February 16, 2018
Are house prices trending downward?
In January this year, there were a total of 5,306 homes sold in the whole province of B.C., a 7.5% decrease from a month earlier in December, when 5,738 homes were sold.
In Metro Vancouver, a total of 1,846 homes were sold in January, compared to 2,069 which were sold in December - almost a 11% decrease.
Does it appear that the new mortgage rules are effecting Metro Vancouver more so than the rest of the provinice?
How about prices? While the average price of a home in Metro Vancouver is still over a million dollars, it dropped to $1,036,968 in January, from $1,049,424 in December - a 1% drop in the very first month of these new rules. Coincidence?
Is this the beginning of a trend? Are the new borrowing rules going to have a lasting effect of Metro Vancouver home prices?
February 14, 2018
Is it time to rethink how we enforce the rules of the road?
Are vehicle headlights getting brighter, like blinding bright? Well it's not our imagination, headlights are getting brighter, and this is creating a dangerous situation.
But blindng headlights are not our only traffic concern. With all the congestion and longer commutes, it appears that more and more drivers are running red lights. This is happening while many motorists oppose the installation of more red-light cameras, or a 24 hour operation of the 140 cameras currently in place at the province's most accident prone intersections. Did you know that most of these cameras are only operating 6 hours a day so our governments don't upset voters?
With the increase in traffic accidents and fatalities, as well as increasing insurance costs, maybe it's time to rethink how we enforce the rules of the road.
Should we implement a camera program that operates both speed and red-light cameras? Let's not only catch those running red lights, but also speeding.
With all the safety features in most cars today, you would have expected the number of injuries to be reduced - but they have gone way up.
If you look around, you will find that many motorists don't appear to know how to drive properly. They may not always be in accidents, but they cause them.
How about more regular road testing for drivers? I haven't been tested since I first received my license. Can we insist that anyone deemd to have caused a serious accident must be re-tested before thay can drive again?
Yes, many drivers will just see this as another cash grab - but I think it will just make driving safer. Your thoughts?
February 13, 2018
'Once Upon a Time' - Steveston's hit TV show calls it quits
Once Upon a Time, the TV show that put Steveston on the map back in 2011 has been axed when its 7th season comes to an end later this year.
The show which attracted a global cult following, was primarily shot in Steveston, AKA Storybrooke.
This show was so popular that fans travelled from all over the world to experience Steveston and explore the village.
It became so hot that Tourism Richmond would promote special package deals for fans which included hotel stays and Disney-licensed 'Once' merchandise, such as t-shirts, tote bags, hoodies... sold at Tourism Richmond's Visitor Centre/Museum on Moncton Street along with self-guided walking maps of 'Storybrooke'.
Steveston merchants had mixed feelings about the show taking over large parts of 'the Village' during filming, with some revelling in the publicity, and others lamenting the distruption to their businesses.
It's funny - it's been said that tourism in Steveston has jumped about 75% since the show first aired - how much of a distruption to their business could that be?
Understandably, fans around the globe took to social media to express their dissappointment of the cancellation.
Are you going to miss the 'Steveston Buzz' created by 'Once'? Did you have an opporunity to experience the gathering crowds during filming?
February 9, 2018
Does a Chinese-Only bus ad ruffle your feathers?
We hear about the issue of Chinese-Only signage in Richmond from time to time. What are the answers for these concerns?
Well the issue has resurfaced again. This time it's an ad on the side of a bus travelling along Steveston Highway last month that has ruffled some feathers.
It's an ad for a Richmond based financial company that covered the entire side of a bus.
Do you find this disgraceful or not? Would you like to see tougher language laws - whether they be municipal or better yet provincial? Or do we have bigger fish to fry? Your thoughts!
February 5, 2018
Why do we see B.C. Ferries on the Fraser River?
Heading south on Highway 99 approaching the Massey Tunnel you will notice a line up of BC Ferries to your right. But the Fraser River isn't a Ferry route. So what is going on?
