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.
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.
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.
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.
One of my clients texted me recently to share a story about her co-worker. She said her co-worker was in a bidding war with 12 other people for a condo in Yaletown and it’s the 5th place that she hasn’t successfully bid on. She is getting really frustrated because they are selling for way more than the asking price and more than she can afford. She is losing sleep and has decided to take a two month break.
A nice couple recently came through my open house for a two bedroom condo downtown. We got to chatting and they told me that they had lost 3 times in 3 weeks in multiple offers and that they were left feeling emotionally drained. They currently live in a one bedroom condo and are expecting their first baby but have decided to wait until after the baby is born to continue their search for a bigger home.
This phenomenon has a name. It’s called Buyer Fatigue.
In a Seller’s market, where bidding wars and properties selling for significant amounts over asking are the norm, it’s tiring. It’s tiring for buyer’s. It’s tiring for their agents. It’s emotionally draining, frustrating and often hard to understand, when you continue to find, and then lose, the perfect home. Over and over again.
One of my colleagues whose client wanted to buy a one bedroom condo for his daughter, which would then be used as a rental property down the road, has given up after months of searching. He said, “this market is ridiculous, there is no way to get any sort of a deal.” He feels the asking prices are high, never mind what things are actually selling for. For him, the numbers, as a rental, just weren’t making sense.
Another colleague recently listed a 2 bedroom townhouse in East Vancouver that received 3 offers. The winning bid came from someone who claimed to have lost out on 12 previous properties. And yet another colleague, in North Vancouver, had one buyer who put in 14 offers on properties before she was successful.
I have been in multiple offers where the winning bid (out of 6 or more offers), was so far over asking, that my clients have just shaken their heads, not willing to pay what the condo/house/townhouse has sold for. In one instance, the realtor with the successful bid, whose client looked extremely pregnant, said they had been looking for 10 months and were so tired of losing and feeling so desperate, that they were willing to go beyond market value, just to finally secure a home. I have even seen tears from both buyer’s and seller’s in emotionally charged, and at times, long drawn out multiple offer situations.
The media these days is filled with multi-million dollar homes that sell for a million dollars over asking, but I want to give you an example of one that is more common, and more relatable.
Last month, my first time home buyers, a lovely young couple, fell in love with a one bedroom and den condo in Fairview. It needed some work, as it sported some botched DIY reno’s, but the layout and location were great and they felt that 664 square feet would fit their lifestyle. The asking price was $336,000.
The last two comparable sales in the building were May 2015 and August 2015. Sale prices of those were $341,800 and $345,000 respectively.
The sale price of this one? $438,000 with 6 offers. That is $102,000 over the list price!
Even accounting for the market increase, which was approximately 11% for one bedroom condos in Fairview since summer 2015, that is beyond reasonable market value. And over many first time buyers budgets.
Which is the other extreme of Buyer’s Fatigue. Some people take a break or quit looking altogether, while others, who have lost too many times, are willing to pay extreme prices to finally “win”.
So what can you do as a buyer in this crazy market? Stay calm, offer on and don’t over pay (unless you are planning to live there for the next fifteen to twenty years…)
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.
Do I really need a Realtor to sell my home?
How do I pick a Realtor?
What do I have to disclose?
How does the Listing Contract work?
What do I need to do to get my home ready for sale?
How does the offer process work?
Once I have a firm sale, what are the next steps?
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!
Every strata has different bylaws and rules. These affect the strata lot owners’ rights and responsibilities, and apply to tenants and visitors as well -- and they have a major effect on what it’s like to live in a building.
Bylaws provide for the administration of the strata corporation, allowing it to control, manage, and maintain the use and enjoyment of the strata lots and common property. Stratas can create or amend their bylaws, typically by a ¾ vote at their annual general meeting.
Rules can be created to govern the use, safety and condition of the common property and assets, but not individual strata lots.
Strata corporations must enforce their bylaws and rules, often by fining strata owners and residents who don’t follow them. Here are a few examples of typical bylaws:
No smoking allowed
No pets allowed
Pets allowed with restrictions (these can limit the number of pets, or only allow cats but not dogs, or restrict the size of the dog, among other options)
No rentals allowed
Rentals allowed with restrictions (this usually limits the number of strata lots allowed to rent out at any one time, or it may specify a minimum rental term to discourage short-term AirBNB-type rentals).
