Archive for August, 2014

Living to 90 and beyond

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

What factors determine which of us will make it past age 90? Lesley Stahl reports on a groundbreaking study that has revealed some unexpected findings

Lesley Stahl

It’s always been a dream of mankind to live forever. Since the start of the 20th century, we have increased life expectancy in this country by a remarkable 30 years — from just 49 in 1900, to almost 79 today. And more and more of us are making it into that group we all hope — and kinda dread — joining, the over 90 crowd, affectionately dubbed “the oldest old.”

As we first reported this spring, men and women above the age of 90 are now the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Yet very little is known about the oldest old, since until recently, there were so few of them. So what determines which of us will make it past age 90? What kind of shape we’ll be in if we do? And what can we do now to up our odds? Finding out is the goal of a groundbreaking research study known as “90+.”

Jane Whistler: I was born on April 21st, 1914.

Ted Rosenbaum: My birthday is February 7th, 1918.

Lou Tirado: I was born on August 25th, 1920, and I’m 93+.

Ruthy Stahl: June 15, 1918, and it was– I’m sure, a lovely day.

Lesley Stahl: Do you feel 95? What do you– what age do you feel?

Ruthy Stahl: I feel about 52. (laugh) Not really.

Ruthy Stahl

CBS News

What they have in common — other than having lived a combined total of almost 400 years — is that decades ago, they all lived in a retirement community called Leisure World 45 miles south of Los Angeles.

[Announcer: Hi there, and Welcome to Leisure World. A new way of life, designed for alert and active people 52 years and older who want to get the most out of life.]

Today it’s still a retirement community, and they’re still getting the most out of life, though it’s no longer called Leisure World. It’s now its own city: Laguna Woods.

Claudia Kawas: They didn’t like the words “Leisure World.” They consider themselves active.

Lesley Stahl: Active World.

Claudia Kawas: Active World.

Dr. Claudia Kawas spends a lot of time in Laguna Woods these days. She’s a neurologist and professor at nearby UC Irvine who discovered the research equivalent of gold here — information gathered from thousands of Leisure World residents back in 1981, with page after page of data about their diet, exercise, vitamins, and activities.

Claudia Kawas: 14,000 people answered–

Lesley Stahl: 14,000–

Claudia Kawas: –this questionnaire in 1981. Many of them, if they were still alive, would now be over the age of 90.

She saw a rare opportunity to study what worked, and what didn’t.

Lesley Stahl: So you– did you try to find them?

Claudia Kawas: We went after all 14,000. And if they were still alive, we wanted to find where they were.

With $6 million of funding from the National Institutes of Health, Kawas and her team set out to find out who had died, when they died, and to convince those who were still living and over 90 to sign up.

Claudia Kawas: And you’re how old now?

Jane Whistler: I’ll be 100 in three months.

Claudia Kawas: We’re gonna have to have a party.

Jane Whistler: Good! I love a party.

Jane Whistler is one of the more than 1,600 men and women they found and enrolled as subjects in the 90+ study. They are checked from top to bottom every six months — their facial muscles, reflexes, balance, how they walk, how fast they can stand up and sit down and most importantly, how their minds are working.

Tester: I’m gonna say and show you three words for you to remember. Shirt. Brown. Honesty.

Jane Whistler: Shirt. Brown. Honesty.

Tester: Perfect.

Tester: Now please spell “world.”

They are given an hour-long battery of cognitive and memory tests.

Tester: Good. Now spell “world” backwards.

Jane Whistler: D-L-R-O-W.

Asked to connect letters and numbers and to remember.

Tester: All right. What three words did I ask you to remember earlier?

Jane Whistler: Brown. Shirt.

Tester: You want a little hint?

Jane Whistler: Yeah.

Tester: OK. Was that word honesty, charity–

Jane Whistler: Honesty.

Tester: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: When it’s time for your exams in the 90+ study, do you look forward to it or–

Jane Whistler: Sure.

Lesley Stahl: Do you ever say, “Oh, they’re gonna find something,” or, “I’m not gonna be able to do as well as I did last time?”

Jane Whistler: Oh yeah, I think that. Sure.

Lesley Stahl: You do.

Jane Whistler: But that doesn’t stop me. I think it’s– I think it’s fun.

Lou Tirado: Shirt, brown, honesty.

Lou Tirado

CBS News

We were struck by what great shape many of the study participants are in like Lou Tirado, a World War II B-17 gunner who was shot down near Berlin and spent eight months as a German POW, and Sid Shero, another World War II veteran, who came to talk to us despite having suffered a stroke just a few weeks earlier that slurred his speech.

Sid Shero: I am 92 years old and going strong.

Sid drives his car to his test sessions.

Lesley Stahl: You drive a convertible?

Sid Shero: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: You want the girls to look at you.

Sid Shero: They call it a chick car.

Sid, a widower, works out at the fitness center, keeps up with the news — and the ladies…

Lesley Stahl: So you’re a bachelor.

Sid Shero: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: Do you date?

Sid Shero: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: Do you have a rich social life?

Sid Shero: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: Is it fun?

Sid Shero: Yes. Very much so. And I hope to last a long time.

But of course not everyone is so lucky. When participants like Louise Bigelow, age 97, are too frail to come in for testing, the testers go to them.

Tester: Now, an orange and a banana are alike, because they’re both–

Louise Bigelow: Yellow.

Louise remembers events from long ago, like when her bridal veil caught fire a few minutes after this photo was taken.

Louise Bigelow: It went right into the flames of the candles. So I always had a lot of excitement all the time. And that was the beginning.

Lesley Stahl: You’re not gonna forget that ever.

Louise Bigelow: No.

But when it comes to recent memories, and thinking skills, she struggles more and more.

Tester: And in what way are laughing and crying alike?

Louise Bigelow: Ugh. I don’t know.

Ruthy Stahl: Brown, honesty, and uh shirt.

