Archive for January, 2015

Millennials push up homeownership timeline on lower rates

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Jamie Henry

Many Millennials are looking to get into the home market sooner than they previous expected, according to a new report, largely on newly lowered mortgage rates.

A new study from the Bank of Montreal found 74 per cent of Millennials plan to purchase a home in the next five years, while 31 per cent said they’d be homeowners within the next 12 months.

“As Millennials today are saddled with more debt than when their parents were starting careers and families, the decreased interest rate provides an opportunity to pay down debt faster,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist, BMO Capital Markets.

This younger generation is also the most confident about the market. The BMO report determined half of the Millennials polled say the lower interest rates will have a positive impact on their overall financial situation, while 21 per cent said they feel they can afford a home sooner than they previously thought.

However, agents on the ground say that confidence has already been at work.

“First-timer buyers are already expecting low rates,” says Justin Kua, an agent in Toronto. “It’s just giving people a little more confidence in being able to take on a mortgage.”

Copyright © 2015 Key Media Pty Ltd

Realtors adapting to ‘disruptive’ technology #LesTwarog

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Realtors Offer Cash Rebates To Woo Do-It-Yourself Home Buyers

Jamie Henry

Real estate agents are reacting to the new kids on the block that are taking a bite out of their business. Websites and apps that enable vendors to market their homes without a realtor have been springing up along with other ‘disrupters’ who want to reinvent the realty market. So what is the future for real estate agents? While the new technology may offer a solution for some, many people want the personal service that using an agent provides. A report from The Huffington Post says that some realtors are offering cashback to those using their services; not to sellers but to buyers; but one Toronto agent Andrew le Fleur says that the practice should ring warning bells for consumers: “You’re dealing with somebody who can’t compete at the same level as a top producer, you’re not going to get the best result at the end of the day in most cases.” However Dan Chan whose online business offers up to 80 per cent of his sellers’ commission to buyers says that he’s not trying to compete with traditional agents and is offering an alternative to those what want a different way to do things.

Once upon a time we relied on a realtor to find us the right home. But now high tech-real estate websites are empowering many Canadians to shop for their dream home on their own.

As the internet transforms their industry, where does the real estate agent fit in?

A new breed of realtors say they’re often not needed until the home stretch. So they’re offering their buying clients a cut to their commission that can amount to a rebate of thousands of dollars.

It’s a perk that’s sometimes frowned on in an industry that clings to tradition. Some agents say a rebate offer raises a red flag — a sign of a substandard realtor who can’t drum up enough business.

Home buyers on the hunt

Eric Rouah likes to peruse the real estate site, where, for no cost, he can wander a virtual Toronto, searching for properties for sale. The investor owns multiple condos and is hunting for more.

He likes the fact the site lists pre-construction condo projects in intricate detail, something not offered on the standard Canadian Real Estate Association site

“What kind of amenities do they have, any schools in the area, when’s it going to be done, who’s the builder? There’s a lot of information,” he says.

But Rouah has still hired a RedPin agent because he needs someone to seal the deal: “That’s really what I think I’m sort of paying them for, facilitating that whole transaction aspect.”

Cash back

When Rouah does buy a property, his agent will give him a rebate: 15 per cent of the agent’s 2.5 per cent commission that’s paid by the seller. Rouah says it’s a fair deal considering the process is a “combined effort.” offers the 15 per cent rebate to all home buyers, acknowledging that many will do a share of the work themselves.

“Traditionally agents were the gatekeepers,” says the company’s co-founder Rokham Fard. He says when it came to finding out details about properties and neighbourhoods, “they had the key to the lock box.”

But now, he points out, most Canadians start their own research online.

“They can filter through all the facts until they’re ready to take the next steps, which is usually going to see the home.” He adds, “They’re obviously taking some of the burden off us.”

Even more cash back

Real estate agent Dan Chan is offering an even bigger cut. The Toronto agent has just launched a new real estate business, He is offering homebuyers up to 80 per cent of his 2.5 per cent commission. 

Chan bases his rebate on how many homes his client visits. If he only has to show one property, his client will get 80 per cent of his commission. For every home showing after that, he reduces the cut to his commission. After 20 properties, adds the realtor, “I feel like I deserve the full commission.”

Chan recently gave a client a $10,000 rebate because the first home they visited together turned out to be the one.

“I will work with a buyer at any stage of the process, but if you’re further along, then it just makes my job easier,” says Chan.

The rebate controversy

While home buyers may be keen on cash back, rebates have been met resistance from the traditional real estate industry. In the United States, 10 states currently ban the practice.

