Archive for May, 2015

Portage by Aragon at 260 Salter Street New Westminster 111 condos in a 4 storey building

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Form & function by the fraser


If interior design is ultimately about allocating space, Aragon’s Maria Zoubos is focused just as much on the practicalities of everyday life as she is on esthetics. That’s obvious in the homes at the company’s Portage project, in the Port Royal neighbourhood of New Westminster.

In the kitchen of the two-bedroom show suite, for instance, the interior designer has opted to extend the upper bank of cabinetry all the way up one wall to take full advantage of the 10-foot ceiling height that’s standard in all units. With lower cabinets lining the kitchen space and two banks of drawers in the island, there is enough storage to allow Zoubos to leave upper cabinets off the second kitchen wall, allowing for a stunning white-tile backsplash almost two metres high behind the hood fan.

“I’m all about the storage,” Zoubos says emphatically. “I don’t like clutter, and I really enjoy thinking about where people will put away the stuff that they use each day.”

In the Portage kitchen, that includes a Lazy Susan rotating shelf for pots and pans in a corner cabinet, and an appliance garage for toasters and the like. A one-foot-wide, full-height rollout pantry neatly accommodates sundry goods without taking up much floor space. An additional touch of practicality can be seen in the choice of maple rather than white interiors for the cabinets, since they are easier to keep clean. “They also add a richer, natural look,” explains Zoubos. “I chose frosted glass for some of the upper cabinets to introduce a light, airy element — it lets you showcase some items without fully revealing all of the stuff you have stored away in there!”

That frosted glass is echoed in the sliding doors of the bedroom closets. Built-in linen towers in the bathrooms, medicine cabinets and vanities anchored to the floor (as opposed to the currently popular floating vanities) offer even more storage. The over-all esthetic is meant to be West Coast Modern. Zoubos has paired earthy wood tones with porcelain and sleek chrome, all highlighted by the natural light pouring in from the oversize windows. A brick feature wall — a hallmark of Aragon projects — adds warmth, colour and texture to the living area. Little luxury touches include a built-in Bosch coffee machine and electric fireplaces.

Space allocation was also important for project architect Bernard Decosse, principal of Bernard Decosse Architect Inc. “New Westminster has mandated that 40 per cent of the homes here are adaptable, meaning wider doorways and bathroom layouts that can accommodate mobility aids,” he says. “That’s part of a larger conversation about allowing people to age in place, and how that can contribute to a sense of community.”

Decosse was sensitive to incorporating Portage into the neighbourhood, preserving views of the Fraser River for existing homes. He says the views for the project are also extraordinary — some residents of the third and fourth floors will be able to see as far as Mount Baker on clear days. When the project is complete (expected in July 2015), a series of pathways will wind through the courtyards for each of the two buildings, allowing direct pedestrian access to a green belt and trail system. Ultimately, Decosse and Zoubos agree that residences must first and foremost be livable. They are confident that they have achieved that by considering every last detail involved in making the homes at Portage function beautifully.

© 2011-2014

Aviara 4189 Halifax Burnaby a 32-storey concrete tower by Ledingham Mcallister

Thursday, May 28th, 2015


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How to Find the Perfect Mortgage Helper Property

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

If you’re looking for a home with a separate suite, there are lots of things to consider. Jo Boxwell of Team Powerhouse Realty offers some great tips

Jo Boxwell

A mortgage helper property is a home with a suite that can be rented out to tenants. Typically, the owner lives in the main part of the home while the tenants occupy a separate area with its own facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen space.

Mortgage helpers are a very attractive option for homebuyers who want to step up into a nicer property that they couldn’t otherwise afford, or are looking to take a big bite out of their monthly mortgage payments.

How exactly do lenders gauge the added value of a home with a rental suite? Nathan Zurowski, with Verico Premium Mortgage Corporation, says, “Typically, 50 per cent of the rental income goes against your debt service ratio, and the lender will want to see a tenancy agreement before closing.”

