April 27, 2012
New Westminster's urban revival
Developer Robert Fung is helping to restore the “Golden Mile” along Columbia Street.
Downtown New Westminster is staging a remarkable comeback due to lots of political will, big investments, and youthful energy.
In many respects, Jonathan X. Cote—the “X” stands for Xerxes—is emblematic of the new New Westminster. Young, progressive, and well-educated, he was elected to city council seven years ago, at the tender age of 26. Cote, who topped the polls in the last two elections, is also a graduate student in the SFU urban-studies program and works part-time as an ICBC adjuster. Not only that, but he and his wife Alix are raising two young daughters, both under the age of five.
No wonder the busy councillor is looking a tiny bit harried as he sits down in a booth at the Heritage Grill, a funky Columbia Street restaurant, to discuss the revival of New West’s historic downtown.
“One of the main reasons we’re starting to see this upswing is actually the demographics,” Cote explains to the Georgia Straight. “Younger people and baby boomers are starting to appreciate the urban environment—and that urban feel is missing from most suburban communities in Metro Vancouver. This is actually becoming a value: being able to walk everywhere, being able to take public transit, being able to jump on a SkyTrain to go downtown.”
The 15.6-square-kilometre city boasts five rapid-transit stops, including the New Westminster and Columbia stations that bookend the downtown.
Cote acknowledges that the city, which was once the most important in British Columbia, went into a long decline that coincided with the rise of suburbia. But the presence of SkyTrain has finally spurred a rebound that’s apparent to anyone who walks through the downtown.
According to Mayor Wayne Wright, half a billion dollars have been invested in the area in recent years, and up to a billion around the entire municipality. This spring, the city will open a sparkling $33-million waterfront park covering 3.2 hectares just east of Westminster Quay. Civic officials hope it will attract more festivals and tourists to the area.
April 27, 2012
Location, type of home can affect your premium
Summer to-do lists are often filled with road trips, swimming pools, vacation adventures and taking in the great outdoors. However, for many Canadians, the warm-weather season means even bigger plans - such as buying a new home.
Purchasing a new property, especially for the first time, presents many questions. After separating the must-haves from the wish-list, finding the right real estate agent, and calculating how much you can afford, getting insurance for the new home is often left to the end, or only considered after the papers are signed and the move-in plans are underway.
"The type and location of home you buy can have a significant impact on your insurance premium," says Wayne Ross, an insurance expert at Aviva Canada.
"By looking at a new home through the eyes of your insurance company, you could save thousands in home insurance premiums."
Ross offers four simple tips to keep insurance in mind when shopping for your dream home:
Explore the location: Neighbourhoods with lower crime rates and that are close to fire stations are kinder to your insurance premiums.
Think warm thoughts: Check out the heating system installed in the home. Oil tanks can cause expensive environmental damage if they leak while gas furnaces and electric heat are much less risky. If you heat with oil, you'll likely pump more money into your premium.
Some things are better new: Houses with more recent heating, electrical and plumbing systems are less susceptible to fire and other dangers, and result in lower premiums. Also search for an updated roof and look for signs of wear and tear.
Examine your extras: Adding upgrades such as swimming pools or hot tubs can increase your chance of liability - and therefore your insurance costs.
April 26, 2012
Ottawa eyes tougher CMHC controls
Concerned over the activities of the country's dominant mortgage insurer, the federal government is set to announce how it will toughen the over-sight of the massive and economically vital organization.
In late March, the federal budget took aim at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the Crown corporation that controls about 75 per cent of the mortgage-default insurance market. In Thursday's budget implementation bill, the government will say how this over-sight will change.
CMHC currently falls under the jurisdiction of the minister responsible for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. But Ottawa has been examining putting the Crown insurer under direct supervision of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions - a powerful financial regulator with the power to enforce a broad range of changes. CMHC is backstopped by the federal government but is coming close to breaching its mandated insurance limit of $600 billion because of the red-hot housing market and so-called portfolio insurance for the banks.
It's this portfolio insurance - also dubbed "bulk insurance" and often referred to as "commercial activities" by the government - that the Finance Minister is most concerned about.