The list was once longer, but the U.S. Justice Department has won a handful of battles to repeal the ban in other states. The department argues on its website that “rebate bans artificially inflate the cost of real estate services” and “prohibit brokers from competing on price.”

In Canada, any agent is free to give cash back. But some would never consider it. Toronto realtor Andrew la Fleur says an agent offering rebates is a warning sign you’re not dealing with the cream of the crop.

“You’re dealing with somebody who can’t compete at the same level as a top producer,” he says. “So what do they do? They say, ‘Well, come to me and I’ll give it to you for a lower price.'” He adds, “You’re not going to get the best result at the end of the day in most cases.”

Get used to it?

But Chan says he’s not competing with traditional agents. Instead, he’s offering an alternative service to a particular client: “Clients who are empowered to have made their own decisions about where they want to live.”

And he says as technology advances and more real estate information becomes available online, it will be even more important for agents to offer cash incentives like rebates.

Fard with, agrees. “I don’t think realtors will go away. That’s sometimes a fear to some people. But I feel [their] role has to change.”

He believes agents should focus on skills that will still be needed in the internet age: negotiating price and sealing the deal. “Will technology shine when it comes to negotiation? No it doesn’t . [It’s] something technology hasn’t been able to replace.”

At least not yet.

Copyright © 2015 Key Media Pty Ltd

Analysts confident of another rate cut in March #LesTwarog

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Jamie Henry

Disappointing data from Statistics Canada that show a weaker labour market in 2014 than previously thought has increased anticipation of another cut in interest rates. With lower oil prices having an impact on inflation and concern over the global economy there has been talk of further reductions already with economists including those from TD Bank expecting the BoC to cut again when they meet in March.

Copyright © 2015 Key Media Pty Ltd

Oliver says there’s no housing bubble #LesTwarog

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Jamie Henry

Some people will never be convinced but yesterday federal finance minster Joe Oliver again repeated the government’s opinion: “we don’t think there’s a bubble.” He said that the CMHC and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development agree. Oliver said that the government is monitoring the situation regarding the housing market and levels of personal debt, especially with interest rates trending lower, but they do not see a major concern currently and believe that people are not buying homes they can’t afford. The finance minister was also asked for his opinion of the banks reducing their lending rates by less than that of the central bank but he would only say that it is a “private sector decision.” 

Copyright © 2015 Key Media Pty Ltd

Lower rates to boost buyer confidence #LesTwarog

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Olivia D’Orazio

A major Canadian bank has lowered its five-year fixed mortgage rate – and others are expected to follow suit – but some agents believe that won’t have much of an impact on how the housing market performs in 2015.
“I don’t believe a quarter-point will make a significant difference,” says Justin Kua, a real estate agent in Toronto. “First-timer buyers are already expecting low rates. It’s just giving people a little more confidence in being able to take on a mortgage.”
Over the weekend, the Royal Bank of Canada dropped its five-year fixed rate mortgage to just 2.84 per cent. No other banks have jumped on the rate dropping trend, but Kua says they likely will soon enough.
“When the business starts to shift sideways,” he says, “you need to adjust.”
Still, Kua expects the market in 2015 to pick up where last year left off, with low inventory being the driving force behind the hot market.
“The market is going to be active whether interest rates are high or low,” he says. “Growing families still need to up-size and seniors still need to downsize.”
With that said, though, Kua is encouraging his clients to take advantage of a lower rate.
“If a client wants to move up and can afford a detached house now, I highly recommend it. It’s way cheaper now than down the line,” he says. “But, buyers should be proactive in paying down the mortgage, because while it’s cheap now, you have to be aware that higher rates are coming. Don’t sit on a huge mortgage assuming rates are going to stay low forever.”
 Copyright © 2015 Key Media Pty Ltd

Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel rejects ‘origami’ tower #LesTwarog

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Architect says he looks forward to addressing concerns raised by panel

Naoibh O’Connor
Van. Courier

Vancouver‘s Urban Design Panel rejected the proposal for Cadillac Fairview’s Waterfront “origami” Tower at its meeting Wednesday.

The panel doesn’t approve or deny development applications but is an advisory body to the city. The Vancouver Heritage Commission supported the project at its December meeting, although that decision wasn’t unanimous.

Had the UDP supported the project, it would have gone before the Development Permit Board (DPB) in March. That meeting will be rescheduled when the tower is redesigned, head planner Brian Jackson told the Courier. Before the revised tower goes to the DPB, it will go back to the Gastown Heritage Advisory Committee and the Vancouver Heritage Commission. 