Realtor Cam McLeod with Team Powerhouse Realty has a few suggestions for buyers looking for that perfect mortgage helper suite.

Find the Right Space for the Tenant You Want

As you search for a home, you’ll probably be focusing on the space that works just perfectly for you, but if you’re thinking of bringing in tenants, you need to find a suite that meets the needs of the kind of tenant you want to attract.

“You should be looking for a home in a neighbourhood with a high demand for rentals that is close to the amenities they may rely on, such as public transit connections, schools, shops and services,” McLeod says. He adds that properties located close to universities can make sense even if you don’t plan on renting your suite to students. “It could make your property more attractive to future buyers who want to tap into a dependable rental market.”

McLeod advises buyers to look at trends in the area before converting a property to include a suite. “If you buy an executive home in an upscale neighbourhood and put in a mortgage helper suite, you could find it harder to sell at the right price if most buyers in the area aren’t looking for that. There may be ways to work around this though, for example if you create a space that could also house a nanny or be used as an in-law suite.”

Do your Due Diligence with Existing Tenants

If you’re lucky enough to find a home you love and it already has tenants in the rental suite, it could save you a lot of hassle. You get to reap the financial rewards of your new suite as soon as you buy the property, and you can skip all the effort of finding tenants.

McLeod says it’s still important to do your due diligence because it can be very difficult to remove existing tenants. Take a look at the suite. Do the tenants take pride in their home and keep it clean? Request a copy of their rental application. Consider asking your Realtor to arrange a meeting between you and the seller to discuss their relationship with the tenants.

You will be bound by the terms of the tenancy agreement between the tenants ant the previous owner, so make sure you read it thoroughly. Find out what the renters currently pay each month. If you think they are paying too little, be aware that you can only increase the rent by an allowable percentage per year.

Stick to Your Comfort Level

Having a suite in your home should be a benefit, not a source of major stress. Staying within your comfort level means being able to manage financially during vacant periods, or if you have to settle a dispute with non-paying tenants.

How do you feel about common entrances, a shared garage or laundry facilities? For some homebuyers, especially those with kids, having separate entrances is high on the priority list. Test out the noise transfer between your spaces, and look into the hot water system to make sure you don’t have to worry about running out of hot water.

Ask a Realtor about your municipality’s approach to authorized and unauthorized suites. In most areas, you’ll see many more homes with unauthorized suites on the market than authorized ones – but again, the decision comes down to what you are comfortable with.

The Long-Term Advantage

Renting out a part of your home to tenants is a big decision, and some buyers may feel a little unsure about taking that step. Cam says one of the great things about owning a property with a suite is that you don’t have to rent it out, but if times get tough, you’ll have that revenue generator to fall back on.

“Everyone’s parents are getting older. Owning a home with a suite means there’s an opportunity down the road to have parents move in to help raise a child or offset the mortgage. There are many benefits of owning this type of property, even if having tenants is not part of your short-term plan.”

© 2015 Real Estate Weekly

City offers incentive packages for developers to build more rental housing

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Dearth of three-bedroom units prompts incentive packages for developers

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

Saying he has not heard a reasonable alternative to get more rental housing built in this city, Mayor Gregor Robertson and five of his councillors voted Wednesday to continue with a controversial program that waives developers’ fees for construction of rental projects.

At a time when there is no investment from the provincial or federal governments for the much-needed housing, Robertson said the city has to “take action” to build more rental accommodation, particularly three-bedroom units for families.

“This is one tool the city can use to make it happen,” said the mayor, pointing to a staff report that revealed only 530 three-bedroom units exist among 55,800 rental accommodations counted by the city.

City staff said in a presentation to council that 8,000 families are renting a one-bedroom unit or smaller. Since 2010, the city has offered incentives to developers to build more rental housing but only one per cent of 3,783 units approved will be built as three-bedrooms.