I am sure many of you know the answer - this is the location of what's known as ''Deas Dock', the primary ship repair and maintenance location for BC Ferries. What you may not know, is there are lot of people working there - approximately 250 of them full time and up to 350 during the peak refit season, which runs from September to May.
If you drove by today you would see the Queen of Oak Bay, Queen of Capilano, Salish Orca, Northern Adventure and the Queen of Burnaby which is retired.
The Salish Orca was put into service in 2017 on the Comox-Powell River route to replace the Queen of Burnaby.
You might remember the Queen of Burnaby being put up for auction, initially at a low, low price and the eventual high bid was $653,000, which is now subject to approval by BC Ferries.
Of course the Massey Tunnel has been a hot topic over the past few years, as talk of a bridge or some other repair/replacement alternative has been in the news, but BC Ferries doesn't see that impacting their operation.
So, have you noticed the ferries parked by the Massey Tunnel, and did you know what they were doing there?
January 31, 2018
Easy way to save - a new app that invests your spare change
It has been said that wealth is not how much you make, but how much you can save. Now maybe you can do just that with a new app that has come up with a creative way to allow people to slowly save and invest their money.
'Mylo', a personal finance investing app, rounds up users' purchases to the nearest dollar and invests spare change.
In Metro Vancouver, the median individuals after tax income is about $24,129 (based on 2016 census data for people 15 and over). With that income, many people likely think investing is out of reach. With 'Mylo', you can start investing with as little as $1.
CEO & founder, Philip Barrar, says the idea came from his own experience. "I tried to save and do well with my money, and I found putting away a bit of money every single time I purchased worked well for me. With the money I saved, I had my first vacation in 3 years. Now I hope to share this saving technique with others."
It only takes a few minutes to sign up for an account, which links to a credit or debit card. Every time users make a purchase, 'Mylo' rounds up the amount and puts the change into an ETF (exchange-traded fund), which is managed by an investment firm.
For example, 'Mylo' would take 75 cents from a $4.25 latte purchase made on your debit or credit card and put it in the users investment account. Users can withdraw their money at any time, and keep all the returns - a fixed fee of $1 a month is charged to 'Mylo'.
But be careful. While an app such as 'Mylo' makes saving easier, it could also encourage overspending by psychologically rewarding that habit through the automatic saving. It might be a good idea to link 'Mylo' to your debit card, so that you can immediately see the money leave your possession.
January 30, 2018
Ride-Share Drivers subject to fines
The provincial government has put out the word to drivers wanting to earn a little extra cash by joining a ride-sharing service - 'We will find you and fine you.'
So far the Ministry of Transportation has issued 20 cease and desist orders and 23 fines of $1,150 to drivers who are using personal vehicles as a commercial venture.
The ministry is going after the driver, not the app. Their press release went on to say 'It is important that drivers providing commercial transportation services through these social media apps understand that they are assuming all of the risk related to providing the service'.
The companies that appear to have been actively recruiting drivers include Longmao, Udi Kuaiche, U Drop, RaccoonGo, GoKabu, Dingdang Carpool and AO Rideshare.
In order to be licensed there must be a regular government-safety inspection of the vehicle, insurance that will cover the carrying of paying passengers and a police background check on the driver.
In the meatime, Uber is laying the groundwork for expanding its brand. Last month it launched its food-delivery service, UberEATS, in select Vancouver neighbourhoods. The delivery service allows Uber to recruit potential drivers to transport food before regulations are introduced to transport people.
January 29, 2018
Tsunami worries might be overstated in Richmond
Apparently Richmond residents don't have to worry about a significant tsunami striking Lulu and Sea islands.
Last Tuesday morning a large earthquake off the coast of Alaska resulted in tsunami warnings for parts of the West Coast, but it did not result in such alarms for Richmond.