“Timing is entirely in the applicant’s hands in terms of the need to redesign in accordance with the UDP’s comments,” Jackson said.

The 26-storey glass tower is envisioned for next to Waterfront Station and it would overhang part of the station. The Landing heritage building is on the other side. The small footprint of the site, coupled with city planning and design guidelines, means a creative solution is required.

Urban Design Panel members raised numerous concerns, including the location of the tower on the site and its proximity to the historic Waterfront Station, that not enough sustainability measures were featured in the project, and the relationship between the property’s private realm and the public realm.

The tower was designed by Gordon Gill + Adrian Smith Architecture, an international firm based out of Chicago. B+H Architects is the local collaborating firm.

Gill called comments from the panel “insightful” and said the firm looked forward to addressing them. The project generated significant criticism over the past week over the tower’s appearance, as well as its relationship to the heritage buildings on either side.

“I don’t see [the criticism] as a personal affront. Correctly there’s a lot of concern about heritage buildings. I think that’s fair. I think that’s right,” Gill told reporters after the UDP meeting. “We are also concerned as you see, which is why we positioned the building originally farther to the east. So I think the comments tonight were very constructive and very helpful – not just to us, but hopefully [to] the city and to everyone who’s working on the project.”

UDP chairperson Ryan Bragg from Perkins + Will Architects summarized panelists‘ comments before they voted. He noted some of their concerns about landscaping and the public realm as it relates to the existing and future context of the site.

“The perception of the public is this is a public space, but it’s not. It’s a private space. So, as one of the panelists suggested, this is going to change the landscape of the city forever, which is the right of the owner and as a result you tried to respond in a manner that accepts that, but is cognizant of the role of the public realm,” he told the applicants.

Bragg noted that the relationship of the building to transit is important, as is the relationship to the adjacent heritage buildings.

He also said: “Some suggestions as well [were] that perhaps the ground floor could be seen as an extension to the overall public realm and perhaps there’s more porosity than less porosity and as a result the perception of the site and what would be private space is in fact much more public.”

While some panelists suggested the building could be moved away from Waterfront Station, others were concerned that would then create concerns about its proximity to The Landing.

After the meeting, Gill said he’s not sure how difficult it will be to change elements of the proposal or how a revamped proposal might look.

“I think that’s a matter of how we assess that with our client [Cadillac Fairview] as to exactly what will be the next steps. So we will take the comments, sit with the client and look as to what the next steps are and determine how to address it,” he said.

Gill also said he wasn’t surprised by the comments from the UDP.

“I think we knew pretty much where we stood. I think we understand the site very well. It’s a difficult site and it’s good to hear that [acknowledged].”

When a reporter noted Gill didn’t seem to be taking the rejection too badly, Gill said they are often at the other side of the table.

“It is a very important job and we really have a lot of respect for the panel and the comments. We understand the process of architecture, especially when it’s complex. You have to allow that process to happen and typically the buildings get better because of it,” he said.

© 2015 Vancouver

Yaletowners beat Vancouver city hall #LesTwarog

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Bob Mackin
Van. Courier

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has quashed a rezoning bylaw and development permit for a controversial downtown land swap and ordered city council to hold new public hearings.

Community Association of New Yaletown sought a judicial review of the deal cut with Brenhill Developments, for it to demolish the city’s Jubilee House at 508 Helmcken St. and build a 36-storey condominium tower in exchange for building a social housing complex on 1099 Richards St. CANY claimed the tower would be 4.5 times higher than the Downtown Official Development Plan allows.

CANY argued the city concocted a secret deal with Brenhill and should have publicly tendered the land. CANY also said the city breached the Vancouver Charter for failing to give the public fair opportunity to be heard.

Wrote Justice Mark McEwan in his Jan. 27 verdict: “The procedure the city adopted was unfairly restrictive, in presenting the public with a package of technical material that was opaque, compared to the material presented in court, in limiting comment on the integrated nature of the project, and in failing to provide an intelligible (i.e. where do the numbers come from?) financial justification for it.”

The 1985-built Jubilee House contains 87 units occupied by 89 residents, mostly war veterans, pensioners and welfare recipients.

“The petitioner submits that the city has misinterpreted its policy regarding the disposition of city lands which exempts land from public tender where the site disposed of will be used for social purposes,” said McEwan’s verdict. “It submits that 508 is now being used for social purposes, but that after the land exchange it will not be, and that accordingly the exchange is improper, and impairs the possibility of a “fully informed and reasoned discussion.”