So how do different bylaws affect your property’s value?
Age restricted buildings, whether they are 19+ or 55+, almost always sell for substantially less than those without age restrictions. The reason is pretty simple: these restrictions severely limit the number of potential buyers if children aren’t welcome to live there.
This is a big one, especially here in Vancouver where people really love their dogs. People are always willing to pay more for a place if it allows their furry friend. This applies to rentals as well as owned property.
If dogs are not allowed by owners or their visitors, this will limit the number of people who will want to buy into the building -- not only dog owners themselves, but their relatives as well. If the grandparents can’t welcome their grand-dog into their home when their daughter visits (or dog sit for her when she’s away), that’s a deal breaker.
Of course, some people prefer buildings with no pets (for example, those with allergies or a fear of animals). Overall, though, properties sell for significantly more in stratas that allow pets compared with properties in stratas that do not. For example, in the last 60 days, one-bedroom condos in Vancouver’s West End that allow pets sold for 28% more than those that don’t.
Rental bans and restrictions
Buildings that don’t allow rentals at all have significant appeal to some people, generally older folks who are more settled. They don’t want people moving in and out regularly, and also prefer the building to be strictly owner-occupied.
Buildings that allow rentals usually appeal to younger people, who might plan to rent their places out while travelling or working out of town and don’t want to be locked into owning a place that they aren’t allowed to rent out.
Buildings that allow rentals without any restrictions tend to have a lot of renters in them, as they are often bought by investors.
In some buildings, rental restrictions limit the number of units that may be rented at one time. This can feel restrictive to some buyers, but of course will appeal to others. Buildings with a longer minimum rental period (such as six months to a year) can appeal to people who are worried about the “what ifs” of the future and want to have the option of being able to rent their place out in the future.
Neighbourhood demographics play a major role in determining whether a higher price will be fetched by buildings that do not allow rentals or by those that do. We are seeing a change in some older buildings, as the demographics swing to a younger batch of owners. Bylaws are changing and becoming less restrictive, reflecting the wants of a younger generation.
Smoking bans and restrictions
Some buildings ban smoking entirely, anywhere on the property, including in your own suite. Others just ban it on common property, including balconies, but allow you to smoke in your suite.
It’s difficult to put an actual price tag on a smoking ban, but it is definitely restrictive to those who smoke. I’ve had clients walk away from a building because it doesn’t allow smoking, I’ve had clients who were occasional smokers who didn’t have a problem with not smoking in their unit or on the balcony, and I’ve had clients who are very happy there is no smoking allowed in a building. It obviously depends on personal preference.
One very nice perk of non-smoking buildings is that the hallways don’t smell of smoke. I’ve also seen lovely suites sit on the market for much too long because they had smokers living in them and non-smokers are turned off by the odour.
Does it affect your property values? It is harder to sell properties that have a strong and unpleasant odour, so in that way it does. But there are still plenty of people who are not bothered by it and who do want to smoke in their homes.
Enforcement and fines
There are many different bylaws that a strata can make. Whether they can actually enforce them (and fine people who violate them) is another story. Some stratas make upwards of $40,000 a year from fining people for bylaws infractions from not cleaning up dog poop to not stopping and watching until the parking gate has closed. This money helps build a contingency fund or goes to cover other expenses the building may have.
So how do bylaws affect your condo’s value? It’s not a simple answer. In the end, if your building attracts the biggest pool of potential buyers possible, (which may change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood), you have the best chance of achieving the highest price. If your building restricts everything from age to in-suite laundry to pets to rentals, you may find yourself waiting a long time for the rare buyer who actually finds all those restrictions appealing.
There comes a time in every parent’s life when the home they have loved for years suddenly feels too small.
It may happen with the birth of their first child, or it might not happen until baby number two or even three makes an appearance. But at some point, it does happen. These small bundles of joy require a surprising amount of stuff, which can suddenly make the space you are living in feel too cramped. You start daydreaming about more bedrooms, a second bathroom, maybe even a yard.