This is because scientific studies and wave modelling have shown that even the largest mega earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone, off the west coast of Vancouver Island will not result in large waves striking Richmond. 'Any tsunami generated in the open Pacific is of little threat to Vancouver, Richmond or Delta', says University of BC oceanographer Dr Susan Allen.
The City of Richmond, back in 2005 commissioned a study by Simon Fraser University on this matter. It found that there is no geological evidence of a significant tsunami hitting Richmond in the last 4,000 years despite there being numerous nearby mega quakes.
Allen agreed with this study, which notes any large tsunami would dissipate through the Juan de Fuca Strait as it wraps around the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Furthermore, Sturgeon Bank and the Fraser River Delta tidal flats would further lessen a wave's energy. The models show any wave reaching the West Dyke would be about a half a metre high, well within the dyke's ability to block water from flowing inland.
The problem is, such a tsunami warning will strengthen as Sturgeon Bank and the tidal flats slowly erode by dredging operations and sea level rise.
Last Tuesday over 100 people successfully registered with the city's 'Richmond BC Alert' cellphone emergency notification system at RichmondBCAlert.ca. Probably a pretty good idea for peace of mind!
January 25, 2018
New Bike Share Service Rolls Into Vancouver
The bike share service U-bicycle, which features GPS tracked bicycles so members can park and retrieve anywhere, has moved its North American headquarters to Vancouver, and is at work on a multi-city expansion.
U-bicycle launched in B.C. in Victoria last October with 160 bicycles and have now added an additional 250 which will hit the streets in Victoria next month. The bikes come with GPS, 3 speeds, a carbon belt drive system and helmets.
Users simply unlock and lock the bikes using a smartphone app.
U-bicyle has ambitions of opening up in over 100 North American cities, with a fleet of 780,000 bikes. Vancouver will be their operational base and presumably among the first new city to have the service.
Sounds like a great idea!
January 24, 2018
Will legal marijuana shops boost nearby properties?
While some Metro Vancouver landlords are looking to ban marijuana use in their rental units and some municipalities don't want legal cannabis stores in their neighbourhoods, a US study suggests that recreational pot shops could strengthen property values.
Property prices for homes in Denver near shops which converted from medical marijuana to recreational pot in 2014 saw values increase by 8.4%.
It's still too early to tell if Canadian homeowners can expect a similar effect, but maybe marijuana retail locations could benefit neighbourhoods by driving foot traffic to merchants as well as reducing crime. Often, if there is desirable shopping and thriving stores in a particular area, people want to live nearby.
One of the key concerns for having marijuana retail locations in some municipalities is the associated cost of policing. Wouldn't having a marijuana retail location in an area potentially reduce criminal activity by providing a legal channel to buy pot? And crime reduction is always a positvie impact on real estate prices.
Time will will tell!
January 23, 2018
Condos still selling above asking price despite interest rate hikes & stress test
Metro Vancouver condos sales were projected to take a hit this month, due to higher mortgage rates. But it appears that many buyers missed that memo.
The new Bank of Canada rate is at its highest level in 9 years, at 1.25%, and since January 1st, all buyers are now subject to a federal mortgage stress test, but so far the pace of condo sales has not slowed.
It appears that Metro Vancouver is seeing a 'slingshot' effect as more buyers flood into the market fearing even higher interest rates on the horizon. The strong 2017 sales momentum is carrying into this year.
The hike in the interest rate doesn't appear to be making a lot of difference in Vancouver or affluent Metro suburbs, but will likely hammer lower priced areas.
The buyers who are 'entry-level' are already in hock up to their eyebrows and are the ones who are packing record high debt and would already have problems qualifying for mortgages.
At least 2 more Bank of Canada interest rates are expected this year, which could drive many of the marginal homebuyers out of the market altogether.
January 22, 2018
Beer Lovers! Choose your beer-venture along the SkyTrain Line
Beer lovers, this is one to bookmark: A map that helps you visit Metro Vancouver craft breweries, all while riding the skytrain.