McEwan called the city’s public hearing process flawed, because it took an “unduly restrictive view of the discussion” about the costs and benefits of the project to the city and its residents.

McEwan wrote that it “is impossible to tell whether the numbers have a real-world justification or are simply used to set up an offset that the proponents have chosen, to give the appearance of adequate consideration. In light of the scale of the zoning change and the trade-off of existing amenities for social housing, these things are more than just the City doing its ‘business.’

“A public hearing is not just an occasion for the public to blow off steam: it is a chance for perspectives to be heard that have not been heard as the City’s focus has narrowed during the project negotiations. Those perspectives, in turn, must be fairly and scrupulously considered and evaluated by council before making its final decision.”

McEwan ruled that CANY was entitled to the costs of the case, which was heard over four days last August.

The city’s development director, Brian Jackson, had no immediate comment. He said he was reviewing the decision.

© 2015 Vancouver Courier

Proposed ‘origami’ tower goes before design panel

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Architects defend controversial design

Naoibh O

3 Mean Things Said About Waterfront Tower

Monday, January 26th, 2015


The edgy design of Waterfront Tower, a 26-storey office building proposed by Cadillac Fairview for 555 West Cordova St, has sparked fierce criticism. ICYMI, here are three not-very-nice things that have been said about the tower (and one nice one).

“It looks like a rodent from Jurassic Park had chewed the base.”

That’s the sentiment of Anthony Norfolk, a member of Vancouver’s heritage commission, which voted for the proposal 6-2. (Anthony was one of two nays; the other guy likened the tower to an “ice pick.”) Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, and B+H Architects, the origami-inspired building would cantilever over the CPR station on its eastern edge, and pull back from The Landing, another heritage building, to its west. But Anthony’s not a fan. “It is jammed up against the station and it has absolutely no relation to The Landing.”

“… it’s really a big geometric blob.”

Local architect/real estate consultant Michael Geller wasn’t pulling punches in offering his feelings on the tower, a part of the city’s plan to transform the area into a transportation hub. Michael told the Vancouver Sun he believes the tower’s international designer team didn’t show the proper respect for the design of the adjacent train station. “I’d like to think a local architect would have had a greater appreciation for the need to separate any new building on this parking lot from the heritage CP station.”

“Its architecture looks skin deep…”

City planner and UCLA PhD student Neal Lamontagne took to Twitter to share his thoughts on Waterfront Tower. “At its heart, (it’s) a bulky glass office block,” he said. “I think (that’s) the heart of our collective disappointment.” The tower proposal has several hurdles still to clear. It’s slated to go to the Urban Design Panel this week, and the Development Permit Board in March, where it will undergo its final review. 

“Give me jarring. Give me the incongruous.”

Sun columnist Pete McMartin came to the defence of Waterfront Tower, urging his fellow Vancouverites to step outside their comfort zone and open their hearts to a bit of architectural outrageousness. “If anything, a 26-storey highrise hanging over the CPR (station’s) shoulder won’t take away from her charms; it will showcase them,” he wrote. Up against all that knife-edged glass and steel, her century-old columns and brickwork will look serene and queenly.”

© 2015, Bisnow LLC

Micro-condos promoted as ‘affordable luxury’ real estate in Surrey

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Concrete tower in Surrey, B.C., includes downsized suites for less than $94K


The developer of a 35-storey concrete tower in Surrey, B.C., is the latest to jump into the small-home trend, with suites as small as 316 square feet offered to buyers for $93,900.

They’re being billed as “affordable luxury,” and a way to purchase something for under $100,000 in Greater Vancouver’s hot real estate market.

“It is a perfect suite for bachelors, or single people or if you’re just trying to get into the market,” said Bill Morrison of Platinum Project Marketing, during a tour of the building’s display suite.

Space-saving strategies include a clothes rack that slides out from the wall, rather than a traditional closet with opening doors. The display suite’s couch pulls out into a bed.

“We’re using the volume of the space, not just the square footage of the space,” Morrison said.

The suite boasts stainless steel appliances, but on a smaller scale. The display fridge was filled with beer and pizza “typical of a student,” said Morrison.

“To be honest with you, it’s fairly small, but for the price, it’s worth it,” said Ramadan Eshref, who visited the sales centre and was considering buying a suite in the building for his son, a recent university graduate.

“For a single man like my son, for example, it’s reasonable. Hopefully it will be a start for him.”

©2015 CBC/Radio-Canada