The government said Tues-day it plans to introduce a law "to implement certain provisions of the budget," according to a document known as the Notice Paper. Under parliamentary rules, the legislation can be introduced in the House of Commons as early as Thursday.
While speaking to reporters in February, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty criticized the extent to which this commercial function of the CMHC had commandeered its lending capacity and core function.
"The issue that pushes them near their lending limit is the desire of some of the financial institutions to purchase port-folio insurance for their low-ratio mortgages," Flaherty said.
"That's not the way most people usually think of CMHC."
Just three years ago, CMHC had $450 billion in loans it was backstopping and had to go to the government to get that increased to $600 billion.
The budget document itself provided few details about what action would take place, but suggested the government was concerned about the Crown corporation's dealings with the banks and how it could affect the broader economy.
"The government will pro-pose legislative amendments to strengthen oversight of CMHC and to ensure its commercial activities are managed in a manner that promotes the stability of the financial system," the budget said.
April 26, 2012
Best events in Vancouver this week
April 28 DiVinci: The Genius, Telus Science World, until Sept. 3: The most comprehensive exhibition ever compiled on the works on Leonardo da Vinci.
PNE Forum, 8 p.m.The Grammy-nominated French electronica duo was one of the first acts to incorporate pummelling rock motifs into electro-house music, creating a new sonic landscape. The pair’s second album Audio, Video, Disco, pays homage to ’70s-era prog rock.
Catriona Jeffries Gallery, opens 7 to 9 p.m; to June 9
Vancouver-based Judy Radul’s art has evolved from “live” performance to installations that examine the parameters of the “live” situation. Her latest works also explore ways technology increasingly functions in ways akin to human perception.
April 27; opens 7 to 10 p.m.; to July 1
The L.A. art star’s recent sculptures evoke a futuristic archeology; they are strange yet familiar works that draw from myriad influences, from Modernist art to ancient totems. This career-spanning show is Monahan’s first Canadian solo show.
Yellow Signal: New Media in China
Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, opens 8 to 10 p.m., to Aug. 19.
Gage the current political situation in China by way of acclaimed contemporary Chinese artists Geng Jianyi, Huang Ran, and Zhang Peili, whose exhibition is part of a city-wide, largest-ever in Canada, showcase of Chinese multi-media and video art.
West Coast Tattoo and Culture Show
Boulevard Casino, to April 29
The three-day show features 125 international tattoo artists, among them reality-TV stars Chris Nunez of Ink Masters, and Billy DeCola, of New York Ink. Just be aware of 10 Tattoos to Avoid (according to the viral online list), including No. 1 and No. 2 no-no’s: face X-ray and connect-the-dots tattoos.
Commodore Ballroom, 9:30 pm
The Vancouver scruf-rock outfit returns home from a 30-date North American tour celebrating its vibrant new album Tiger Talk. Just a few own-bed sleeps though; the band spends May touring the West Coast and Europe. Opening this show are Vancouver folk-rockers Sun Wizard and the Saskatchewan pop septet Library Voices (whose fans include staff at The New Yorker and Spin).
Biltmore Cabaret, doors 8 p.m.
The Denver husband-and-wife pop group Tennis perform songs from its beautiful new album Young & Old. Phil Collins and Fleetwood Mac, as well as contemporary bands Chairlift, Real Estate and Spiritualized, are counted among the group’s influences.
Da Vinci: The Genius
Telus Science World, until Sept. 3
The most comprehensive exhibition ever compiled on the works on Leonardo da Vinci sprawls over 10,000 square feet of Science World’s renovated space. The show features full-scale machine inventions crafted from his personal notebooks, sketches, and reproductions of his art, including the Mona Lisa and a 3-D Last Supper.
Domingo Ortega Flamenco Company
Kay Meek Centre, 8 pm
Directed by the dancer Domingo Ortega, this company is one of Spain’s most successful touring groups, having performed all over the world, and now four shows in Canada. One of the three fiery dancers is Iranian-born Delara Tiv, who lives in West Vancouver. The outstanding musicians include two singers and two guitarists.