As part of their Dine the Line initiative, West Coast food (Destination B.C.) and Translink have teamed up to put out some transit maps that highlight stops for foodies of all kinds, from families to beer lovers.
Their Brews Cruise map features a dozen regional breweries plotted out in relation to the nearest Expo, Millennium, Canada, or 99B Line stops. They've included the stop name and info about bus connections and walking time.
Rather than chancing the drive, you can map out some beer crawl adventures of your own accessible with the tap of your Compass card. One great option is to ride the Evergreen Extension to Port Moody and check out what's brewing on ' brewery row'.
January 18, 2018
How much will this recent interest rate hike cost homeowners?
Yesterday the Bank of Canada overnight interest rate went up for the 3rd time in just over 6 months, on the back of an economy getting stronger. This has already lead to lenders raising their prime rates, effecting variable rate mortgages, and the Big 6 banks increasing the posted fixed rates.
So what effect will this interest rate hike have on our mortgage payments?
A quarter point interest rate hike represents about $13 per month, per $100,000 mortgage, for the average variable rate mortgage - about $52 a month extra on the average $400,000 mortgage balance.
This might not sound like much, but add that to the previous 2 rate hikes, these same mortgage holders could now be paying about $156 a month more than they were just over 6 months ago.
Currently, the majority of local homeowners won't be affected by the interest rate hike, as 50% have no mortgage, and more than 80% of the remaining mortgage payers are on a 5 year fixed rate. Even home owners with variable-rate mortgage won't see monthly payments increase, with a rise in interest rates - these owners will just pay back a little more interest and a little less prinicipal each month.
So, once again, along with the recent mortgage rule changes, these rate hikes effect the first time home buyer the most. Once again, easy targets for our governing bodies. Your thoughts?
January 17, 2018
Thingeries - a new lending library for all sorts of things.
Perhaps you have just a small household repair to make and you need to use just one tool. A tool that you don't own, and really just need for this one job, and no one you know has this tool either. What you need is a Thingery - a lending hub that provides a variety of things to its members.
There is a movement in Vancouver to launch multiple Thingery locations in several Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods. The Thingeries are converted shipping containers that hold a variety of goods that members can borrow.
The container is accessed with a pin code lock, and the pin is granted to members who sign up and pay a one time lifetime fee (currenty $50) with a $29 annual maintenance fee.
What's in the container depends on what's been donated by the community, or procured based on community needs. Things like tools, sports & recreation equipment and event & entertainment gear.
There are currently several sights approved, and the group is in a membership drive that concludes on January 30th, with a goal to get 500 members on board which is needed to secure the balance (50% backing) from Vancity Credit Union. Sounds interesting!
January 16, 2018
The TED Conference returns to Vancouver
The TED Conference - the annual event which brings together leading lights in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design (that's what TED stands for), as well as business, science, the arts, global affairs and sharing ideas via 18 minutes presentation on stage is returning.
You might have watched Jamie Oliver talk about childhood obesity, Steve Jobs address the audience on seeing opportunites in setbacks, or Al Gore on climate change. What you might not know is that Vancouver is home to the TED Conference.
The 5 day meeting, headquartered at the Vancouver Convention Cente also features everything from thought provoking artistic performances, technology demontrations and innovative spaces to connect with fellow attendees.
Attending the TED conference is an exclusive opportunity, but even if you're unable to attend the conference itself, there are other ways to participate. During the conference, you can watch the TED live stream broadcast at sites set up around Vancouver, including some Vancouver Public Library branches. After the event, many of the talks will be uploaded to the TED website, allowing you to watch them at your leisure.
This year the TED Conference is running from April 10-14.
January 15, 2018
1912 - The eastern end of False Creek is drained for railway lands
One of the biggest changes in Vancouver history - the draining of the eastern end of False Creek to create railway land.