When the time does come to upsize your family home, here are some things you should definitely consider.
You know you want a three-bedroom home, but what’s also important is where those three bedrooms are located within the home.
If you have young children, you’ll probably want to have all those bedrooms located on the same floor. If the master bedroom is located on the top floor and the other bedrooms are located on the main, you will have to contend with stairs in the middle of the night, and possibly your children’s fears of sleeping on a different level than you. And if one of the bedrooms is located in the basement and yours is two floors above, forget it. You won’t be able to hear young children if they wake up in the night. However, if you’re a family with kids in their teens, a bit of separation between bedrooms could be a great solution for you.
Proximity to Work
When you have a family, you want to spend your time with them. If your commute to work takes an hour and a half each way, you are spending three extra hours per day away from your kids for a total of 15 hours per week. That’s a lot of time.
If you can manage it, buying a place a little closer to work, or more conveniently located near transit, could mean many more happy hours spent with your family instead of sitting in traffic.
You can change the flooring in your home, but you can’t change your location. It’s important that when you step outside your front door, you are in a neighbourhood you and the rest of your family really like. Whether you’re looking for a sense of community, convenient transit, proximity to amenities and parks, or anything else, it’s important to choose a neighbourhood that will feel like home for you and your family for years to come.
You probably didn’t think about this before having kids, but now that you do, of course you want them to go to a good school. Perhaps you want a specialty school that focuses on a certain interest. Or a school that offers French immersion, Mandarin, or another language that is important to you.
Before you buy a home, spend some time learning about the catchment and the schools in it. What you learn may confirm just how awesome the neighbourhood really is – or it could lead you to decide that this just isn’t the right neighbourhood for your family.
Not every young family can afford a house (or even a half-duplex) in a hot urban real estate market like Vancouver. If you’re in one of these markets, a great alternative is a condo or townhome – and with a little luck, you may score one with a large balcony or patio.
Some complexes have a shared yard or courtyard large enough for your kids to run around and kick a ball, but regardless of whether yours does or not, it never hurts to look for something located a short walk from a public park.
Restrictions and Bylaws
If you are looking at buying an old house to tear down or renovate substantially to make it fit your family’s needs, be sure to check with the city first to make sure that your plan is feasible and won’t be prevented by any local restrictions or bylaws.
These are some of the key considerations for families looking to upsize, but of course there are many others. Discussing your needs, desires and preferences with your partner and your kids, and then with your Realtor, will help you choose the home that’s best for you and your family now and for years to come.
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.
Is it better to buy a move-in-ready home, or to buy a place with “potential” and renovate it? This is a question I’m often asked by clients – and it’s one one my husband and I asked ourselves when we were shopping for our own house.
While hunting in our favourite East Van neighbourhood, we found our “dream” home and fell in love at first sight. The catch? It needed a complete renovation, from a new roof to updating all the electrical and plumbing to a new kitchen to completing the unfinished basement.
Faced with the question of whether we were up for the challenge of such a huge project, we started by coming up with the following list of pros and cons to help us make the decision.
Buying a Place That Needs Renovations: Pros
- Lower initial cost. You are paying less for the property initially, although of course you’ll have to weigh the initial savings against a realistic estimate of what you’re going to spend on renovations.
- You add value. You aren’t paying for the work someone else did to improve their home. If you are getting the property at a lower price (which you should be), then you are adding the value to the property and making it worth more. Hopefully more than you spent on the renovations!
- Control over renovation budget. You generally end up paying less for your own renovations than if you’re buying an already home, when you’re paying for someone else’s renovations (people want to make a profit off their own).
- Quality control. You choose the contractors (or do it yourself!) and you get to approve materials. So when the project is finished, you’ll know the quality of the workmanship.
- Finished product is exactly what you want. You get to pick finishes, fixtures, colours, and everything else. Your home will be to your tastes and not someone else’s.
Buying a Place That Needs Renovations: Cons
- Renovating costs money. It can cost a lot of money. Many renovations come with costs that people who haven’t done this before might not know about, including land surveys, architectural drawings, engineering reports, building permits, disposal fees and more. If you don’t have the cash, you may be able to use a Purchase Plus improvement program to get a mortgage that includes money to put toward the renovations you want.