Vogue Theatre, 8 p.m. (also Thursday, May 1 and May 3)
Opening last week to a lengthy standing ovation, Vancouver Opera stages the grand opera with total elan. Russian-born soprano Mlada Khudoley is particularly exciting as Aida, the Ethipian prisoner (and secret princess) in Verdi’s epic tale of doomed love.
International Dance Day
Scotiabank Dance Centre, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Take in a world of dance for free as the Dance Centre invites all to get in the groove with contemporary dance showcases by Contingency Plan, Kinesis and In Modus Operandi, workshops on the pow-wow and flamenco dance, open classes, talks, and more.
VanDusen Garden Plant Sale
VanDusen Botantical Garden, 10 to 4 p.m.
VanDusen’s massive sale attracts 10,000 garden enthusiast who snap up more than 40,000 plants in six hours of frenzied buying. The theme this year is Small Space Gardens with an emphasis on suitable container plants for apartment- and townhouse-dwelling greenthumbs.
B.C. Place Community Open House
Enter at Gate A, 12 to 4 p.m.
Athletes, make fantasy reality: Kick balls with the Whitecaps, throw passes to the BC Lions during this weekend’s free community event. Then hit the ’Caps and BC Lions dressing rooms and some of the new suites, where fans would cheer you on.
This show is sold-out but is it entirely due to sweet-sounding mega-rockers Snow Patrol? The Irish band’s opening act, the 21-year-old hip-hop-folkie Ed Sheeran, certainly has pull with young fans, even though his debut album, + (pronounced Plus), doesn’t drop here until June. The album, a huge hit in England, earned two Brit Awards in February.
Opeth and Mastodon
Orpheum Theatre, 7 pm
It’s metalhead heaven as two of the world’s most potent acts take over the VSO’s usual venue. Swedish prog-metal favourites Opeth and Atlanta powerhouse Mastodon are both renowned for unique instrumentation and for crossing multiple heavy metal genres such as sludge metal, stoner metal and groove-metal.
Commodore Ballroom 9:30 pm; also Wednesday
Reuniting after an eight-year fall-out, the Toronto-based bluesy-rock band has just released the epic, Rush/Zeppelin-inspired Albatross. Tuesday’s show is sold out.
Chris Botti With the VSO
Orpheum Theatre, 8 pm
The last time the world’s top-selling jazz instrumentalist performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra the sold-out show had the audience leaping to its feet for multiple standing ovations. Now the uniquely expressive trumpeter returns to perform songs from his new album Impressions, which includes standards, as well as an opening track by Chopin.
Said the Whale
Vogue Theatre 8 pm
Said the Whale’s coronation as New Group of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards followed a second-place finish in the Peak Performance Project, which won the Vancouver rockers $75,000. Their first trip to the SXSW was documented for a CBC television special. Busy band. No wonder it’s take so long to drop the new album, Little Mountain.
Vancouver International Burlesque Festival
Rio Theatre, Vogue, Biltmore to May 6
Reigning queens and kinds of the burlesque scene titilate with wild tassel-twirling techniques, irreverent surprises, and naughty acts. With headliners Miss Indigo Blue, Jett Adore, Judith Stein, and Tiffany Carter.
Immerse yourself in a vast market place of planet-loving goodness. Everything pitched by the 300 exhibitors—from coffee to cars, furniture to wine—is crafted or grown sustainably, by people willing to share their knowledge. The annual expo features inspiring speakers, like Adriane Carr, co-founder of the Green Party of BC; the EPICurean Corner, with samples galore from BC restaurants and wineries, and eco-fashion shows.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/Best+events+Vancouver+this+week/6518646/story.html#ixzz1t9wOX9AY
April 25, 2012
Vancouver home prices fall for fifth-consecutive month
Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes.
Photograph by: Ian Smith , Vancouver Sun
OTTAWA — Homes prices edged down 0.2 per cent in February from the month before but were still 6.1 per cent higher than a year ago, according to a well-watched housing index.
The month-over-month decline was the third such retreat in the past four months for the Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index, released Wednesday, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes.
In January, prices rose 0.1 per cent.