“We’ve not seen the supply of three-bedroom units grow in the last 20 years,” said Abigail Bond, the city’s director of housing policy and projects, as she outlined the city’s plan to encourage the construction of three-bedroom units.

Under the existing Rental 100 program, which replaced the STIR program, incentives include the waiving of development cost levies, expedited processing of development permits, bonus density through rezoning and reducing the number of costly parking spots for a development. Depending on the scope of a project, a developer can see more than $600,000 in levies waived.

But up until council’s vote Wednesday, the waiving of levies did not apply to three-bedroom units. In fact, if a three-bedroom unit didn’t meet rental rates set out in city bylaws, the entire project — including studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units — would not be eligible for a cut in development fees.

Now the amendment passed Wednesday will still give a developer a partial waiver, even if three-bedrooms don’t meet the city’s rental rates. If rents of all sizes of units are kept at the city’s rental rates, the project would get the full waiver.

The city will set the average rent for a three-bedroom, east of Ontario Street, at $2,338 per month. On the West Side, where land costs are greater, it will be $2,572 per month. Maximum unit size will be 1,044 sq. feet, which is said to be generally in line with B.C. Housing standards for “affordable housing.”

But as NPA Coun. George Affleck pointed out, once the first tenant of a suite in one of the buildings moves out, the owner is free to raise the rent to what the market will bear. Affleck, who was one of four councillors to oppose the amendment, said waiving fees amounts to “gifts” for developers, who are already building market housing. Expediting development permits and reducing parking spots should be the only incentives, he said.

“It’s not affordable at all,” said Affleck, referring to the stated purpose of the programs, which was to create rental housing that keeps rent prices at the average rent in the city, or lower. “Why are we doing this? I don’t see the value, or the purpose.”

The aim of the Vision Vancouver-led program was to build affordable housing for households earning between $21,500 and $86,500 per year, where a maximum of 30 per cent of income is spent on rent.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr, who also voted against the amendment along with NPA councillors Elizabeth Ball and Melissa De Genova, said she supports incentives for developers to get rental housing built. However, she said, the city should stop selling the program as one that provides incentives for affordable housing.

As the Courier discovered in an investigation last fall, rent prices for buildings under the program spiked from when first proposed to council to when they opened their doors to tenants.

For example, the 106-studio unit highrise at 1142 Granville St., which saved the developer $638,000 in development cost levies, pitched the rent to the city in November 2010 as $950 to $1,000 a month for all 320-square foot studio apartments. Last September, rents for fully furnished suites fetched $1,260 to $1,400 a month.

The city has since tightened projections of rents, saying the same rents will apply from when a project is approved to when it opens, not withstanding the allowable 2.2 per cent or more hike allowable under the Residential Tenancy Act. The city has no control to set long-term rental rates, a policy that would have to be implemented by the provincial government.

Developer Tat Jang, who is no relation to Vision Coun. Kerry Jang, spoke in favour of the amendment at council, saying he’s already converted some of what would have been three-bedroom units at a project on West King Edward into smaller apartments because he couldn’t get development cost levies waived.

More than 50 per cent of Vancouver residents are renters.

© 2015 Vancouver Courier

Small landlords face big competition

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Jennifer Paterson

As Canada’s biggest cities grow saturated with condo and apartment buildings, developers are leading a rental revival by selling entire buildings to one investor rather than individual buyers – but what will be the impact on the market?

“It’s going to strengthen the resale rental market, so built-for-purpose rentals will be stronger in the long run, but in the short term all the older buildings are going to take a hit,” said Lena Guirguis, a real estate entrepreneur based in Ottawa.

According to recent research published by commercial real estate brokerage CBRE Group, there were nearly 24,000 rental units under construction across Canada in the second half of 2014, an increase of 52 per cent from a year earlier.   