In the early days, False Creek went up to Clarke Drive at high tide. There was a bridge across at Main Street, which was originally called Westminster Avenue.
The water in the east end of False Creek was shallow, and much of it turned into mud flats at low tide. So Canadian North Railway comes forward with plans to fill it, and become one of the main competitors to the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Port Mann was meant to be the railway's main industrial yard, with Vancouver the depot for passenger travel. The October 1st False Creek Agreement with Vancouver called for the railway to build a passenger station at a cost of not less than $1.5 million. The agreement also required Canadian Northern to erect a 'first class hotel' in Vancouver, and to make Vancouver the home port for a Canadian Northern steamship line 'for all time'.
The railway was to build a seawall 270 feet west of the Main Street bridge, and to fill in the land to the east.
The original agreement was to employ, white labour only, but this clause was later nixed.
Citizens overwhelmingly voted to approve the deal in a plebiscite on March 15, 1913, with 5,032 voting for and 1,385 against.
Canadian Northern had entered into an agreement with the Great Northern Railway in the US to co-develop the site, and Great Northern opened the first depot on the reclaimed land, Union Station on June 1, 1917.
The railway ran into financial difficulties with the onset of the First World War, and the federal government took it over in 1918.
Canadian Northern merged with Canadian Government Railways to become Canadian National, which was the name of the terminal until it was renamed to Pacific Central in 1993. It still operates as a passenger terminal for Via Rail and Amtrak.
Union Station was torn down in 1965. In recent years, part of the old Great Northern yards have been developed as a city works yard and playing fields. The remainder is slated to become the new home of St. Paul's Hospital and much more.
January 11, 2018
A huge mansion on ALR land sends assessed value soaring
A new mega home on farmland in Richmond has driven the 26.6 acre lot it sits on from an assessed value of just $88,000 to $8.3 million.
Do you think these large homes are having an impact on prices in Richmond's Agricultural Land Reserve? Are you concerned?
This is just one of many ALR lots that has dramatically jumped in value over the past year, and one by one each of these farms is being taken out of production and will likely never by farmed again.
A home currently being built on No. 2 Rd will be among the top 10 most expensive homes in Richmond upon completion. BC Assessment delisted this property from farm class.
City council has been grappled with the issue of house sizes on ALR for over a year now. Early last year, a couple of Richmond counsillers put forward a motion to temporarily limit ALR houses to 7,500 square, but was rejected by council. Soon after the same councillors implemented a bylaw for 10,764 square feet homes on lots greater than 2 acres. It is now going back for public consultation with new options to be presented to the public.
In the meantime we are seeing a bigger rush than ever to build 11,000 plus homes on ALR land, before this bylaw can be enforced.
And to make matters worse, ALR land in Metro Vancouver is not subject to the 15% foreign buyers tax. Do you think that might also be an incentive to take advantage of Richmond's wishy washy stance on its ALR land? Your thoughts?
January 10, 2018
How much more crowded could Vancouver be?
A report released yesterday by the Fraser Institute ranks Vancouver as the 13th densest urban area among the 30 comparable cities from high income countries around the world.
Comparing Vancouver's density to many of the other countries on the list suggests Vancouver could still grow and handle even more population and housing.
Density is expressed as a ratio, calculated by dividing a city's population by its urban land area. Vancouver, based on 2016 data, has a population of 631,486 divided by its 115 square km urban area works out to a population density of 5,493 inhabitants per square km.
While Vancouver is the densest city in Canada, in comparison, San Francisco, another west coast port city of similar geographic land size has about 114,000 more residents, making it more than 30% more dense, or 1.31 times as dense.
The report notes that Canadian cities appear to have 'relatively low population densities' when compared with other major urban areas across North America. Hong Kong takes top spot in the world with a population density of 25,719 inhabitants per square km.
While the report makes it clear that the Canada's most desirable urban areas have the physical capacity to comfortably accommodate far more housing units and residents than we have now, you have to wonder what these higher population densities would do to our living standards.