Teranet's report showed prices falling from the previous month in six of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed.
In Canada's two hottest real-estate markets, prices in Vancouver fell 0.3 per cent, the fifth consecutive decline, while prices in Toronto rose by just 0.1 per cent. On a yearly basis, however, Toronto prices were 10 per cent higher.
Nationally, prices were 6.1 per cent higher than a year ago. In January, prices were 6.5 per cent higher.
The data is likely to show up on the radar of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, who has repeatedly warned that Canadians are piling on too much debt as they buy homes whose prices keep rising.
At a House of Commons finance committee meeting Tuesday, Carney warned that house prices in relation to income levels are now running 35 per cent above historical norms.
Last week, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported that seasonally adjusted sales in March rose 1.6 per cent from year-earlier levels, although the national average home price declined 0.5 per cent to to $369,677.
"It is a fact that according to CREA (the Canadian Real Estate Association) data for March, five of the 11 markets covered were rather favourable to sellers (Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Halifax and Quebec City). Overall, the Canadian market is nevertheless balanced," said National Bank senior economist Marc Pinsonneault.
April 24, 2012
Spring renovation seminar set for May 15
To help homeowners make informed renovation decisions, the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association is again presenting its spring home renovation seminar.
The event, held in partnership with BC Hydro, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. and FortisBC, takes place on May 15 from 7: 30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Croatian Cultural Centre at 3250 Commercial Dr.
Homeowners will be guided through the various stages of the renovation process, including design and planning, legal and contracts, selecting a renovator, municipal permits and inspections, and living through a renovation.
Presenters include Vancouver-area renovators, construction lawyer, municipal building official, and a technical expert sharing the latest in green renovations. Attendees will learn about RenoMark, an industry-led national program designed to provide greater confidence to homeowners when hiring renovation contractors. To be accepted into the program, contractors must abide by a 10-condition code of conduct.
Pre-registration is required. Register online at www.gvhba.org or call 778-565-4288. Admission to the seminar is free, but attendees are asked to contribute a food item for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.
April 20, 2012
Research generates best deal, in any kind of market
There is a fine Chinese saying: The best time to invest in real estate was five years ago.
The second best time? Now! That has been true, particularly in Vancouver, for 50 years.
In real estate investment - the only time to act is now. Always.
Most of the questions I get these days are on the following subjects:
"Is this still a good market?"
"Should I wait till it crashes?"
"Is the boom over?"
"Can I write a low offer in today's market?"
In 38 years of experience, I have never seen the "great deal of a lifetime" advertised (or if I did, it turned out it wasn't).
I have never seen a realtor who really liked lowball offers, including myself.
I have never read in the paper that "this is without doubt the best market ever," when it really was. I also have never subscribed to the theory that one should defer actions to a better day.
There are no perfect markets, no perfect situations, and no 167 secrets to make that great buy. You are not buying a market, you are buying a well-researched home for your family or an investment you intend to keep for years.
In fact, often the best deals come in slower markets.
What matters are the actions that you take:
. Identify your goals. Do you want to resell at a profit? Do you want to create a passive stream of income?
. Look at the market cycle - at a high? At a low?
. Understand that timing is more important than location.
. Identify the kind of property you'd like to own.
. Identify a neighbourhood that has those properties in it.
. Look at everything that is for sale there.
. Look at everything that sold there.
. Look at all the price reductions.
. Look at all the 'by owner' sales.
. Get on the ace condo marketers' lists.
. Keep reading and learning.
. Keep doing it till you find a deal.
All the deals are not gone; they are still there waiting to be found, looked over and - most of all - created. As investors, we must look for cash-flowing properties in B.C., low down payments, good 'employment' areas, a good base of tenants. That means that if we want certainty of return and low risk we need to find cash flow properties that are priced under $150,000. And yes, these deals are still every-where in B.C. - from Port Hardy (3 bedroom, 3 baths fixed upper - $55,900), to Kimberley (ski condo $72,900), to Nanaimo (four-plex for $489,000).
Of course, what investing in real estate really needs is - work! It takes work to find the deals, and work to get your investment-oriented realtors, qualified mortgage brokers, bankers and home inspectors lined up.