The testers go to 95-year-old Ruthy Stahl’s home too. They go not because she can’t come to them. She just doesn’t have time.

Ruthy Stahl: I’m in my car more than I’m in the house, I think. Because I do so many things.

Lesley Stahl: What do you do?

Ruthy Stahl: I am flying all over the place.

Flying, as in speed walking three miles almost every day.

Ruthy Stahl: On Sunday, it’s only two miles.

Lesley Stahl: Are you on the computer?

Ruthy Stahl: Yes, I am. But I’m having trouble with my computer.

Jane Whistler: I had a computer for 10 years and enjoyed it, but it died.

Jane outlived her computer. At almost 100, she’s done a lot of outliving.

Jane Whistler: We were all bridge players down here. We’d play bridge and have dinner and we had a lot of fun.

Lesley Stahl: Have some of them died?

Jane Whistler: They’ve all died.

Lesley Stahl: They’ve all died.

Jane Whistler: Every one.

Lesley Stahl: Oh my goodness.

Jane Whistler: I’m the only one left.

So what was it that got these people into their 90s…

[Claudia Kawas: So you’ve never had a stroke.

Jane Whistler: No.]

…while their spouses, friends, and colleagues…

[Claudia Kawas: Never had hardly anything…]

…dropped out along the way?

Claudia Kawas: What’s your secret?

Jane Whistler: I wish I knew.

Genes clearly contribute to longevity, says Kawas, but they aren’t everything. Jane Whistler’s parents both died when she was young.

Claudia Kawas: Well whatever your secrets are, by being in the study, we’re gonna try to find ’em out.

Lesley Stahl: So you can go back and look at their medical history?

Claudia Kawas: Everybody in the study filled out that questionnaire in the early 1980s.

And comparing that data to how it’s all turned out has yielded a slew of published findings about behaviors associated with living longer. So what’s the verdict? No surprise: smokers died earlier than non-smokers. And what about exercise?

Claudia Kawas: People who exercised definitely lived longer than people who didn’t exercise. As little as 15 minutes a day on average made a difference. Forty-five was the best. Even three hours didn’t beat 45 minutes–

Lesley Stahl: Oh wow.

Claudia Kawas: –a day.

Lesley Stahl: That’s interesting.

Claudia Kawas: And it didn’t all have to be at once. It could be, for example, 15 minutes of walking and then later in the day gardening or something. And it also didn’t have to be very intense exercise.

“People who exercised definitely lived longer than people who didn’t exercise. As little as 15 minutes a day on average made a difference. Forty-five was the best. Even three hours didn’t beat 45 minutes a day.”

And non-physical activities — book clubs, socializing with friends, board games — all good.

Claudia Kawas: For every hour you spent doing activities in 1981, you increased your longevity and the benefit of those things never leveled off.

The subjects we spoke to had definitely been active, but they didn’t strike us as having lived their lives worrying about their health.

Jane Whistler: I’m not a big vitamin person.

Lesley Stahl: Have you watched, over the years, what you ate?

Lou Tirado: Eh, not– not really.

Lesley Stahl: Dessert?

Jane Whistler: Sure. I love dessert.

Ruthy Stahl: I always had a glass of wine before dinner. And now I still do, but I can’t quite finish it.

Lesley Stahl: Clean living, huh?

Sid Shero: No.

Lesley Stahl: No? Not clean living.

Sid Shero: I don’t know what clean living is.

Lesley Stahl: What about alcohol?

Jane Whistler: Sure, I love wine.

Lesley Stahl: Do you take vitamins?

Sid Shero: Yes. A lot of ’em.

So which vitamins helped? Antioxidants?

Lesley Stahl: OK, Vitamin E. We’re sitting at the edge of our chairs. Does it– did it make a difference? Vitamin–

Claudia Kawas: It was–

Lesley Stahl: –E?

Claudia Kawas: –my favorite, but uh-uh.

Lesley Stahl: No?

Claudia Kawas: People who took Vitamin E didn’t live any longer than people who didn’t take Vitamin E.

They also looked at Vitamin A, C, and calcium…

Claudia Kawas: The short answer is none of ’em made a difference.

Lesley Stahl: None of them made a difference to living–

Claudia Kawas: In terms of–

Lesley Stahl: –a long life?

Claudia Kawas: –how long you live.

Lesley Stahl: What about alcohol?

Claudia Kawas: Oh. Alcohol made a difference.

But it may not be what you think…

Claudia Kawas: Moderate alcohol was associated with living longer than individuals who did not consume alcohol.

Lesley Stahl: Wait a minute. Ha– moderate– alcohol you live longer?

Claudia Kawas: Yes.

Up to two drinks a day led to a 10-15 percent reduced risk of death compared to non-drinkers.

Jane Whistler: Isn’t that exciting?

And any kind of alcohol seemed to do the trick.

Claudia Kawas: A lot of people like to say it’s only red wine. In our hands it didn’t seem to matter.

Lesley Stahl: Martinis just as good.

Claudia Kawas: Yeah.

And there’s good news for coffee drinkers. Caffeine intake equivalent to 1-3 cups of coffee a day was better than more, or none. And if you’re concerned about those bulging waistlines, listen to this.

Claudia Kawas: It turns out that the best thing to do as you age is to at least maintain or even gain weight.

Lesley Stahl: Gain weight?

Claudia Kawas: Uh-huh.

Lesley Stahl: So being–

Claudia Kawas: Really.

Lesley Stahl: –a little overweight is good?

Claudia Kawas: Being obese is never good.

Lesley Stahl: Right.

And being overweight as a young person wasn’t good either. But late in life, they found people who were overweight or average weight both outlived people who were underweight.

Claudia Kawas: It’s not good to be skinny when you’re old.

But living a long time, even if we don’t have to watch our waistlines, isn’t the only thing most of us care about. We want to be all there to enjoy it. And it’s in the areas of Alzheimer’s and dementia that the 90+ study is generating some of its most provocative and surprising findings. We’ll tell about that, and one more thing, romance after 90…

Lesley Stahl: How’s your sex life? You brought it up!

