated feedback from women about design, floor plan and exteriors,” said Lammam. “We’ve placed major emphasis on qualities women value.”

The result was functional layouts and stylish design features including polished floors, high-gloss cabinets, closet space, spa bathrooms and high ceilings. And overwhelming response from women.

Location still rules

Location is paramount. A year ago, it was the usual to see lineups of prospective buyers when new projects went on sale. Now, that only happens when the condos are smack up against a transit line and in a neighbourhood loaded with amenities. 

An estimated 7,800 new condo units in high rises are expected to become available this year. Prices of both new and MLS® condos are not expected to return to their mid-2011 highs anytime soon. In a stagnant market, condos with the right mix of design and features, price and location will find owners.

© 2012 Real Estate Weekly

46 per cent say “time to buy” this spring

Thursday, April 26th, 2012


Download Document

English Mews in New Westminster

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Finally, affordable family homes in a central location


Download Document

New homes at Morgan Crossing

Thursday, April 19th, 2012


Download Document

Bishop Creek, Guildford Surrey

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Community and Convenience


Download Document

Major changes coming for organized real estate

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Carrie Brodi

CREA members have given the thumbs up to a new vision for organized real estate in Canada, one in which technology is cutting-edge, internal decisions by boards and associations are made quickly, and consumers have access to detailed, high-quality information. In total, the plan offers 23 recommendations for change, all of which were approved for further study at CREA’s Annual General Meeting in Ottawa at the end of March.

Some of the proposals, such as having a third party operate and CREA’s technology services and a restructuring of the country’s MLS systems, are likely to be controversial.

“The acceptance of the plan is only the first step,” says Gary Morse, immediate past-president of the association, and a key driver of the Futures project. “The next questions we need to answer are, what changes do we make, how do we make them, and over what time frame?”

To determine those details, an implementation team is being struck this month. It will be made up of leaders of organized real estate from all levels, and their job will be to identify and create smaller working groups to study each of the propositions in detail. Those working groups will put together a set of proposals, timelines and recommendations for the Special General Meeting in Winnipeg this fall, when motions could be voted on or tabled for even further study.

Technology is one major area for proposed overhaul. The plan advocates for the restructuring of the 80-plus MLS systems into a single, national data feed. The new system would represent a centralized catchall for high-quality data, currently only available to Realtors on MLS systems at the local level.

The plan also envisions creating a mechanism by which for sale by owner and non-MLS data could be made available on

 “Consumers are more informed than ever,” says Morse. “We have to make sure we are providing them with the best information in an efficient manner.”

Also under consideration is the prospect of having a third party operate and CREA’s technology services, something that could offer potential revenue streams while also keeping pace with the rapid changes in technology.

To make the decision-making process more streamlined, the Futures plan also proposes an outside review of the 100 or so boards and associations in organized real estate to determine if roles and responsibilities currently allocated to each level are appropriate or necessary.

Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, attended some of the Futures planning sessions. He says he heard “some amazingly frank discussions with the executive officers of some boards, where people have agreed that we have too many boards in the country and that there should be consolidation. And as they are looking around the room, they know a significant number of them are going to be out of a job.”

Don Lawby, president of Century 21 Canada, says he is in favour of some of the propositions pertaining to governance and technology, but cautions CREA against creating a homogenized, one-size-fits-all plan.

“The industry is made up of a significant number of competitors and they need the ability to differentiate their services,” he says. “CREA needs to provide the tools, systems and programs for the industry, and the industry needs to modify them to give themselves a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Morse says proposed changes must be inclusive of all members, and cannot be focused on the interests of one group (franchisees and franchisors) over another (independent brokers and consumers).

“We have to be better at what we do for our members while taking into consideration consumer needs and expectations,” he says.

But Soper says that with the national real estate brands controlling more than 90 per cent of residential real estate transactions, the franchisors are watching developments closely. “I think CREA is doing exactly the right thing in stepping back and evaluating what they stand for to their members and consumers,” says  Soper. “If CREA focuses on providing services to its members, I believe they are going in an excellent direction. If they decide to get into retail consumer real estate services, I believe it’s a mistake.”

Lawby is also unconvinced that CREA should be involved with customer service or selling, something he does not view as the association’s core function. For example, he questions how a proposed “Rate your Realtor” mechanism on the CREA site will be used. Will feedback go to the sales office or stay within CREA? The latter, he says, is problematic because Realtors don’t work for CREA.

“It’s one thing to have a plan on paper, but it’s another to explain exactly how it will work. The devil will be in the details,” Lawby says.

Morse says the details will be the focus of working groups this summer. Those groups of people, chosen by organized real estate as experts in a particular area such as technology, will evaluate the feasibility and workability of each recommendation and present their findings at the October assembly.