All good deals are created and negotiated. So, storm the net, hit hard, and keep shooting on the net. Don't ice that puck.
Ozzie Jurock is a senior real estate adviser and the publisher of Jurock's Real Estate Insider. He can be reached by at oz@ jurock.com or www.jurock.com
April 20, 2012
'Largest purchase of your life' shouldn't be taken lightly
Working with a real estate conveyance lawyer or a notary public is necessary to close all real estate deals in British Columbia.
Vancouver lawyer Gail Davies has been doing real estate con-veyancing for more than 25 years, and it makes up about 65 per cent of her practice.
She says it's difficult for many first-time homebuyers to choose a lawyer or notary, and often they choose based on price, which can vary depending on the services that are included.
"How are you going to decide who to go with on the largest purchase of your life? It's very hard for a first-time homebuyer to decide what's the best deal," Davies said. "I think most people go by the sound of the voice on the other end of the phone and who you feel comfortable doing business with."
She says real estate conveyanc-ing is quite competitive in Vancouver, so people should make sure they are comparing the same services if they are going by price alone. Davies said she charges $1,158 including HST for a real estate conveyance for a home under $1 million.
Davies said first-time home-buyers need more legal information than repeat customers.
"I can do a conveyance in half an hour with a repeat buyer, but that would take at least an hour and a half with a first-time buyer, depending on the number of questions they have," Davies said.
The lawyer's role includes witnessing signatures, preparing the documents for the buyer and the seller, doing title searches on the property, pre-paring the title certificate, handling the transfer of funds, closing arrangements and other tasks.
Davies said that after 25 years in the business she still comes across new problems regularly.
"There's a million different problems that can go wrong, although most conveyances are cut and dried," Davies said. "I always think, 'Okay I've seen everything now and then something else comes along.'"
On one deal Davies was recently involved with, a per-son whose offer on the property had not been accepted, placed a caveat on the property's title.
"He felt that the realtors had misled him, and he had an axe to grind," Davies said. "[A caveat] freezes the property for 30 days and gives you the opportunity to start a lawsuit. If you don't start a lawsuit, the caveat falls off.
"It was basically a four-month process before we could deal with this property."
Another example of a problem that can crop up is an unexpected builder's lien on a property, Davies said.
"Maybe the seller had some work done to get the property ready for selling, and was planning to pay for it out of the sale proceeds, and suddenly there's a lien on the title."
Davies has a summary of the buying process on her website: www.llglaw.ca.
April 19, 2012
First-time buyers have options for that all-important down payment
Photograph by: Jason Payne , VANCOUVER SUN
Saving money for a down payment, especially in British Columbia’s high-priced housing markets, is one of the biggest challenges that homeowners face, but mortgage experts say, it’s not impossible.
The minimum down payment new homeowners need is five per cent of a home’s purchase price, which can be particularly difficult to accumulate for those in the most need: young people, often with student debt and lifestyles that involve a lot of restaurant meals and going to movies once or twice a week.
“There are options,” said Chris Pughe, a mortgage broker with Verico Complete Mortgage Services.
For starters, there’s always Mom and Pop to help you on your way — Pughe said gifts from family members are one alternative.
She added buyers can borrow the down payment through a line of credit, personal loan or possibly cash advances against a credit card.
The caveat, she said, is the buyer would have to be able to afford to service the mortgage debt, pay property taxes and heating costs plus an additional payment on the borrowed funds.
As well, first-time buyers can tap into their RRSPs — an option not available to investors — as a way to get the necessary cash in hand.
Pughe said this is a popular option. Borrowers can withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSP under the federal Home Buyers’ Plan without any tax being withheld, noting that it’s not just for first-time buyers.
“It’s as long as you haven’t been on title to anything for the last five years,” she said. “If it’s you and your spouse, it’s $50,000.
“But you have to repay it [in yearly instalments] into your RRSP over 15 years. If not, you pay tax on it.”
Pughe noted that purchasers can borrow money for the RRSP and get the tax saving for a down payment the same year, provided it stays as an RRSP for 90 days.