Helen Weil and Henry Tornell: [Laughter]

When we come back.

Part Two

We are a nation getting older. By the middle of the century, the number of Americans age 90 and above is projected to quadruple. While that’s good news for those of us who want to stick around, it also means more time to literally start to lose our minds. Dementia, including that most dreaded form, Alzheimer’s disease, is a looming threat, and a primary focus of the 90+ study. Participants are asked to donate their brains to the study after they die, so researchers can compare what they saw in life to the secrets buried deep within. And the picture isn’t always matching up, bringing new discoveries and new questions about what may actually be causing dementia in the “oldest old” and what we may be able to do about it.

Lesley Stahl: You know, I think that it was common belief that if you got to 90 and you didn’t have dementia or Alzheimer’s, that you weren’t gonna get it.

Claudia Kawas: Unfortunately. No. I really, really expected to find that. But in our study that’s not to happen.

Lesley Stahl: It’s not true.

It turns out the risk of developing dementia doubles every 5 years starting at the age of 65, and it keeps right on doubling. And given the growth in numbers of the oldest old by mid-century…

Claudia Kawas: We are going to have more people with dementia over the age of 90 than we currently have at all ages put together.

Lesley Stahl: And we’re not even thinking about it.

Claudia Kawas: We should be.

As charming and engaging as all the 90+’ers we met were, one who we were particularly moved by was 96-year-old Ted Rosenbaum, a former American history teacher who’s been married for 63 years.

Ted Rosenbaum: I was very lucky. So now at this stage of the game, if it’s petering out, just reminiscing about our past is a source of incalculable joy.

Tester: An orange and a banana are alike because they’re both?

Ted Rosenbaum: Fruits.

Ted did well on parts of the 90+ exam, like repeating long strings of numbers, backwards.

Tester: Six, one, eight, four, three.

Ted Rosenbaum: Three, four, eight, one, six.

But when it came time to remember the three words she’d told him just 40 seconds earlier…

Ted Rosenbaum: Three words…[pause] Give me a hint.

…he was lost. and that wasn’t his only problem.

Tester: What is today’s date?

Ted Rosenbaum: Today’s date?

Tester: Uh-huh.

Ted Rosenbaum: Today’s date?

Lesley Stahl: Does he have dementia at this point?

Claudia Kawas: Yes. Ted has–

Lesley Stahl: He does.

Claudia Kawas: –dementia. You know, unfortunately there’s no blood test. There’s no X-ray. It’s an examiner finding out that an individual has problems in two or more of the main things that brain does for them. So that’s where he is.

And what’s perhaps the most devastating is, he knows it.

Ted Rosenbaum: My worst condition is my memory.

Lesley Stahl: When you can’t remember something, what goes on inside you?

Ted Rosenbaum: Terrible frustration and terrible– you know, it’s having more and more of a negative impact on me, psychologically.

Determining what’s behind his memory loss isn’t easy, since diseases like Alzheimer’s can only be definitively diagnosed in the brain after death. So it’s after the 90+’ers die that a new round of sleuthing begins.

When subjects in the study donate their brains, they come here to neuropathologist Dr. Ronald Kim. He showed us one of the things he always looks for — the plaques and tangles in the brain that are the tell-tale signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ronald Kim: It forms all of these plaques.

Lesley Stahl: All these brown spots are–

Ronald Kim: Yes–

Lesley Stahl: –plaques?

Ronald Kim: Are plaques, that’s correct. And in an individual like this I would expect the patient to be demented.

Tester: Do you read newspapers every day?

Loring Bigelow: Yes, I read ’em in the evening.

Loring Bigelow spent five years in the study. He passed away last summer, and while Dr. Kim studies his brain, the rest of the 90+ team independently reviews years of his test results and videos to assess whether he had developed dementia, and if so, from what? While early on, his scores were strong…

Tester: Who is our president?

Loring Bigelow: Obama.

Over the years, there was a gradual but unmistakable decline. He’d pick up a newspaper he’d just finished, use the TV remote to try and make a phone call.

Tester: Do you know who is the president?

Loring Bigelow: I want to say Herbert Hoover. I can’t think of it.

[Barbara: Could not remember his age, anxious.]

The consensus here was likely Alzheimer’s – which presumes a brain with plaques and tangles.

Claudia Kawas: Are we ready to hear the truth?

Only then do they open up Dr. Kim’s report.

Maria: Plaques, zero. So, no plaques.

Female voices: Oh, OK. Ah.

Claudia Kawas: Wow!

Maria: No plaques. No cortical tangles anywhere.

Claudia Kawas: Pretty amazing.

What’s amazing is they’re finding that 40 percent of the time in people over 90 — what doctors would think is Alzheimer’s – isn’t. In Loring Bigelow’s brain, Dr. Kim found something else — something the 90+ study is finding quite a bit — evidence of tiny, microscopic strokes called microinfarcts. His brain was full of them.

Ronald Kim: Here is a microinfarct. It’s the hole–

Lesley Stahl: Oh, right here.

Ronald Kim: –which is basically a tiny stroke.

Claudia Kawas: So you’ve got all this tissue is missing.

Ronald Kim: If you find one, it suggests that you should probably look for others. And some patients may have hundreds or thousands of them.

These microscopic strokes are insidious because people don’t even know they’re having them.

Ronald Kim: They can be totally silent. And slowly but surely over time, you’re picking off– you’re disconnecting your cortex from the rest of the brain and then you start to become demented. It can look just like Alzheimer disease clinically.

Lesley Stahl: Do you know anything we can do to prevent a– these mini strokes?

Claudia Kawas: I wish I did. But I will soon, I hope.

