Last month, I wrote an article for REW.ca called Don't Run Out of Hope When Buying a Home. It should probably have been more aptly titled, "Don't Run Out of Hope When Buying a Home in Vancouver", but well, that was implied if you were reading in on REW.ca.

 

So for my next article for them, I wanted to interview two real life clients of mine, and get their thoughts and feelings about their personal experience while trying to buy a condo in Vancouver as first time home buyers. I've changed their names for privacy, but read on for my interview with them. And don't run out hope if you too are searching for a home to buy in Vancouver.


Meet “Cynthia” and “Jordan”* – a professional couple in their mid-thirties with a toddler son. They were looking for a two-bedroom condo in their beloved neighbourhood of Hastings Sunrise. Their must-haves were location, some outdoor space, and a solid building. Here’s what they told me.


First time home buyers Vancouver

What made you start looking to purchase?

A few things: the financial ability, because I got an inheritance from my grandfather; wanting more security because of Oscar (we want our son to grow up in a stable environment); fear of losing our current rental because rent prices have gone up substantially in three years; and fear that we wouldn’t be able to find an affordable family-friendly rental in the city.

How did you feel after you saw a few places you liked?

We felt hopeful for a while. We felt like we could “get in” – and we had never felt like that before. We felt like it was actually possible.

 

But then everything kept selling for way over for what things were listed at, and we felt disheartened. We would see places we liked and then they would go for seventy thousand over asking. That was disheartening. You think you can buy something and then you can’t.

How did you feel when you lost out the first time?

So hard. It was devastating. We wanted to offer more money, but my parents (we needed their support to buy because they are holding the inheritance) didn’t understand this market. They’ve always bought houses being able to negotiate. They asked, “Why would you go in so much over asking on your first offer?”

How did you feel when you lost out again?

You get attached… even with the second place ,which was the least exciting for us, you start to kind of see it as your place, you envision yourself there, you write a letter to the owner, which makes you feel even more attached to it. By the third time, though, we had learned not to get our hopes up.

 

After their third offer – and their third time losing out in a multiple-bid scenario – Jordan was laid off from his job, which forced him and Cynthia to take a break from their search. This time, the decision not to buy a home was suddenly being made for them by something beyond their control, and they were understandably upset.


Over the next few months, however, they regrouped. And more than seven months after their search had begun, they found a condo in their neighbourhood that more than ticked off every one of their “must have” boxes. We prepared for battle once again.


This time, just 20 minutes before the offer deadline, we finally got a break and some good news: somehow, ours was going to be the only offer.


This meant that, as their REALTOR®, I got to do some good old-fashioned negotiating. And Cynthia and Jordan were finally able to buy the family home they had been craving.

How do you feel now that you have purchased your condo?

We are feeling excited about getting to make the space our own and relieved that the search can now end! A bit sad about leaving our street, where our immediate neighbours are our greatest friends. Worried that the market will crash tomorrow. Thankful to be able to afford to own in Vancouver– and to have had an agent who made it even more affordable! And really happy to have a place of our own to raise our son. 

 

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Finding the perfect home can be exhausting and emotional - just like training for a marathon.


When I was in my twenties, I spotted an ad that invited me to raise money for a charity by running a “destination” marathon. The idea was that you’d train with a group in Vancouver and raise a minimum amount for a good cause, and then you’d travel with the group to a destination like Honolulu to participate in a 26.2 mile (42 kilometre) marathon.


I had never run a day in my life.


How buying a home is like running a marathon


I told my then-boyfriend I was considering running a marathon. He immediately told me I couldn’t do it: “That’s like running from here to Hope! You think you can do that?”


(He was wrong, of course. Hope, BC is 154 kilometres from Vancouver. I only wanted to run 42 kilometres.)


So after I dumped Mr. Negativity, I signed up with Joints in Motion to raise money for the Arthritis Society while training for my first marathon. I showed up for our first group run of five kilometres, determined to do this.