The provincial government’s new bonus for first-time buyers of new homes, which is a one-time refundable personal tax credit equal to five per cent of the purchase price of a home to a maximum of $10,000, can also be used to help with a down payment.
Pughe said some lenders have a cashback option that can be used against a down payment. “The clients have to take posted rates [not discounted] and some lenders will give you five per cent of the mortgage amount as cash back. On $400,000 that would be $20,000, the five-per-cent down payment that is required.”
However, she recommends against that option because borrowing costs are much higher than discounted rates.
One thing worth remembering, Pughe said, is that if clients have less than 20 per cent as a down payment, they have to prove that they have the five-per-cent down payment plus 1.5 per cent in closing costs.
Meanwhile, Ryan McKinley, mortgage development manager at Vancity in Vancouver, said “it would be nice to have a magic bullet,” but that the classic approach to saving up the down payment can “definitely be a challenge.”
McKinley believes one approach could be to set up an automatic transfer into a high interest savings account every month or every paycheque to save for a deposit.
Regarding parental help, McKinley said parents can use their own savings, investments or potentially the equity in their own home to help a child with a down payment.
They could also co-purchase a home with their children, he said, allowing the child “to get into the market, while concurrently being an investment for the parents.”
April 19, 2012
B.C. home buyers unwilling to enter 'bidding war': BMO report
When it comes down to it, many British Columbia home buyers just aren’t willing to battle for their dream home, according to a BMO Home Buying Report released Thursday.
Photograph by: BC Hydro , BC Hydro
When it comes down to it, many British Columbia home buyers just aren’t willing to battle for their dream home, according to a BMO Home Buying Report released Thursday.
The BMO Buying Report said Canadian respondents in the Prairies, Ontario and Alberta are more willing to enter into a bidding war than those in B.C., Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
In the survey, 22 per cent of Canadians said they were willing to enter into a bidding war when making an offer on a home.
"Of those prepared to fight, half would pay up to 110 per cent of the asking price, while a quarter would be willing to bid up to 120 per cent," the report said.
Those surveyed in Manitoba/Saskatchewan ranked first in eagerness to enter into a mortgage bidding war (32 per cent). They were followed by respondents in: Ontario (28 per cent), Alberta (25 per cent), B.C. (23 per cent), Atlantic Canada (13 per cent) and Quebec (10 per cent).
The study also noted that 52 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they're willing to pay between 100 and 110 per cent of the asking price, with Quebec ranking first at 62 per cent. It was followed by: Alberta and B.C. (53 per cent), Ontario (51 per cent), Manitoba/Saskatchewan (48 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (44 per cent).
Meanwhile, 27 per cent of Canadians said they would pay between 100 to 120 per cent, with the highest in Atlantic Canada (33 per cent), then Ontario and B.C. (30 per cent), Quebec (25 per cent), Manitoba/Saskatchewan (22 per cent) and Alberta (17 per cent).
John Pasalis, broker owner of Realosophy Realty Inc., a Toronto-area real estate brokerage, cautioned that the bidding wars may not be as lucrative as they seem.
"One thing to keep in mind is the houses that are getting pretty crazy bidding wars are underpriced anywhere from five to 10 per cent," he said. "The list prices aren't always an indication of what they're actually worth."
Pasalis said his company has seen "multiple offers almost non-stop for years now," including as much as 10 or more buyers bidding on a house.
"You just get these spikes and valleys in the market where things get a little bit more heated and demand starts outstripping supply as things get faster," he explained.
However, the mortgage wars may backfire on owners if the bank's appraisal of the home is lower than what a buyer pays for the home, he said.
To avoid this, Pasalis cautioned that homeowners need to know the actual market value of the property they want to buy as opposed to its listing price.
Nationally, the average home sale price is $369,677, the report said. The average home prices across Canada are "rising modestly," it said, except in Toronto ($504,117) and Vancouver ($761,742).
"Toronto prices have risen 11 per cent over the past year, while Vancouver's have fallen 3 per cent," said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist for BMO Capital Markets.