- Can you live in a reno zone? They don’t call drywall dust “divorce dust” for nothing. Okay, that may be a little extreme – but living without a working kitchen or bathroom can be very stressful. Depending on the scope of the renovation, you may even need to live somewhere else until they are finished. I know a couple who lived without their only shower and toilet for weeks. Weeks! They would visit a coffee shop every night before bed and go to a gym or community centre every morning. What happened if they had to go during the night? Well, they had a bucket...
- You might have to pay a mortgage and rent. If you need to move out and don’t have somewhere to stay for free, you’ll be paying rent as well as your mortgage while the reno is happening.
- You might not be allowed to do the renos you want. Some stratas do not allow specific materials, such as hardwood or laminate floors. If you are purchasing a strata property, you need to read through the bylaws and rules before you purchase. When it comes to houses, the city can be a fickle beast. City permits often require negotiation, which comes with uncertainty. If you want to make structural changes, you may need to consult a structural engineer to find out the feasibility and costs.
- Finding a trusted team is challenging. Finding and hiring an honest and knowledgeable builder and designer takes time. Reputable builders are often booked many months or even years out. Are you prepared to live in your place as-is until they’re ready to start?
- You’ll probably spend more than you expect. What starts out as a modest reno can quickly snowball into something much bigger. This can happen when you decide to add more features to your original plan, but it can also happen for reasons beyond your control. For example, the City may require that something like your current stairs will also need to be redone if they don’t meet requirements in the current building code. This can easily bump your renovation cost up by $10,000, depending on the scope of the work.
Are You Ready?
Another question you will want to ask yourself is “How handy am I?” If you can pitch in with things like demolition, painting, or installing floors, you will save yourself some money. If you aren’t handy at all, that’s okay – just know that you’ll pay for everything you don’t do yourself.
TV renovation shows make the process look romantic and fun, but remember that weeks (and sometimes months) of work are edited down to a half-hour show.
In the end, my husband and I ended up not buying the “dream home” that needed a major reno, and instead chose a house in the same ’hood that only needed a few things done. We did renovate the functional but dated kitchen, but haven’t had to do much else. We paid a little more initially for this house than we would have for the other one, but we only had to put up with a few weeks of cooking on the back porch and washing dishes in the bathtub while the kitchen was out of commission.
So when you’re deciding what’s right for you, listen to your heart – but also to your head.
It's a seller's market out there folks.
REW.ca recently published my artice about what it really takes to win a bidding war. Read the article here.
There is an article in the March 2015 edition of BC Business that shows how hot (or not) each market is. Can you guess which area is number one right now in terms of hotness? (I feel like I'm writing a blog post on a completely different topic right now and not one involving real estate!)
In the article they list 20 different areas and show their "hotness" scale from Scorching (East Van) to Lukewarm (Whistler and the Sunshine Coast). This is based on sales price for typical homes and how much they have changed from January 2005.
After Vancouver East (east of Main street), the "Very Hot" markets are Vancouver West (west of Main street), West Vancouver and Richmond.
I didn't need an article to tell me that East Vancouver is hot. I see it every day. Detached and semi-detached homes are a hot commodity over here. Of course there aren't bidding wars on every single one of them, but if it's a good home in a desirable neighbourhood...chances are that more than one family wants it. In fact, it's not uncommon for several families to want it, and we are seeing places sell for over asking...at times, well over asking.
For example, when I look at a recent sale in the Commercial Drive area, a 4 bedroom house on a standard lot was listed at $1,288,000 and sold in 7 days for $1,436,000. In 2008 this same house sold for $920,000. In 2001? A mere $274,950.
A 3 bedroom 1/2 duplex in the same area was recently listed for $759,000 and sold within 6 days for $911,850. In 2010, this sold for $659,000. In 2004? $349,000.
I saw this same trend happen in Kitsilano and knew a few people who "were waiting for the prices to go down" before they bought. They thought a million dollars was a crazy price to pay for a house. Those same people are still renting! Those million dollar houses are now two million and in the last 5 years, houses in Kits have gone up 25.8%.