Kawas suspects one thing that may cause them is low blood pressure, and she has some evidence. While none of the factors from the original Leisure World study — vitamins, alcohol, caffeine, even exercise — seemed to lower people’s risk of getting dementia, the 90+ study discovered that high blood pressure did.

Claudia Kawas: If you have high blood pressure, it looks like your risk of dementia is lower–

Lesley Stahl: Lower?

Claudia Kawas: Than if you don’t–

Lesley Stahl: High blood–

Claudia Kawas: –have high blood pressure–

Lesley Stahl: Wait. High blood pressure, lower risk of dementia?

Claudia Kawas: In a 90-year-old.

High blood pressure is still dangerous if you’re younger. Yet another reason she says it’s so important to study the oldest old.

Claudia Kawas: Most of what we know we study in much younger individuals — in 50, 60, maybe 70-year-olds. And then we just kind of assume that the same thing should happen in older people.

Lesley Stahl: And you’re saying we shouldn’t?

Claudia Kawas: I think we shouldn’t.

Take this next counterintuitive finding — this time, in the 90+ subjects who have no dementia.

Claudia Kawas: We’re finding out that if you die without dementia in this age group about half the time you still have plaques and tangles in your head.

Lesley Stahl: No? So you can exhibit Alzheimer’s and not have plaques and tangles half the time, and the reverse–

Claudia Kawas: Both directions.

Lesley Stahl: –you’re fine and you do have plaques and tangles? So what do you make of that?

Claudia Kawas: I mean one possibility is that plaques and tangles have nothing to do with it. But it might be that plaques and tangles are very, very important, but just a 90-year-old who has them and didn’t develop thinking problems has some way of getting around them that maybe all the rest of us would like to know.

So now they’re looking at people with no signs of dementia like Ruthy Stahl, Lou Tirado, Sid Shero, and Jane Whistler to see if they have plaques and tangles, but are not affected by them. There’s a new type of PET scan that for the first time makes it possible to find plaques during life, so the 90+ study is engaged in the delicate task of putting 99-year-olds like Jane Whistler, into scanners. Sid Shero, at 92, hopped right in.

Claudia Kawas: Jane and Sid both have very, very, very good thinking, as you saw.

Lesley Stahl: Yes. Definitely.

Claudia Kawas: And it turns out that one of their scans is positive, and one is negative.

She showed them to us one on top of the other. Yellow and red indicate the presence of amyloid plaque.

Claudia Kawas: So this is Miss Whistler, and this is Mr. Shero.

Lesley Stahl: Well, I’m surprised–

Claudia Kawas: Sid Shero–

Lesley Stahl: –having talked to him, that I’m seeing yellow and red here. Kind of stunning.

So what does that mean for Sid? The positive scan means statistically he’s at greater risk of cognitive decline, but Dr. Kawas says the fact he’s doing so well in spite of the plaque in his brain, and his stroke — means he may have that something protective and special that could help the rest of us. She says they’ll be keeping a close watch on him.

Lesley Stahl: If it’s unclear that the pathology hooks up with what you’re seeing, what does that mean in your mind?

Claudia Kawas: I think we’re looking for too simple an answer. I think we want one thing to explain Alzheimer’s. Look at something different. Like what makes skin wrinkle. Well, I mean, getting older makes skin wrinkle. Being in the sun too much makes skin wrinkle. Not taking care of your diet and they put them all together and they all contribute. And I think it might turn out to be the same for our thinking, especially in late life, that it’s not just Alzheimer’s pathology from plaques or not just microinfarcts, but the number of these hits that you take. And after a while you can’t withstand them all.

There’s one last thing we wondered about in the over 90 crowd, and that’s romance. Helen Weil, 92, and Henry Tornell, 94, both widowed, have been dating for three years.

Helen Weil and Henry Tornell

CBS News

Lesley Stahl: So do you see each other every day? Several times every day? Once a day? How does it work?

Henry Tornell: She gets one day off a week.

Helen Weil: It’s true. Tuesdays.

Lesley Stahl: Tuesdays is a day off.

Helen and Henry love being part of the 90+ study and both have signed up to donate their brains after they die. Henry has only one problem with the whole enterprise — what the study hasn’t asked about.

Henry Tornell: I asked them, “Aren’t you gonna ask us any questions about our sex life?” And they said no.

Lesley Stahl: Well, I will. How’s your sex life? You brought it up.

Helen Weil: See, he is funny, you know. That–

Lesley Stahl: Well, I don’t know. I think– I’m not laughing. How is your sex life?

Helen Weil: He’s blushing.

Lesley Stahl: He’s blushing. But is that part of– do you think that has something to do with–

Henry Tornell: I would say it has a big part.

Lesley Stahl: Helen?

Helen Weil: We are very emo– we are very affectionate./

Lesley Stahl: But do you think that sex is an important part of staying young?

Henry Tornell: Yes.

The 90+ study has just gotten another 5-year round of NIH funding to delve deeper into risk factors for specific types of dementia, like those microinfarcts, and to search for genes that may be protective, in their continuing search for the secrets of the oldest old.

Claudia Kawas: I really believe that when we learn things from the 90-year-olds. they’re gonna be helping the 60- and 70-year-olds -not just how to become 90-year-olds, but how to do it with style and as good a function as possible.

Lesley Stahl: Well, obviously you’ve already started that by telling us that we should have some wine. That we should have some coffee. Good news–

Claudia Kawas: And socialize.

Lesley Stahl: And socialize.

Claudia Kawas: And exercise.

Lesley Stahl: And gain weight.

Claudia Kawas: And that’s my favorite.

Lesley Stahl: My favorite too, absolutely.

And maybe a little something else!

[Helen and Henry dance]

We are happy to report that all the 90+’ers in our story are still going strong. Several have celebrated birthdays since our story aired — including Jane Whistler, who had a big one. She is now 100.