It wasn’t easy. I was slow, I was out of breath, and at times I wanted to stop putting one foot in front of the other. But I did it. I ran five kilometres! That accomplishment felt like I had run a marathon already!


During the course of my four months of training and then running the actual marathon itself, I learned that marathons are often more of a mental challenge than a physical one.


The same can be said for buying a home in Vancouver.


Many people either think they can’t do it, or when they start to consider it are told by others that it’s impossible.


Once they decide to try, looking at dozens of properties can soon become exhausting.


You may get confusing advice from ill-informed sources, such as parents who may live in a small town far from Vancouver and don’t understand this market.


You may fall in love with a place that that you can’t buy because it’s already sold.


You will probably lose out on a bidding war (or five!) because your offer wasn’t strong enough to beat the other twelve offers on the condo that you imagined as your first home.


You are going to look at sale prices that are thousands of dollars over asking prices.


I compare buying real estate to training for (and running) your first marathon. In either scenario, you are going to go through the following emotions:


  • Despair. You’re going to feel overwhelmed. You’ll think “I can’t do this.” You’re going to get excited about a place, only to get disappointed. Other people are going to tell you that you can’t do this, or give you their opinion about why you shouldn’t do this.

  • Hope. At other times, you are going to feel very confident in your decision. This might occur after your mortgage broker informs you that you qualify for more than you expected. This may happen after you fall in love with the perfect condo in the perfect location and start planning your housewarming in your head. Or it may happen after you talk with a coworker who recently sold their first condo for $175,000 more than what they paid for it three years ago. (Or, depending how you look at it, this one might just lead you back to “I can’t do this.”)

  • Fear. Taking on the responsibility of home ownership is going to feel scary. Having mortgage payments, along with paying property taxes (and usually strata fees) feels a lot more scary to some people than paying rent. And you might be nervous about the thought of living in the same place without the ability to give 30 days’ notice and move on.

  • Excitement. Finding the perfect home in the right neighbourhood, the place where you know you would be very happy living, is exciting. Actually buying that home is even more exciting!

  • Disappointment. Finding that your perfect home was also perfect for other people and losing out in a multiple offer for it can be a crushing experience. If you’re lucky, (and have the right realtor), you won’t have to experience this multiple times.

  • Frustration. Not being able to find your perfect home in your budget and having to make allowances in location or features can be intensely frustrating. So can finding your perfect home again and again and losing out again and again.

  • Nervousness. When you finally purchase your home, you’ll probably start feeling seriously nervous. You might be worried about making higher monthly payments than you did previously. The thought of packing and moving may feel daunting. Being the one responsible to fix your own toilet (or pay for the plumber), instead of calling the landlord, can be an unnerving change.

  • Guilt. You may feel guilty about moving from being a renter who once viewed the Vancouver real estate market as “a game I don’t want to participate in” to being on the other side as a property owner.


At every emotional stage you go through on your journey to buying real estate, remember what motivated your decision to do so in the first place. Allow yourself time to deal with the feelings that will inevitably come up—the positive ones and the negative.


You don’t wake up one day and run a 42 kilometre marathon without spending months training for it. During your months of training, there will be days when you want to stop putting one foot in front of the other, when the goal seems too far away and too difficult to achieve.


But once you cross that finish line and finally purchase your own piece of Vancouver real estate, you’ll have an incredible sense of accomplishment—and your very own place to call home.


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You’ve been here before.


You’re not totally sure how things are supposed to happen. A million questions are bubbling on your lips. You know your goal, but you need some guidance on how to get from A to Z.


Only this time, you aren’t a first-time buyer. You are on the other end of the equation: you are a first time seller.


Here’s what you need to know.


  1. Do I really need a Realtor to sell my home?

  2. How do I pick a Realtor?

  3. What do I have to disclose?

  4. How does the Listing Contract work?

  5. What do I need to do to get my home ready for sale?

  6. How does the offer process work?

  7. Once I have a firm sale, what are the next steps?

  8. What are the costs associated with Selling my home?

Do I really need a Realtor to sell my home?