In East Vancouver, houses have gone up 17.5% overall. In Grandview, that increase is 22.6%.
Still waiting to buy? With interest rates at an all time low and East Van showing no signs of slowing down, you may wish to reconsider. Don't let yourself get priced out of the market.
I am excited to announce that this year, in addition to my contributions to the Children’s Miracle Network, that I will also be contributing to Backpack Buddies.
Backpack Buddies is a unique program that addresses a very real need in the Vancouver community while providing a tangible opportunity for kids to help other kids.
Many students in Vancouver’s inner city schools, which are all located in East Vancouver, rely heavily on free or reduced price breakfast and lunch programs during the school week. Sadly, “hunger doesn’t take the weekend off” and these same kids go home to meager or no meals on the weekend. It is proven that without adequate nutrition, kids have difficulty learning and are at risk of developing serious health conditions.
The concept of Backpack Buddies is simple. Kids that are fortunate enough to be attending school without worrying about where their next meal will come from, are invited to join the program. They have fundraisers, hold food drives and pack backpacks full of enough food to feed the kids throughout the weekend. Then, Community First volunteers pick up the backpacks and deliver them to the schools that need them.
What a great way for kids to help other kids and teach them about contributing to their own community!
Backpack Buddies started with 1 donor school (20 backpacks) and 1 recipient school. Now, they have 7 donor schools (400 backpacks) and 5 recipient schools. Every week they are providing over 400 kids in inner city schools with enough food to last an entire weekend.
A portion of every one of my transactions, whether it is helping a buyer or a seller, will be going to this very worthwhile cause.
For those of you who have already purchased a home or just aren't ready to at this time, you can still help. Simply refer me to your family or friends, and in addition to you receiving my thank you gift, I will also donate $100 to Backpack Buddies.
Home sale and listing activity reach historical norms in 2014
It was a typical year for the Metro Vancouver housing market in certain respects. The region’s home sale and listing totals for 2014 both rank fifth when compared against the past 10 years of activity, while home prices increased.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that total sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in 2014 reached 33,116, a 16.1 per cent increase from the 28,524 sales recorded in 2013, and a 32.3 per cent increase over the 25,032 residential sales in 2012.
The number of residential properties listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver increased 2.4 per cent in 2014 to 56,066 compared to the 54,742 properties listed in 2013. Looking back further, last year’s total represents a four per cent decline compared to the 58,379 residential properties listed for sale in 2012.
“While home buyer and seller activity created balanced market conditions within the region, we also experienced some upward pressure on home prices over the course of the year,” Ray Harris, REBGV president said.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver ends the year at $638,500. This represents a 5.8 per cent increase compared to December 2013.
“Detached homes continue to be the most sought after property type in our market,” Harris, said. “Detached homes in Metro Vancouver have increased 8.1 per cent in value over the last 12 months while townhome and condominium properties have increased 4.5 and 3.5 per cent over the same period.”
Residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 2,116 in December 2014, an increase of 8.3 per cent from the 1,953 sales recorded in December 2013 and a 15.9 per cent decline compared to November 2014 when 2,516 home sales occurred.
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,888 in December 2014. This represents a 1.7 per cent increase compared to the 1,856 units listed in December 2013 and a 37.4 per cent decline compared to November 2014 when 3,016 properties were listed.
The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 10,320, a 10.7 per cent decline compared to December 2013 and a 17.8 per cent decrease compared to November 2014.
Sales of detached properties in December 2014 reached 833, an increase of 9.3 per cent from the 762 detached sales recorded in December 2013. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 8.1 per cent from December 2013 to $1,002,200.
Sales of apartment properties reached 912 in December 2014, an increase of 7.3 per cent compared to the 850 sales in December 2013.The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.5 per cent from December 2013 to $380,700.
Attached property sales in December 2014 totalled 371, an increase of 8.8 per cent compared to the 341 sales in December 2013. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 4.5 per cent between December 2013 and 2014 to $476,800.