The survey was completed online by Leger Marketing from March 19-22 with a sample of 1,000 Canadian home or condo owners. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
April 13, 2012
Go big — and go home
A look at the ‘Jurassic Park’ space before it was transformed.
Since time immemorial we, and lifestyle commentators the world over, have debated ways in which to make small rooms appear larger. It’s a preoccupation that consumes commentators everywhere, and the reason is simple: many homes are somewhat smaller than their occupants would prefer.
That said, having scoped property the world over, we know that Canuck real estate is (often) commodious. The average British home, for example, is short on square footage by around 30 per cent in relation to its Canadian counterpart, and as far as mainland Europe is concerned, we’ll say one word: Lilliput. We’ve a pal in a Parisian banlieue whose three-bedroom bungalow measures just 900 square feet. Sure, his is an admittedly extreme scenario, but it goes some way to exemplifying inequity — as far as floor plans are concerned — on both sides of the pond.
So as you languish in your larger-than-average space, spare a thought for those who are significantly less endowed. And be grateful, as you spread out, for your every extra inch.
But is bigger always better, and can domestic proportions be composed on such a grand scale that they actually become unworkable? Hmm. Let’s see ...
Without due care, visual and ergonomic problems can certainly set in. Extra-large rooms are notoriously difficult to dress and the quantity of furniture required (and the attendant costs therein) can be the stuff of nightmares. On the other hand, with a little extra thought (and by embracing and properly accommodating different pastimes such as reading, eating and TV viewing), competent spatial harnessing can be achieved. The secret is to provide an element of visual connection between each and every function.
For the record, today’s project is a seating area positioned at the far end of a mammoth bedroom: a room, believe it or not, which measures some 33 by 28 feet — more than the entire footprint of the aforementioned Parisian home. A veritable soccer pitch, pre-transformation, the space needed serious zoning — and more than a spot of design continuity — to pull it back from the brink of hell. The fruits of our decorative labours are self explanatory (Hello? Before-and-after pics?) so, we’re going to concentrate on the things you can do (in general terms) to master any outsized space. In short, here’s our simple guide to taming Jurassic Park.Rather than be defeated by a huge, featureless space, consider your options to tempt wonderful results. Might a focal-point-free room be immediately bettered if you installed a fireplace? Or perhaps a large armoire, dressed, either side, with occasional furniture such as chairs or demi-lune tables attired with lamps and mirrors? Bear in mind that a room’s pulse beats faster with a focal point of some variety.Doll sized doesn’t do it, so scale up sofas and chairs as well as tables, artwork and accessories. Don’t rush buying decisions; instead plot out potential furniture arrangements using templates made from newspaper. It’s not rocket science; a small love seat will look lonely in a massive room, so opt instead for a pair of sofas or a generous sectional. If you’re taming a bedroom, think about upsizing to a king-sized divan and seek out wide nightstands and stretched cabinetry to balance scale. Remember, a host of little tweaks can make a big difference.Use large indoor plants or simple painted (or upholstered) screens to break up space. Modern loft-style rooms look great with expansive frosted glass-panelled screens, while open bookshelves will adeptly serve two spaces simultaneously.Employ the same (or a complementary) colour scale across different functions in multi-purpose spaces.
In a living room which features a gold-striped sofa, for example, pick up the warm metallic detail via napery or crockery in the dining area. Conversely, if you have a copy of Matisse’s Nu Bleu hanging over your home office desk, provide connectivity to other aspects of your room by detailing with cobalt-coloured accessories.
Perhaps a blue throw elegantly draped across the arm of a sofa? Or a natural rug edged with custom taping to echo the tones of your artwork. You get the gist.With large rooms, it’s important to keep each function clearly defined. Try using furniture (tall open cabinetry, for instance) to delineate space and, if you can, create zones within zones; a media unit and sectional sofa will clearly mark out your TV area, while a dining table and chairs will announce where food is served.