Using Mercer's Quality of Life Ranking, which uses government data to look at infrastructure, public safety, political stability and health of more than 450 cities, the report also finds no statistically meaningful link between a city's population density and its quality of living.
The report notes that a better understanding of how a city's population density might or might not affect living standards can help people and policymakers 'rethink their perceptions of urban living' and to adjust the way they accommodate growing populations within existing neighbourhoods.
Excuse me for being a little skeptical, but I really don't have much faith in our policymakers. So far, in my view, life style has decreased as Vancouver becomes more dense, and I don't see it getting any better. What are your views?
January 9, 2018
When money isn't an issue - Indulge in one of these toys!
When money isn't an issue, one can indulge in some very cool and expensive toys. Especially now that Christmas is over, it might be time to treat yourself. Toys that the rich own, but the rest of us have only seen in movies about the future. Toys that are very real and for sale, if you can afford their hefty price. One of my favourites is the Pav-V One Helicycle. Yes, a flying motorcycle that sounds like something from Wacky Races, but thanks to the Netherlands, it is the real thing. The Pal-V is a 3 wheeled hybrid car and a gyrocopter. The dual vehicle can reach speeds of 112 miles an hour on both land and in the air. On a single tank of gas, it can fly a distance of 220 miles or drive for 750 miles on land.
Two downfalls though - In order to switch over from car to copter mode, it takes about 10 minutes. Also, you need 540 feet of runway space to take off because it is a gyrocopter and doesn't lift straight up like a helicopter. So if you're driving it around and run into a traffic jam, you can't just turn on the copter and fly over those non-flying suckers. An in order to drive a helicycle, you need more than $400,000, a driver license and a pilots license.
Too many restrictions - I think I will pass. What's next!
January 7, 2018
Tips on getting the most out of a Home Inspection
A proper home inspection is your best defense against buying a home that can be an improvement nightmare. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your home inspection.
Show Up Make sure you are present for the inspection and be prepared to ask questions and point out specific problems you'd like checked out further. This will be the first time your inspector has been to the property, so you may be aware of some potential issues from your previous viewings.
Use Someone You Trust Do your homework and find a home inspector that will give you the peace of mind you need. Find an impartial home inspector that won't have any loyalty to anybody and will be able to speak freely and frankly about potential issues. You may have to pay a bit more for a quality inspection, but compared to the purchase of a house, it's well worth it.
Get Pictures for Proof A home inspector worth using will bring a camera along on the inspection. The inspector will likely be heading into places that you won't want to go to if you don't have to (the roof, crawl space, under decks, the attic, etc) Ask your inspector to photograph any potential issues that arise so you can see these issues for yourself. Infrared and thermal cameras are also available now, and can give your inspector a look behind walls and floors that you otherwise wouldn't be able to get without ripping out drywall and flooring. Some inspectors may charge an additional fee for this service.
Do Your Own Pre-Inspection You can learn a lot about a house just by looking at it. Make sure you do your own home inspection and note any possible issues. Look at walls and ceilings for any evidence of water damage. Try all the light switches and outlets you can to make sure the electrical layout makes sense. Peek at the electrical panel to see if there are any potential wiring issues (look for new wire, old wiring that isn't hooked up, etc). On the outside look for drainage issues, areas with peeling paint, around decks and porches. Inspect the siding. Before your official inspection you should have an idea of things you would like your inspector to pay extra attention to.
Do The Required Maintenance After the home inspection your inspector is going to leave you a list of items that need immediate attention, and items that will need regular maintenance. Upon settling into your new home, be sure to pay quick attention to the items in priority that need immediate attention, and for your homes well being, and to be certain it is in the best care when you are ready to sell, be sure to attend to the items regularly that require ongoing maintenance.
Remember, regardless of the age of a home - with proper care and attention it willl last indefinitely. Enjoy!