More and more developers jumping on the bandwagon, including Urbancorp in Toronto, which cancelled one of its condo projects in Liberty Village, advising 200 would-be condo owners that their units would be turned into rentals.

“Essentially, we are starting to see certain condo developments not selling as fast and the developers are opting to convert into rentals,” explained David Nugent, CIO and COO of WealthSimple.

Another example is in Ottawa, where Brigil Construction is planning to market its new 140-unit project on St. Laurent Boulevard solely to renters, and is considering a mix of condos and apartments at other proposed sites, such as Parkdale in Ottawa’s west end. 

Also, since purpose-built condos and apartments that were built after November 1991 are not rent controlled, older buildings in these cities will struggle. “This will kill the resale market in the long term,” said Guirguis.

“They won’t be able to afford to go in and spend chunks of money to stay competitive, because they can’t recover it.”

Copyright © 2015 Key Media Pty Ltd

BC Housing Starts, Sales and Prices to Rise as Canada’s Slow Down: CMHC

Monday, May 25th, 2015

BC activity to remain strong and benefit from falling energy prices, as oil-producing provinces continue slowdown over next two years, according to market outlook

Joannah Connolly

BC housing starts will rise 1.2 per cent from 2014, ranging between 26,400 and 29,800 units in 2015 and rising to 26,100 to 30,500 units in 2016, according to the latest Housing Market Outlook published May 25 by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

“Housing starts remain relatively stable this year and next, supported by growth in employment and population,” said Carol Frketich, CMHC’s BC regional economist.

“Multiple-family starts will be stable in 2015 and then pick up in 2016 as demand for denser housing forms increases and inventories of completed and unabsorbed units are drawn down. Single-detached home starts are expected to remain relatively unchanged over the forecast horizon.”

This compares with the corporation’s national forecast that housing starts across Canada will dip slightly to between 166,540 and 188,580 units in 2015, and between 162,840 units to 190,830 units in 2016. The CMHC added that there were “a number of risks and vulnerabilities that can affect the market outlook for Canada and each province” that are accounted for in the forecast ranges.

“Lower oil prices are contributing to disparities between provincial housing markets. A slowdown in housing starts and resale transactions in oil-producing provinces such as Alberta will be partly offset by increased housing market activity in other provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia, which benefit from the positive impacts of declining energy prices, a lower Canadian dollar and continued low mortgage rates,” said Bob Dugan, chief economist for CMHC.

MLS home sales in BC are forecast to continue their rise, propped up by job and population growth and continued low mortgage interest rates. The CMHC said sales will range from 82,300 to 93,100 transactions in 2015 and between 78,700 to 91,800 transactions in 2016.

The MLS average price is forecast to be between $573,700 and $627,500 in 2015, rising again to between $577,000 and $652,000 in 2016.

Across Canada, MLS sales are expected to range between 437,100 and 494,500 units in 2015 and between 424,500 units and 491,300 units next year.

The national average MLS price is forecast to be between $402,139 and $439,589 in 2015. For 2016, the average MLS price is forecast to be between $398,191 and $457,200.

© 2015 Real Estate Weekly

Condo king calls for tax on flipping homes

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Jamie Henry

Bob Rennie, the ‘condo king’ of Vancouver says that there should be a new tax on those who speculate on the property market. CBC reports that Rennie suggested the idea to an audience at the Urban Development Institute saying that there could be a sliding scale of tax rates depending how quickly properties were flipped. He said that as banks won’t finance condos until the development is 60 per cent sold and it then takes some time to build, by the time the owners are able to move in that they choose to sell up instead due to the rise in market value. Rennie told reporters later that he did not agree on taxing foreign ownership but that speculation should be discouraged.

Copyright © 2015 Key Media Pty Ltd

Tips for paying off your mortgage faster

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015


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RiverSky by Bosa Properties

Thursday, May 21st, 2015


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Sakura in South Surrey 75 4-bedroom townhomes by CastleHill Development

Thursday, May 21st, 2015


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