Helen Weil and Henry Tornell

CBS News

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Australia has the kind of housing investment data we could use

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Jamie Henry

There are many similarities between the housing market in Canada and that of Australia; low interest rates, affordability issues, overvaluation and foreign investment. One big difference is the availability of data, particularly that relating to foreign ownership. Australia has data on the levels of overseas investors and as such it clamped down on that investment four years ago; foreigners can now only invest in new developments. Experts say we desperately need to have that kind of data here. Vancouver is the world’s second most expensive housing market, despite average income in the city being lower than the national average. The perception is that foreign ownership is pricing locals out of the market and some predictions suggest as much as 50 per cent of the downtown condos are foreign-owned. But we don’t know for sure, because we don’t have the stats.

Copyright © 2014 Key Media Pty Ltd

Squamish real estate market is hot

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

After years of a flat market, Squamish is seeing an increase in sales

Jennifer Thuncher

According to several Squamish realtors, this has been the busiest summer they have had since before the 2008 recession hit, both in terms of sales numbers and in interest from potential buyers.

Single-detached family houses in the district in particular have been as popular as campsites at the base of the Stawamus Chief in August.

Comparing last year’s figures to this shows what a difference a year can make.

Sales figures are tricky to nail down because it depends on who you ask and what you include, but according to the Multiple Listings figures used by Lisa Bjornson, manager of Royal LePage, Black Tusk Realty in Squamish, in June and July this year sales were up 105 per cent over last year.

(The lowest percentage increase for this period reported to Pique by local realtors was 50 per cent.)

According to Bjornson, in June and July of this year, 117 units sold compared to 57 in June and July last year. Of the 117 sold this summer, 61 were single-detached homes.

“We definitely have seen a significant increase in market activity,” said Bjornson.

She said sales in Squamish have actually been steadily increasing for the last six months, and interest really started to ramp up in April.

The overall six-month numbers tell more of the story — 203 units were sold in the first six months of 2013 while 313 were sold January to July, 2014.

Of those, there were 101 single-family detached sales in 2013 versus 166 in the first six months of 2014. That is over a 60-per-cent increase.

Whistler is seeing an uptick in activity as well, but it doesn’t compare to the movement in Squamish.

“For me personally, it was basically June 23 the light switch flipped on and the phones started ringing,” said Matt Chiasson, realtor with RE/MAX Sea to Sky Real Estate in Whistler

Chiasson said Whistler has been busier in general with all the festivals and events and when there are more people in town, the realtors are busier, too.

Stats (MLS) for June show there were 66 sales total in Whistler while the same month last year saw 42 sales in Whistler. In July there were 56 sales up from 48 the year before.

“We had five years of declining prices from 2008 to 2013. After the global recession, our sales took a big hit, but our prices stayed up. So, our prices have slowly come down each year and our sales have slowly increased,” Chiasson said.

The median price for a single-detached home in Whistler in July of this summer was still a hefty $1,160,000, double the average price for the same in Squamish, but prices have gone down making the Whistler’s housing market a better value than it has been since the early 2000s.

Whistler Realtor Peter Dagg, with Tantalus Mountain Realty & Management, points out that the Phase 2 hotel condo prices are really down in Whistler.

“At the Holiday Inn you can by a studio [for 56 days of the year] for $40,000. Originally, in 2002, they sold for $160,000,” Dagg said.

Dagg said most customers, close to 80 per cent, are from Vancouver. They know Whistler and they know what they want.

More than 80 per cent of residential sales in Whistler are second homeowners, he said.

So, Whistler’s market is warming up thanks to more traffic in the village and somewhat lower prices, but what is making Squamish’s market so hot?

One factor is the amount of attention Squamish has been getting of late.

According to Bjornson, the Sea to Sky Gondola and the Squamish Valley Music Festival have made Squamish a place to go and stay for a while, rather than a place to stop on the way to Whistler.

She said when people come to the area for an event, they see the lifestyle plusses Squamish has to offer.

It also helps that the only area in the Lower Mainland that has median home prices lower than Squamish is Maple Ridge, so for Vancouverites Squamish is a viable option, even if they commute.

The median sale price from January to July 2013 for a single-family detached home was $490,000 and for the same period in 2014 the price was about $536.000.

The median price for townhouses went down year over year, from about $367,500 in the first six months of 2013 to $357,861 in the first six months of 2014. The median price of apartments stayed stable at about $215,000.

Squamish has a zero vacancy rate in the rental market, which also encourages previous renters to consider buying.

“We are definitely converting some first-time home buyers who want the stability and the security of not being bumped around and that has a tendency to filter up through the market,” Bjornson said.

Similarly, rental prices have gone up, which encourages investors to buy up properties they can safely predict will make money.

The current low interest rates available have also helped spur the market.

Bjornson said the number of buyers from the Lower Mainland, who are escaping high prices, has almost doubled in the last year and a half. About 18 months ago, roughly 16 per cent of Squamish buyers were from the Vancouver area. This summer, that figure has been closer to 29 per cent.

She is also seeing a small contingent of buyers from Whistler look to Squamish, whereas in recent years there were very few.

There is no typical buyer, but if she had to profile the housing consumer this summer, Bjornson said most are young parents or youngish professional couples looking for lifestyle and affordability.

In terms of advice for buyers, Jill Carter, realtor for RE/MAX Sea to Sky Real Estate Squamish, said her best advice is to have their ducks in a row before arriving in Squamish. “It is not last year. I think what is happening is buyers who were here last year are thinking they have some time,” she said. Now buyers don’t have their pick of houses or time to dither. The inventory in Squamish has been reduced considerably. Carter said there are about 22 units on the market with an asking price in the “sweet spot” of between $450,000 and $600,000. For townhouses between the $300,000 to $450,000 range, there are 45 units available.

In terms of sellers, Carter said it is a good time to sell, but sellers still have to have reasonable expectations.

“You still can’t get overly greedy, but at the same time you are in a bit of a sellers’ market,” she said.