CREA is promising many ways for members to learn about the issues and engage in the debate. The CREA website will offer various online and mobile tools like micro-sites, forums and phone apps in the coming weeks and months to provide members with avenues to provide their own ideas, suggestions and feedback.

“Realtors would be wise to pay attention to this process,” says Lawby. Having attended the AGM in Ottawa not knowing what to expect, he walked away believing in the value of the process, one that he describes as “good”. He encourages Realtors to get involved and make their voices heard.

As for the value that the Futures plan offers to members: that is not yet quantifiable, either fiscally or in terms of relevance of Realtors in the minds of Canadian consumers.

 “The value today is the fact that we are doing this,” says Morse. “Down the road, the value will be the benefits that come as a result of the outcome of these recommendations.” 

Soper says, “With various regulators and our own members saying it’s time for a change…we know it is the time to take some bold steps.” with files from Jim Adair


Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. to build a mixed-use complex featuring a 19-storey residential tower at Main and Broadway

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Controversial Rize Complex Can Proceed

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

City council gave the go-ahead Tuesday to a controversial rezoning application to redevelop a city block in Mount Pleasant into a $150 million mixed-use complex featuring a 19-storey residential tower.

The 9-1 vote, which was led by the ruling Vision Vancouver party, means Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. can apply for a development permit and complete a detailed design of the project.

Six Vision councillors, Mayor Gregor Robertson and NPA councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball voted in favour of the proposal. Vision Coun. Tim Stevenson abstained from voting after missing three nights of public hearings.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr cast the one dissenting vote, arguing the proposal didn’t fit with Mount Pleasant’s community plan, which was approved in November 2010.

“It’s too high, it’s too dense, it’s not permeable,” said Carr, who unsuccessfully attempted to have the developer revise its plan.

Though council’s vote was resounding, some were troubled by the initial design of the project, with Vision Coun. Raymond Louie calling for improvements and Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer describing the complex as “ugly.”

The plan calls for building heights of five storeys, nine storeys and a 19-storey tower. The 1.25-acre trapezoid-shaped site is in the heart of Mount Pleasant and will include 241 condos and two levels of commercial space.

“I take it with a grain of salt,” said Christopher Vollan, vice president of development for Rize Alliance, when asked after the vote about the criticisms of the design. “We’ve heard enough, both supportive and unsupportive, to support our understanding that we have to do more work on the architecture.”

The vote came after six nights of public hearings which attracted more than 100 speakers. The height of the 19-storey tower and the density of the project were at odds with many speakers at the hearings.

Rize Alliance’s proposal was the first significant rezoning application before council following its approval of the Mount Pleasant community plan in November 2010.

The site is one of three identified in the plan for taller buildings. The others are Kingsgate Mall and the IGA site at 14th and Main.

Lewis Villegas of the Mount Pleasant Residents’ Association was disappointed in council’s decision but said he wasn’t surprised.

“There is a community plan that is barely a year old that is full of ambiguity,” he said, adding councillors used the ambiguity to approve the project.

When built, the 19-storey tower will be the tallest highrise in the community and dwarf the nearby seven-storey Lee Building, a landmark structure at Main and Broadway.

Other concerns raised at the hearings included increased density, traffic impacts, no affordable housing in the project and how such a complex fits with Mount Pleasant‘s community plan.

The site is bounded by Broadway, Kingsway,10th Avenue and Watson Street. It’s in the same neighbourhood as the Kingsgate Mall and the Mount Pleasant community centre.

The public hearings attracted hundreds of people, with the majority against and more than 40 business operators and residents in support.

Some see the development as another project aimed at the rich in a city mired in an affordable housing crisis.

But as city staff and the developer, who is working with Acton Ostry Architects, pointed out during the hearings, approval of the project comes with an amenity package for Mount Pleasant.

Originally, Rize Alliance proposed 62 rental units and an artists’ production space but city staff decided to opt for a cash package. The developer has to pay $4.5 million towards “cultural activities,” which could include an artists‘ production space and public art.

Another $1.7 million will be used for affordable housing projects in Mount Pleasant.

City staff estimated $1.7 million could translate to 15 concrete-built housing units or up to 25 units in cheaper wood-framed construction.

Rize Alliance also has an agreement with the Mount Pleasant Food Co-op to allow the organization to operate in a 34,000 sq. foot space within the complex.

The plan calls for the conversion of 10th Avenue to a one-way street, between Watson and Kingsway, to reduce traffic volume on the street.

A city report predicted volumes will drop from a high of 220 vehicles per hour to a low of 130. A separated bike lane on the south side of 10th Avenue will be implemented to reduce conflicts between motorists and cyclists.