Home buyers were active in Metro Vancouver last month, with home sales well exceeding the 10-year average for September.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver reached 2,922 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in September 2014. This represents a 17.7 per cent increase compared to the 2,483 sales in September 2013, and a 5.4 per cent increase over the 2,771 sales in August 2014.
Last month’s sales were 16.1 per cent above the 10-year sales average for the month and rank as the third highest selling September over that period.
“September was an active period for our housing market when we compare it against typical activity for the month,” Ray Harris, REBGV president said.
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver* totalled 5,259 in September. This represents a 4.6 per cent increase compared to the 5,030 new listings in September 2013 and a 33.5 per cent increase from the 3,940 new listings in August. Last month’s new listing total was 0.4 per cent above the region’s 10-year new listing average for the month.
The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 14,832, an 8 per cent decline compared to September 2013 and a 0.4 per cent increase compared to August 2014.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $633,500. This represents a 5.3 per cent increase compared to September 2013.
“Gains in home values are being led by the detached home market. Condominium and townhome properties are not experiencing the same pressure on prices at the moment,” Harris said. “Individual trends can vary depending on different factors in different areas, so it’s important to do your homework and work with your REALTOR® when you’re looking to determine the market value of a home.”
Sales of detached properties in September 2014 reached 1,270, an increase of 24.1 per cent from the 1,023 detached sales recorded in September 2013, and a 113.8 per cent increase from the 594 units sold in September 2012. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 7.3 per cent from September 2013 to $990,300.
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,188 in September 2014, an increase of 16.7 per cent compared to the 1,018 sales in September 2013, and a 75.7 per cent increase compared to the 676 sales in September 2012. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.3 per cent from September 2013 to $378,700.
Attached property sales in September 2014 totalled 464, a 5 per cent increase compared to the 442 sales in September 2013, and an 88.6 per cent increase over the 246 attached properties sold in September 2012. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 4.2 per cent between September 2013 and 2014 to $477,700.
* 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.
July 30, 2014
Buy a Home vs. Rent & Invest
There was an interesting article recently in the Globe and Mail. What is the best financial decision - to buy or rent a home?
It used the following scenario; save up for five years for either a down payment on a home or take the money and invest in stocks and then continue to buy stocks every month as you save money being a tenant. The finer details can be found in the article itself (see link below), but the conclusion was that it is financially more prudent to rent than to buy. Yes. This might surprise quite a few, including us realtors who tend to rave about the financial benefits of owning your own home. So, are we all idiots having bought our home? Well, not so fast. Here’s why:
- Theory vs. reality. The assumption in the rent & invest scenario is that you take the money saved by renting and add that to the stock portfolio. Great in theory, but how many have the opportunity and discipline to do that? The vast majority of renters we come across do not put money aside every month based on theoretical savings compared to “if-I-owned-my-home”. Paying into your home is almost a forced savings plan that continuously builds your equity base and thereby improves your financial situation.
- Leverage. One of the financial advantages of owning your home is that it gives you access to equity and at the same time preserves the asset itself. An example; You buy a car with a line-of-credit on your home as opposed to selling stocks in the same amount (if you were renting). The long term appreciation on your home will continue to be on the full market value, not affected by the line-of-credit, or mortgage for that matter, but had you sold the same amount in stocks, the future dividends would have been negatively affected by the diminished stock portfolio.
- Feel good factor. It just feels better to sit in your own living room. It’s a very subjective and emotional factor, but based on the conversations we have with our clients contemplating to buy a home, its significance cannot be ignored.
Besides that, life as a tenant comes with the uncertainty of not knowing how long you can stay in your rental home. Your landlord is in control and most likely cares more about the profitability of his or her income property than your peace of mind. So, in relation to the comparison of buying vs. renting a home, this might help to explain why people become homeowners despite the financial conclusions in the mentioned article.
Here is an article with a list of FREE (or nearly free) activities, tours, and attractions to do around Vancouver.
Free things to do in Vancouver
There is a little something for everyone here. From Salsa and Ballroom dancing lessons at Robson Square to the free outdoor movies at Stanley Park.
Go enjoy our beautiful city this summer!