“The things that are moving are the things that are priced properly and are still seemingly good value, it is not like we are in a crazed market,” she said, adding that there are some competitive multiple-offer situations happening, but it is not like people are able to get whatever they want for their home, beyond reason.

Carter said she doesn’t see a huge surge in pricing over the next two years, adding: “[The market] is going to keep doing what it is doing.”

Copyright Pique News Magazine

Lower Mainland Q2 Home Sales Value Up 17%: Landcor

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Elizabeth Wilson

The value of residential sales in the Lower Mainland in 2014′s second quarter increase 17.24 per cent compared with the same period a year ago, and 35.18 per cent over this year’s first quarter, according to the latest Landcor BC Q2 2014 Residential Sales Summary.

The number of sales in the region in Q2 2014 rose 4.72 per cent compared with Q2 2013, and jumped 39.43 per cent over Q1 2014.

House prices in the region dipped slightly from Q1 to Q2 this year, but they were up across all housing types over last year’s second quarter, with the median price of a detached home rising 7.12 per cent to $865,000.

Unlike the real estate boards, which cover only MLS® resale homes, Landcor Data Corp analyzes all reported home sales in BC, including MLS resale, private resale and newly built homes.

The huge Metro Vancouver region identified by Landcor, which includes BC’s major housing markets as far north as Pemberton and south to the US border, accounts for the greatest sales volume and highest prices in the province. This skews the BC numbers to indicate price drops for the whole province, as the second table shows.

However a closer, region-by-region look shows that prices in the rest of the province actually strengthened from the first to second quarters, and also generally improved year over year. Click here to see regional charts.

BC North Coast Forecast

The Landcor report also looked for signs of a long-anticipated investment uptick in BC’s north coast, where housing demand could suddenly explode where (or if) any proposed new pipelines, refineries and energy shipping terminals come to pass.

Author Will Dunning found that the employment rate for the north coast and Nechako does not indicate that new businesses are moving into the area in anticipation of a boom, and that the economy as a whole is not stronger than the overall BC economy.

Despite a lack of job creation, though, the report found that there’s been positive activity in the housing market. Home sales in Prince Rupert, District of Kitimat and Terrace have been trending upwards since 2012, and home prices have risen by about 30 per cent in a year.

The sales and price numbers indicate that investors see a good chance of increased employment that will lead to greater demand for housing.

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

Affordable housing concerns here to stay

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Michael Geller
Van. Courier

Last week, marketing research firm Insights West presented its latest poll results on the Vancouver political scene. There were not a lot of surprises, other than public awareness for one of the mayoral candidates. Sixty-six per cent said they did not know who independent candidate Colin Shandler was. I would have thought the number would be closer to 100 per cent.

As to the most important issues facing Vancouver right now, housing topped the list at 39 per cent, followed by transportation (16 per cent), poverty (12 per cent) and economic development (nine per cent).

I expect we will hear a great deal about housing affordability over the next three months. With this in mind, here are some things I would suggest be done to reduce housing costs and improve affordability.

• There will always be a desire for single family housing in our city. However, many people would prefer smaller, more affordable houses on smaller lots. In some neighbourhoods, the city should allow 50-foot wide lots to be subdivided into two 25-foot lots. Secondary suites could be permitted on these skinny lots, but not laneway houses.

• Basement suites provide some of the city’s most affordable housing. However, they are usually not permitted in duplexes or rowhouses. Zoning bylaws should permit basement suites in these more affordable forms of housing. The city should also allow a second basement suite in larger single family houses if there is no laneway house.

• Laneway housing is becoming increasingly acceptable. However, these houses must be rental and the rents are not cheap. To create more affordable ground-oriented ownership housing, the city should allow some laneway houses to be sold, starting with those on corner lots 50 feet or wider.

• I was born in England where semi-detached and terraced rowhouses are among the most affordable housing forms. But not so in Vancouver. Neighbourhood plans should be revised to encourage these forms of housing across the city.

• Small, low-rise walk-up buildings provide Vancouver’s most affordable rental apartments. However they are no longer built since building codes require elevators and two sets of stairs from each floor. But not so in Calgary or Sydney, Australia. Since we rarely read about people burning to death in these cities, and new buildings are sprinklered and constructed with less flammable materials, we should revise codes to again encourage small, affordable apartment buildings. Accessible suites could be on the ground floor.

• The cost of underground parking can be significant, especially for smaller suites. Given societal concerns over traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, the city should reconsider having minimum parking requirements. Instead it should establish maximum resident parking requirements. To address neighbourhood concerns, visitor parking requirements should be increased beyond what they are today.

• Many older rental apartment buildings are in need of substantial upgrading. However, it is expensive to bring these buildings up to modern day codes. Moreover, tenants may need to be relocated and rents will increase. Since most landlords do not want to risk seeing their photos on the front page of community newspapers, too often they defer these major upgrades.

To offset renovation costs and increase rental housing supply, apartment owners should be encouraged to construct additional suites on roofs, above parking areas, or on underutilized land around their buildings wherever feasible. While neighbours will complain, if we do not start upgrading these buildings now, many will not last into the future, especially after an earthquake.

Recently, in an effort to improve housing affordability, the City of Vancouver announced the creation of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA). This is not the first time the city has created a separate housing entity. It had one in the 1970s. Whether it will be more effective this time remains to be seen. The city recently issued a call for a board of directors. If you are interested in applying, the deadline is Sept. 22. I may join you.

There are many more things that need to be done to reduce housing costs in Vancouver. Over the next three months, I hope we will hear good ideas from the various political parties as to what they will do if elected since housing affordability is likely to remain the city’s number one issue for many years to come.

© Vancouver Courier

Ruling in favour of teen tenant causes uproar

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Landlords are up in arms after a Tribunal ordered a Toronto landlord to pay a young woman for denying her an apartment because she was under-18.

Grainne Burns

Investors have been warned again about the implications of age discrimination in light of a ruling in favour of a then underage tenant.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently ordered a landlord to pay a young woman $10,000 for denying her an apartment because she was under-18.