The mayor issued a statement shortly after the vote reminding the public the developer could have built a 150-foot building—instead of the 215-foot tower—without having to go before council.

That, the mayor said, would mean no money for arts or affordable housing, as was approved under the current arrangement with Rize Alliance.

“Instead, with the project passed by council today, the city gets a major housing development that supports transit, invests $4.5 million for arts and $1.75 million for affordable housing in Mount Pleasant, and allows city council to give direction over the size and form of the building,” Robertson said.

© 2012 Real Estate Weekly

Chinese investors shutter Vancouver neighbourhood while apologists cry ‘racism’

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Real estate elite profit, politicians ignore middle class

Mark Hasiuk
Van. Courier

Premier Christy Clark won’t restrict foreign ownership in British Columbia. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet , Vancouver Courier

Trafalgar, they used to call it. A patch of urban plain between West 16th Avenue and King Edward in Arbutus Ridge on Vancouver’s West Side. Prime real estate in a beautiful city. And ground zero of the investor invasion.

A stroll through Trafalgar begins innocently. Rows of parallel streets. White sidewalks. Green lawns. Blue sky, if you’re lucky. Far enough from downtown, the neighbourhood rests in quiet. Too quiet. You soon notice you’re alone among rows of big-box homes, all peaks and eaves, with ornamental hedges stirring in the wind. It’s like a giant film set for a Hollywood blockbuster about a deadly strain of bacteria. Only the goldfish survived.

According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, last year the average price of a detached home on the West Side rose 20.7 per cent to $1.99 million, continuing a trend of yearly spikes.

Several factors contribute to the boom including foreign investment from China. Unlike other precincts around the world, British Columbia has no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate. Anyone from anywhere can buy on your street and mothball their investment in perpetuity.

Look no further than the Trafalgar area, perhaps the most striking example of investor decay in the city. It’s no longer a community, it’s a commodity. A pocket of land bought and tilled by speculators. Down went the old stucco bungalows, once the neighbourhood’s signature home, up went dozens of “developer specials”—two and three-storey monstrosities that often sit empty, windows shuttered, for months. Sometimes years.

It didn’t used to be this way.

Colin grew up in the neighbourhood, at Trafalgar elementary and Prince of Wales secondary. He remembers streets bustling with life. Kids on bikes. Barbecues and burning leaves. Now a 38-year-old investment adviser, he lives in a rented bungalow not far from his childhood home. While the street names remain the same, the neighbourhood is unrecognizable. “It’s really unbelievable. It’s eerie, I just shake my head.”

Last Friday, Colin took me on a Trafalgar tour. Street after street with many vacant homes. He pointed as we walked. “That’s empty. That one. That one. The whole side of this street almost.”

Colin, not his real name, wishes to remain anonymous, fearing backlash and smears.

You see, as illustrated two weeks ago in the Courier, if you dare note the ethnicity intrinsic to foreign real estate investment in Vancouver, you court charges of bigotry from industry benefactors.

Of course, local realtors and developers have no problem racially profiling potential buyers. For example. Sutton West Coast Realty orchestrates Vancouver home auctions in Shanghai and West Side bus tours for Chinese investors.

Yet Larry Beasley, retired Vancouver city planner and former vice-president of Aquilini Developments, a major industry player, says it’s “racist” to suggest Chinese foreign buyers drive up prices. Politically correct moralizing from Beasley, who also served as “special planning adviser” for royal dictators in the United Arab Emirates, a country that jails homosexuals for being gay.

Back in Trafalgar, bilingual “For Sale” signs in English and Mandarin dot front lawns. During our afternoon stroll, we happened upon a grey, two-storey with white-trimmed peaks. The front door was wide open. A young Asian man appeared in the foyer.


“Is this an open house?”

“No,” he said, in limited English. “We show to private buyers.”

“How much? What’s the price?”

“Three point eight nine million.”

That’s typical of Trafalgar and other sections of Arbutus Ridge, probably the most overpriced neighbourhood in the city. It’s a market within a market with baffling trends. According to Colin, several Trafalgar homes seem to exist solely for “sale” yet never get occupied. “These three places in a row,” he says, near West 21st and Yew. “No one’s ever lived there but [For Sale] signs go up for a few weeks then go away for few weeks. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

It’s a murky Monopoly game. Thanks to strict regulation in China, Chinese real estate investors look off-shore for capital gains. Our wild open market attracts investors from everywhere, warping the local supply and demand equation, helping push middle class residents out to the suburbs or into crushing debt.