I used to love living in Kits. My husband and I had a great one bedroom and den condo that had a huge south facing patio. We literally invited our friends over at least once a week for a BBQ (Wednesdays became known for our “humpaques” - our mid week BBQ on “hump day”).
We both enjoyed walking, running or cycling to the beach. We felt spoiled to be able to walk to all the great produce markets, restaurants and stores along West Broadway and 4th.
But then we had a baby and suddenly our totally kick-ass-condo-for-a-couple, began to feel too small. It’s not that the actual baby took up a lot of space, but their accessories do! Our former den which had held a bookshelf, desk and swivel chair just fine, could now barely accommodate a crib, a dresser/change table combo and a rocking chair. Our living room decor now featured a play mat with dangly toys, a jumparoo type contraption and a baby swing. Forget about my former minimalist, modern look that featured a white L shaped leather couch and a turquoise accent wall. The accent colors now were green, red, yellow and blue all over making it look more like an explosion in the kid section of Ikea and nothing like a Restoration Hardware catalogue.
It was time for a house.
We couldn’t afford a detached house in our current neighbourhood so started looking East of Main street. We spent a lot of time driving around, checking out the different neighbourhoods. I wanted to be able to walk to a grocery store as well as other amenities, something that seems simple but once you have it, you take it for granted. We found a house that suited our needs close to Commercial Drive.
I have to admit that the first couple of times we walked down The Drive, I felt completely out of my element! Instead of the Lululemon clad crowd, it was an eclectic mix of people. Within the first few minutes, I walked by some guys with mohawks, some bra-less tank topped lesbians, a group of people covered in piercings and tattoos, and families pushing strollers. I definitely wasn’t in Kitsilano anymore.
I admit that I suffered from Westside snobbery, which I think really just stemmed from the unknown. I hadn’t spent any time on the East side, other than an occasional Saturday afternoon on the patio at Havana. It’s human nature to be wary of the unknown.
After having lived in the Grandview-Woodlands (Commercial Drive) area for over 4 years now, I have come to love it more than I ever imagined. It has a true neighbourhood feel, from the old Italian men playing bocci ball at Victoria park to the preschool moms playing with their kids on the playground at Trout Lake. You can find live music on the Drive almost any night of the week as well as fantastic cafes, restaurants and shops. With the skytrain you can be downtown in 10 minutes and as a parent, Science World is only one stop away which is a bonus!
We can walk to at least 7 different parks from our house and the new Trout Lake community centre and ice rink are awesome. From Italian Days to the Lantern Festival to the Parade of Lost Souls, there is always something family friendly happening in East Van.
Don’t be afraid to go East all of you Westsiders. Especially if you’re looking for a detached house to raise your family in. After all, probably half of us out East used to be just like you!
The reality of buying real estate in Vancouver has changed over the past couple of years. The perception in Vancouver for the past 10 or so years has been that you are going to make money on anything to do with real estate, whether pre-sale or resale.
In most cities in the world, people haven’t been “trading up” every few years. Historically purchasers would buy a property and keep it long term. In Vancouver, that changed when real estate started to appreciate rapidly and our city saw an abundance of smaller homes become available (bachelor pads and one bedrooms), with the big push for densification.
It used to be that you would make money on real estate twofold. Not only were you reducing your debt by paying down your mortgage, but you were also seeing a substantial increase in the value of your property.
These days, some sellers can’t quite wrap their head around that what they paid for their property two years ago, is what they are selling it for now. In fact, with transaction and moving costs, they aren’t recognizing the profits that they have grown accustomed to.
If you are looking at purchasing a strata property now, your goal should be to hold onto it for 3 to 5 years, more if possible. If this is the difference between stretching yourself a bit now in order to acquire a home that will suit your needs for a longer period of time, it can mean the difference between realizing a profit or not.
Buying a strata property now is still a winning proposition in terms of building your equity by paying down your mortgage.
Just remember to think long term. Gone are the days of the fast flip for profit.
It's not a seller's market or a buyer's market, it's a balanced market.
The Greater Vancouver housing market maintained a consistent balance between demand and supply throughout 2013.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that total sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in 2013 reached 28,524, a 14 per cent increase from the 25,032 sales recorded in 2012, and an 11.9 per cent decrease from the 32,390 residential sales in 2011.