The woman was 17 when she applied for a bachelor apartment at 500 Dawes Rd., the rental building that is often cited as one of the worst in Toronto with reports of mice, bed bugs, broken heating, mould and fire damage.

The building superintendent told the woman that the building had a policy of not renting to anyone under-18 despite Ontario law stating that 16 and 17-year olds can sign leases.

The ruling ordered the payout for injury to the woman’s “dignity, feelings and self-respect,” with the landlord claiming during the hearing that the apartment was not vacant at time of application. The adjudicator also reported that the landlord tried to influence a witness to deny that age was a deciding factor and that she fabricated evidence.

The landlord was also ordered to develop a human rights policy specific to rental housing for 500 Dawes Rd., to post the policy and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Code in the rental office, and to provide human rights training to anyone who shows prospective tenants units in the building.

While much of the focus has been on the landlord and building, other investors have raised their concerns about the age ruling and general leniency, once again, towards tenants in such cases.

“No property owner should be told who they should rent to,” says Kayla Andrade from Ontario Landlords Watch. “Landlords should be allowed to choose whomever they want for their properties and should not feel obligated or pressurised to allow someone they do not feel comfortably with in their rental property.”

She advises landlords to explain to each potential tenant viewing the rental unit that they will only be contacted if they are accepted. “Landlords should not give potential tenants a reason why they did not get accepted.”

Copyright ©2009 KMI Pty Ltd

Vancouver housing data reveals Chinese connection

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Iain Marlow

One of the largest real estate companies in British Columbia says that more than one-third of all the single-family detached homes it sold last year went to people with ties to mainland China.

Macdonald Realty Ltd., which has over 1,000 agents and staff in B.C., said 33.5 per cent of the 531 single family homes sold by its Vancouver offices in 2013 went to people who the company said were a mix of recent immigrants and Canadian citizens.

Those buyers, the company added, tended to spend more money, too, with the average cost of a house sold to these clients topping $2-million, compared to $1.4-million on average overall.

The figures did not include Macdonald’s sales in suburban areas such as Richmond, Burnaby or North Vancouver.

“This is our snapshot of Vancouver,” says Dan Scarrow, vice-president of corporate strategy at Macdonald Realty.

The information is based on reports from the firm’s sales, anecdotes from its agents and Mr. Scarrow’s own experience working with mainland Chinese clients, and it’s a glimpse into the influence of mainland Chinese money on Vancouver’s real estate market, which is considered among the most expensive in North America.

Vancouver has been flooded in recent years by tens of thousands of investor-class immigrants from mainland China, who have seen the west coast city as a stable – and picturesque – place to park their capital in luxury property.

That has helped drive up the average price of a single-family home in Vancouver to around $1.2-million.

Mr. Scarrow, who noted the firm does not query buyers about immigration status, believes that investment flowing from mainland China into Vancouver real estate is a quantifiable phenomenon, but has not personally seen much of the more controversial type of buyer: Those from abroad who buy for investment purposes but never live in the city. “We still see very few pure investors from China who have no connection to Vancouver,” he says.

Getting a handle on foreign buyers is difficult and Macdonald’s survey is far from exact – though one major property developer in Richmond said “that sounds about right.” The federal government does not collect meaningful data on the number of foreign buyers purchasing Canadian real estate, leaving industry participants to debate the impact of foreign capital on the local market. And that debate has gotten heated recently, with some developers accusing others of racism and criticizing those who want to slap curbs on foreign investment. The issue is complicated by the fact that some of Vancouver’s ethnically Chinese Canadian citizens with ties to Hong Kong view newer immigrants from mainland China with a degree of suspicion, assuming their wealth might have been accumulated in part by proximity to China’s Communist Party, rather than in a free market with the rule of law like Hong Kong.

The lack of hard data has also complicated discussions about the city’s affordability crisis and fuelled a local cottage industry where analysts attempt to decipher the scope of foreign money by looking at things like electricity usage in downtown neighbourhoods where some suspect foreign buyers have bought condos in which they never live.

“People always say there are no stats. Well, here are the stats,” says Mr. Scarrow. “This is actual evidence.”

There have been some reports and statistics about the scale of foreign money in Vancouver real estate before, but few have been conclusive – and none have settled the debate. One Sotheby’s report based on a survey of its agents found that 40 per cent of the luxury properties it sold in Vancouver were to foreign buyers – but not all of them were from China. Many developers trying to downplay fears about Chinese investment cite a statistic showing that only 1 to 3 per cent of Vancouver real estate purchases are “foreign” buyers – but, as is the case with Macdonald’s sales, many more expensive homes are still sold to people based here but who have come, at some point, from mainland China. A 2011 study by Landcor Data showed that 74 per cent of luxury purchases in Richmond and Vancouver’s expensive west side were by buyers with mainland Chinese names.

Mr. Scarrow says his company is “indicative of the overall market,” since his firm has some real estate agents who target overseas Chinese buyers, but is also firmly oriented toward domestic sales, unlike other real estate firms that deliberately target Chinese buyers.

At the same time, Mr. Scarrow and Macdonald are so bullish on the potential for Chinese investment that he is spearheading the company’s efforts to open an office in China. “While there is very little data about foreign investors in Vancouver real estate, our own internal data is enough for us to commit to investing in a representative office in Shanghai,” said Mr. Scarrow, whose mother Lynn Hsu, who came from Taiwan in 1979, is the majority owner and president of Macdonald.

Others remain unconvinced – not about whether there is an influx of Chinese money, but whether the flow of foreign capital will continue unabated.

Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who works with wealthy Chinese immigrants, believes Vancouver may see a slowdown in foreign investment. He said some wealthy Chinese buyers might get anxious and sell off second properties because of the current crackdown on corruption in China.