Nope. You don’t. You can take photos, post a listing on Craigslist, host open houses, and then negotiate a contract by yourself.

How do I pick a Realtor?


Don’t want the headache and potential lawsuit of selling your own place? Hire a professional! That’s what we are here for. We know the things that create the most hassles and headaches and how to avoid them. We know the market and the best ways to ensure that you get the best possible price for your home. And we know how to minimize your exposure to the financial and legal risks that come with negotiating a contract to sell what is almost certainly your largest asset—your home.


If you enjoyed your experience with the Realtor who helped you buy your home, give them a call. If they did a good job for you once, they will likely be happy to help you sell now.


Unfortunately, not everyone has a positive experience the first time around. If that’s the case and you are looking for someone new, start asking around. Ask your friends and family who they used. Find the names of Realtors who did a fantastic job for people you know. Interview two or three of them and see who would be the best fit for you. You need to pick someone you like and trust, someone who knows the market in your neighbourhood. And be sure to use a Realtor who really knows your area. Using your friend’s aunt from Maple Ridge will not give you the results you need when selling your condo in Vancouver.


If you can’t get a decent referral out of anyone you know (or if you just couldn’t relate to your mom’s friend’s brother’s girlfriend who sells ten-million dollar houses in West Van), check the for-sale signs around your neighbourhood. If you see a few signs with the same name, give them a call and interview them; they probably specialize in your neighborhood. Check out some open houses in your area. You will meet lots of Realtors and you will see how different we are. Chances are you will click with one of them.


Once you have chosen your Realtor, you will sign a listing contract with them. The two most common types in BC are Exclusive Listings and Multiple Listings, the latter being the most common as it puts the listing on the MLS. The contract will set out many things:


  • Your name and the name of the brokerage you have chosen to work with (Realtors are licensed under a brokerage, such as RE/MAX or Sutton)

  • The address of the property you are selling

  • Effective date and expiry date of the contract (two months is the minimum amount of time)

  • Description of services to be provided by your Realtor (marketing services, how offers will be presented, etc.)

  • The asking price (listing price)

  • The remuneration (commission) you agree to pay

  • The commission you agree to offer to the cooperating brokerage (buyer’s Realtor) out of the total commission agreed to above

What do I have to disclose?


The more you tell your Realtor, the better! But there are some things that you absolutely must disclose. These include any material latent defects, which also must be disclosed to all potential buyers.


A material latent defect is something that is not visible through a reasonable inspection of the property. These include, but are not limited to, structural damage, water ingress, underground storage tanks, termites, and use as a marijuana growing operation (“grow op”).

What do I need to do to get my home ready for sale?


Start by decluttering! Most of us have too much stuff and not enough space for all of it. Buyers want to picture themselves living in a home, and that’s hard to do when it’s full of someone else’s personal items.


Your Realtor or a professional home stager can give you lots of tips specific to your space, but generally speaking, decluttering and cleaning go a long way. If the paint is really dark, a fresh coat of Cloud White might be in order. But don’t think you need to renovate your kitchen just to get the sale. Buyers may have their own ideas about renovations they’d like to make, in which case any money you spend on renovating the place yourself may be wasted.


De-personalizing your home a bit is also quite helpful. For example, take down family photos that remind potential new buyers they’re in someone else’s home. Help them envision themselves living there and you’ll be more likely to get an offer.

How does the offer process work?

Your property is on the market, your Realtor has hosted open houses, and now you’ve got an offer—maybe even more than one. So now what?


With any offer you receive, you can either accept it, reject it, or counter it. If you counter the offer, the buyer can counter back, accept your counter, or reject it, and so on.


As the market stands now in most of the lower mainland, it is common to receive more than one offer. Before offers are presented, you and your Realtor need to decide if you will receive them by email (so that just you and your Realtor are present while reviewing them) or if you want to let the buyers’ Realtors present to you in person.