“Home sales quietly improved last year compared to 2012, although the volume of activity didn’t compare to some of the record-breaking years we experienced over the last decade,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said.
Last year’s home sale total ranks as the third lowest annual total for the region in the last ten years, according to the region’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®).
The number of residential properties listed for sale on the MLS® in Metro Vancouver declined 6.2 per cent in 2013 to 54,742 compared to the 58,379 properties listed in 2012. Looking back further, last year’s total represents an 8.1 per cent decline compared to the 59,539 residential properties listed for sale in 2011. Last year’s listing count is on par with the 10 year average.
“It was a year of stability for the Greater Vancouver housing market,” Wyant, said. “Balanced conditions allowed home prices in the region to remain steady, with just a modest increase over the last 12 months.”
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $603,400. This represents a 2.1 per cent increase compared to December 2012.
Let's look at the mood of the real estate market in Greater Vancouver in the later part of 2012 as this set the stage for the start of 2013.
In the final half of 2012 the lower volume of sales relative to the spring market created a gridlock of buyers and sellers who wanted to purchase but were unable to do so as their homes hadn’t sold. By the end of the year, patience and anticipation of garnering the peak prices of 2012 was exhausted. With the start of 2013 many sellers and realtors accepted that a new pricing reality had to be embraced in order to sell the property. Consequently many properties which were re-entering the market in 2013, and new properties on the market were being priced below peak prices of 2012. New prices and sales reflected a 5% – 10% price reduction depending on the community, type and age of home.
Because of this price adjustment, the percentage of sales to listings in 2013 was up from 2012 in both East and West Vancouver, meaning that more properties that went on the market, actually sold.
Keep in mind that the Great Vancouver Real Estate market has become a collection of "micro markets", in which pricing trends and activity can vary significantly between communities and types of properties. We have observed some multiple offers and certain neighborhoods and types of properties have performed better than others over the year.
In 2014, I'm expecting activity to continue to rise with little fluctation in prices, primarily because I believe interest rates will remain stable, there will be continued job growth, economic stability and continued immigration to the province. I believe we can expect to see 2014 continue to build on the momentum and stability of last year.
If you have any questions about the market in your neighborhood or your personal property, I am more than happy to discuss this with you. Please call me at 604-396-4433.
With the holidays fast approaching, sellers often wonder if they should keep their properties on the market or take them off? Or if they haven't listed their homes yet, should they wait until after the first of the year? Maybe hold off until spring?
I came across this interesting article that makes a good argument for why you shouldn't wait.
Serious buyers are always looking, especially online. If you list now before everyone else who is waiting for the Spring market, buyers will be excited to see something new for sale!
To read the full article, click here.
The Bank of Canada governor, Stephen Poloz, testifying before the senate banking committee said that Canada's housing market is not in a bubble and not likely to suffer a sudden and sharp correction in prices, unless there is another major global shock to the economy.
The central banker said he believes the most likely scenario is a soft landing where home prices stabilize, although he acknowledged that an imbalance in the market and high household debt remain key risks.
"It looks expensive," he said of home prices. "But which markets are expensive? Well those markets have been expensive my whole life,"he said, noting that Toronto and Vancouver both absorb high rates of immigration.
Read more here: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/real-estate/Canadian+real+estate+market+bubble+Poloz+says/9191900/story.html#ixzz2laorAM85
bidding war, Vancouver real estate, how to win a bidding war
Buying a Home
Canadian economic outlook
East Vancouver, Commercial Drive real estate, East Vancouver real estate
Emotions of buying real estate
First time home buyers
First time Seller
home sales in Vancouver in 2014
how's the market
inner city schools Vancouver
Sellers, Vancouver real estate
Selling a house in Vancouver
Selling your house
strata bylaws, Vancouver real estate
Vancouver real estate
Vancouver real estate activity 2014
vancouver real estate market 2013
Vancouver real estate, buyer fatigue, buying a home in Vancouver
Vancouver real estate, buying a family home
Vancouver real estate, fixer upper