In meetings with top real estate agents earlier this year, Mr. Kurland predicted that luxury residential real estate could drop in value by as much as 25 per cent as foreign investment dips. As evidence, he points to July real estate figures that showed 106 homes for sale on the west side in the $3-million to $3.5-million price bracket, and just nine sales, compared to 73 active listings and seven sales during July of 2013.

© Copyright 2014 The Globe and Mail Inc.

RBC: cooling market in 2015 but real test to come

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Justin da Rosa

One reader believes variable rate mortgages will continue to be the best option for clients going forward, following one big banks market forecast for 2015.

“I think this forecast means that prime rate will remain low just that much longer as it is the only interest rate that the Bank of Canada can control – almost directly,” Layth Matthews of RateMiser said on “So variable rate mortgages are still the risk-adjusted best way to go.”

The comment was in response to RBC forecasting housing pricing deceleration and a cooling market next year.

“We expect that rising interest rates and increasingly strained affordability will cool Canada’s housing market during the next year and cause home prices to decelerate substantially in 2015,” the Royal Bank’s most recent Canadian Housing Forecast report states. “We forecast home resales to edge slightly lower by 0.9 per cent to 463,100 units nation-wide in 2015 following an increase of 2.1 per cent to 467,200 units in 2014; and home price gains to moderate to just 1.1 per cent next year from 4.3 per cent this year.”

RBC’s latest forecast joins a chorus of economists who also expect a soft landing next year, including the Conference Board of Canada.

“The apartment condominium market enjoys a reasonable outlook; after considerable angst about prospects of a general housing market crash, most analysts, including us, now believe the Canadian market is not a bubble about to burst, but will land softly,” the conference board’s latest report, commissioned by Genworth Canada states. “There are pockets of higher risk, like potentially overbuilt condominium markets in several eastern cities, notably Toronto, and the possibility that slowing offshore demand could derail market recovery in Vancouver.”

For its part, RBC believes 2016 may see more drastic declines.

“The bigger test could well await after 2015 should interest rates normalize fully over the medium term,” the report states. “In this case, we could see outright price declines in the 2016 or later timeframe because we believe that prices will be the principal adjustment mechanism preventing affordability from reaching dangerously poor levels in the face of a substantial cumulative rise in interest rates – growing household incomes would provide only partial offset.”

Copyright © 2014 Key Media Pty Ltd

River Watch Residences Ladner 13 homes in a 4-storey building by Shato Holdings

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

For those who dream of living on the waterfront


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How to be king of the CASL

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Jon MacCall

“Can I add you to my email list?” Are these words part of your client cultivation vocabulary yet? They should be.

Now that the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is law, sales reps, as users of electronic marketing tools, need to be aware of some Dos and Don’ts.

As an earlier REM article pointed out, the intent of CASL (effective July 1, 2014), is to stop hackers and spammers from preying on customers using commercial electronic messages (CEM). The difference between spammers and legitimate marketers is that the latter has received consent from individuals. In a nutshell, the CASL rules are straightforward:

* No more mass emails to strangers.

* Get consent from potential clients, either expressed or implied.

* Provide opportunity for contacts to opt-out or unsubscribe.

* Respect your contacts’ decision to opt-in or out of marketing messages.

So, if your marketing includes sending emails, faxes or private messages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or LinkedIn, the new law requires that you only send to those who have consented.

More specifically, here’s what CASL means to sales reps:

* You cannot send electronic messages to lists (including lists you have bought!) unless you get consent from each person on that list who will receive an email (and be prepared to prove that consent was obtained if challenged).

* You can continue to use your website to generate leads and you can respond to consumer inquiries from your personal, company or franchise website.

* You cannot automatically put all website leads on an email campaign without express consent.

* You can harvest emails from other people’s personal or company websites but only if they do not have a “do not send me commercial offers” disclaimer on that site. (Be sure to document where and when you got the email, ideally saving a screen shot to prove there was no disclaimer.)

Express Consent vs. Implied Consent: When getting permission to add people to your email list, CASL makes a clear distinction between express consent and implied consent. Express consent is when a contact explicitly agrees to receive electronic marketing messages from you. “Would you like to receive messages from me?” You have express consent when they say yes. This is your best-case scenario because express consent never needs to be reconfirmed (it’s good forever). It’s a lot less complicated to manage on a go-forward basis.

It’s also on-side to send CEMs to individuals where you have implied consent. Under CASL you can claim Implied Consent from a contact if you’ve had a business dealing with them – someone who voluntarily dropped a business card at your open house, someone with whom you have transacted business, or have signed a buyer agency or listing agreement.

The key with implied consent is to keep track of the last business dealing with that contact as well as the date because this type of consent expires after two years. This means you have two years to convert your implied to express consent or to have another business dealing with that person to reset the two-year clock.

As you can see, keeping track of implied consent expiry dates can soon get tricky if you have a good-sized book to manage. Pen and paper may no longer be a viable technology for managing your book.

You can still send an email to answer a consumer inquiry, for example in response to a website lead request for information on a specific listing. What you can’t do anymore is to automatically put all website leads on an email “drip campaign” unless they provide express consent. CASL requires that your response be limited to answering the original inquiry. A long back-and-forth exchange is okay, as long as the consumer is in control of the conversation.

The bottom line: get consent and keep track. Whatever technology you decide to use for tracking leads and contacts – whether that technology is pen and paper or state-of-the-art CRM – make sure it works for your business. For every contact you have, you should also be able to prove consent to contact.

Canada‘s anti-spam legislation (CASL) is in place to protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.

If you use electronic channels to promote or market your organization, products or services, Canada’s new anti-spam law may affect you.

It is your duty to understand and comply with the law.

Compliance Basics


  • Do you use email, SMS, social media or instant messaging to send commercial or promotional information about your organization to customers, prospects and other important audiences?


  • Do you install software programs on people’s computers or mobile devices?


  • Do you carry out these activities in or from Canada?

Copyright © REM 2014