If you choose this scenario, your Realtor will arrange for each offer to be presented at a different time. For example, if there are three offers, the first one will be presented; they leave and the next Realtor comes and presents; after they leave, the final Realtor presents. Then you discuss all three offers with your Realtor. You may choose to accept one of them, reject all of them, or counter one of them. If all offers are close, you can also give all parties the opportunity to come up in price. Your Realtor will discuss all scenarios with you.

Once I have a firm sale, what are the next steps?

Congratulations! You’ve sold your first place! Now what?


You will need a real estate lawyer or notary to handle all the financial stuff. This includes ensuring your old mortgage is properly discharged and that all payments you are responsible for have been made (property taxes, strata fees, etc.).


Your lawyer or notary will do a statement of adjustments for you. For example, if you sell your place at the end of November, but you’ve already paid your property taxes for the year, the buyers will be responsible to pay for the month of December, and you will be credited for that month on your statement of adjustments.


Your lawyer or notary will disburse the money from the sale and ensure you receive the net proceeds.


If you are in a strata property, you will need to notify the property manager. Most stratas have a move-out fee. You will also need to notify your home insurance provider, cable, internet, hydro, and so on, and forward your mail.

Costs of Selling

Costs of selling include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Lawyer or notary fees

  • Costs of clearing title (which can include paying a mortgage penalty to your bank)

  • Real estate commissions (plus GST)

  • Cost of movers or move-out fees, if applicable.


Now that you’ve sold your first place, you’ve got one under your belt and hopefully had a positive experience from A to Z. You will never be a first-time seller again. Congratulations!

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The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver just released this:


It continues to be a competitive spring market for Metro Vancouver* home buyers. This competition continues to put upward pressure on home prices, particularly in the detached home market.


The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Metro Vancouver reached 4,056 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in May 2015. This represents a 23.4 per cent increase compared to the 3,286 sales recorded in May 2014, and a decrease of 2.9 per cent compared to the 4,179 sales in April 2015.


Last month’s sales were 16.7 per cent above the 10-year sales average for the month.


“We continue to see strong competition for homes that are priced right for today’s market,” Darcy McLeod, REBGV president said. “It’s important to remember that real estate is hyper local, particularly in a seller’s market. This means that conditions and prices vary depending on property type, neighbourhood, and other factors."


New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 5,641 in May. This represents a 5 per cent decrease compared to the 5,936 new listings reported in May 2014.


The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the region’s MLS® is 12,336, a 23.2 per cent decline compared to May 2014 and a 0.8 per cent decline compared to April 2015.


“While the supply of homes for sale remains below what’s typical for this time of year, our region continues to offer a diverse selection of housing options at different price points,” McLeod said. “This diversity within the housing stock is part of what’s driving today’s home sale activity.”


The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $684,400. This represents a 9.4 per cent increase compared to May 2014.


The sales-to-active-listings ratio in May was 32.9 per cent. This is the highest that this ratio has been in Metro Vancouver since June 2007.


Sales of detached properties in May 2015 reached 1,723, an increase of 18.6 per cent from the 1,453 detached sales recorded in May 2014, and a 42.2 per cent increase from the 1,212 units sold in May 2013. The benchmark price for a detached property in Metro Vancouver increased 14.1 per cent from May 2014 to $1,104,900.


Sales of apartment properties reached 1,600 in May 2015, an increase of 24.4 per cent compared to the 1,286 sales in May 2014, and an increase of 40.8 per cent compared to the 1,136 sales in May 2013. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 4.6 per cent from May 2014 to $396,900.


Attached property sales in May 2015 totalled 733, an increase of 34 per cent compared to the 547 sales in May 2014, and a 37.3 per cent increase from the 534 attached properties sold in May 2013. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 6.4 per cent between May 2014 and 2015 to $501,000.


*Note:  Areas covered by Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver include: Whistler, Sunshine Coast, Squamish, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and South Delta.

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