Christy “Families First” Clark, a committed globalist, won’t restrict foreign ownership in B.C. Mayor Gregor Robertson, who slobbered over Beijing during a 2010 “trade mission” to China, won’t reform the tax code to accommodate the new normal. Which means foreign real estate investors pay the same rate (4.2 per cent) as local homeowners, not the business rate (18 per cent) they should.

Two weeks ago, Eugen Klein, president of the Vancouver Real Estate Board, told the Courier that off-shore buyers account for only three per cent of house sales. Rubbish. Because foreigners often use local addresses (their lawyer’s office, for example) when registering with the provincial land title office, no one knows how many off-shore investors own homes in Vancouver. Yet Klein’s “three per cent” defence raises questions he’d likely rather avoid.

What percentage. Mr. Klein, of foreign investment is acceptable in Vancouver’s real estate market? Ten per cent? Twenty per cent? If 50 per cent of Vancouver was owned by foreigners, would that be OK with you? Where do the interests of your global industry and our city diverge? How deep doth thy zeal for globalization run?

No, they want this conversation to go away. Shut it up before folks get wise. If you’re troubled by dead neighbourhoods shuttered by foreign investment, you’re a racist dog stuck in 1923. Get back to your rented bungalow. You’ll be hearing from us soon.

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

Home Inspectors can be liable for a faulty home inspection

Sunday, April 15th, 2012


Janice Mucalov, LL.B.

When representing home buyers, REALTORS® may well be asked about home inspections and perhaps also to recommend a home inspector. So REALTORS® should be aware of a 2009 court decision on home inspector liability and of the recent system for regulating home inspections in BC, which introduced licensing and insurance requirements to better protect buyers.

First, the court case. In November, 2009, a home inspector was found liable in negligence and ordered to pay substantial remedial costs to a couple who bought a home in North Vancouver.

The couple bought the house in 2006 for almost $1.1 million. The purchase was conditional on an inspection report. At the recommendation of their real estate agent, they hired an architect and his home inspection business to do an inspection and provide a report. He spent about 30 minutes inspecting the roof and exterior of the house in addition to inspecting the inside. He was paid $450 for his services.


The inspector filled in a good part of his printed report form before meeting with the buyers to discuss his findings. He noted some problems with two structural timber beams on the house’s west side and also some settlement of the house, but he didn’t inspect any other western beams or the eastern beams. He gave the buyers an estimate of about $20,000 to fix the rotten west side structural beams and stabilize the house. The buyers asked him whether they should go ahead with the purchase in light of his findings, and were told it was okay to do so.

After the couple moved in, they discovered that the structural and settlement problems were far worse than they thought and they hired an engineer. The actual restoration costs were tagged at almost $213,000. They sued the sellers, their real estate agent, the inspector and the District of North Vancouver. Before trial, they settled with the sellers and discontinued their lawsuit against everyone else except the home inspector.


In court, the inspector pointed out that his contract with the buyers wasn’t a guarantee and limited his liability to the $450 cost of the home inspection report. But the buyers didn’t read the contract before signing and he didn’t draw their attention to these clauses. Also, the main purpose of hiring the inspector was to rely on his advice, decided the court, and if the buyers couldn’t rely on his report and what he said, they wouldn’t have hired him.


The judge ultimately decided the home inspector was negligent for not inspecting all the structural beams, many of which were rotten, and because he didn’t tell the buyers they should hire a geotechnical engineer to examine the beams. His repair estimate was “woefully inadequate” and led the buyers to believe the house problems were relatively minor. He was liable to pay damages to the buyers of almost $193,000 (the agreed repair cost less his estimate).


Now, the new home inspection scheme. In March, 2009, BC home inspectors were mandated to undergo licensing and carry insurance in case of lawsuits from clients. It isn’t clear whether the home inspector in this court case was insured and whether the buyers there were able to recover on their judgment in full. But if buyers now hire a licensed and insured home inspector (which they should in most cases), they should now have the added protection of such insurance. This should help avoid the risk of a home inspector being unable to pay a judgment (making the decision a mere “paper judgment” without meaningful recovery) – at least for up to $1 million, which is the minimum insurance inspectors must maintain.

There are a couple of things worth highlighting for REALTORS® when acting for a buyer. You should make the buyers aware of the licensing and insurance scheme and recommend that they make sure any inspector they hire is properly licensed and insured. And if asked for a recommendation, REALTORS® should try to only recommend a reputable and experienced inspector (or inspectors), who REALTORS® know to be properly licensed and insured. These steps will help protect you if things go wrong (as happened in the 2009 court case) and there is a lawsuit, which could quite possibly include a claim against you as the buyers’ agent, suggesting negligence on the REALTORS® part.