Take it from us: many of the large rooms we visit appear to have been arranged in the dark.Create separate “islands” by employing area rugs to clearly map out where one function starts and another one ends. The bed, for example, in this room’s reversion, floats atop an area rug which precisely matches the one we specified for this secondary seating area. It’s a detail, sure, but it’s an important detail nonetheless.Never underestimate the importance of clever lighting as a means by which to tame sprawling scale. Mood pools set with side lamps will create pocket atmosphere, as will overhead fittings separately zoned to light up different areas as, and when, required.While admittedly a larger (and more invasive) task than propping and styling with furniture, the installation of sliding doors — or a concertina wall system — will afford heaps of flexibility and the option to transform one large room into two smaller spaces. Use space imaginatively
In a large bedroom, don’t feel obliged to push your divan against the wall; popping it on a jaunty angle (perhaps in a corner) will add interest while distracting from awkward scale. Similarly, don’t feel that your living room sofa should be crammed up against a wall — pull it out and let it breathe.
Experiment with long lean tables at the rear dressed with atmospheric lamps and other interesting accessories to make floor plans appear more manageable. It’s all about establishing different layers and embracing — rather than shying away from — generous proportions.
April 13, 2012
Changes in jobs, family, lifestyle affect decision to sell
Whatever the 'why' or 'when' for selling, make sure you are working with an expert when you list your home for sale.
Photograph by: Submitted , Special To Postmedia News
Homeowners face a double dilemma when dealing with the prospect of selling their homes.
How do you make sure the decision to sell is the right one?
When is the right time to sell? Traditionally, the four major reasons why and when people sell their homes are financial and market conditions, employment changes, family matters and life-style changes.
However, the current issue of low interest rates and a large selection of homes also has a great bearing.
These reasons not only affect your decision to sell, they can greatly impact your options about when to sell.
Financial and market conditions: Almost every aspect to real estate involves market conditions and financial issues. For the seller, they are of the utmost importance because it's the seller who's putting property, equity and maybe years of hard work on the line. With so much at stake, it's really beneficial that sellers con-tact a realtor who has the experience and knowledge of the real estate industry.
If the number of homes for sale exceeds potential buyers, then it's a buyers' market. If there are not enough homes to satisfy demand, then it's a sellers' market.
If selling for financial gain, you'll want a sellers' market. But if you plan to purchase a home after sale, there isn't as big a difference as you'd first imagined. In a sellers' market, you may sell your home more quickly and for a better price, but you'll be facing the opposite challenges when purchasing.
In a buyers' market, you may have to wait longer to get a fair price, but you'll have more selection and pricing options when looking for your new property.
Employment changes: Employment changes can influence a decision to sell, such as relocation when a new job or pro-motion is in a different city and it's necessary to move, unless the homeowner wishes to retain a property for investment or other purposes.
Moving to a smaller urban centre may allow you to purchase a similar home for less money or a bigger one for the same outlay. Even if a new job doesn't require a move, it's a good opportunity to assess your needs.
Family issues: The family issue homeowners cite more than any other when deciding to sell is children. Most often, people want a bigger home to accommodate a newborn, or may find their family has simply outgrown their current house.
Often, a parent may be rejoining the family and a separate suite or nanny quarters is in the plans. As life goes on many different situations can arise requiring a change in homes.
Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes and retirement are common reasons that motivate sellers. It's wise to look far enough ahead in order to use the market to your advantage and sell at a good price.
Changes in lifestyle can include moving to a condo or simply changing your pace of life from city dweller to country living.
Whatever the "why" or "when" for selling, make sure you are working with an expert - one with honesty and integrity and the highest of professional standards.
April 4, 2012
House prices continue to rise
Prices of homes in the Lower Main-land area continue to climb while home sales have dropped to some of the lowest levels seen in a decade, according to data released by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board on Tuesday.
In Greater Vancouver, sales of residential properties were down 29.6 per cent in March compared with a year earlier, the second-slowest March since 2002. Yet the price for a bench-mark or typical home went up 5.3 per cent to $679,000 from last year. Detached homes were up the most - 9.2 per cent to $1,056,400 - while prices for apartments increased 2.2 per cent to $375,100 and townhomes eked up 0.9 per cent to $480,900.
Only Pitt Meadows saw a drop in price with a 1.7-per-cent decline year-over-year.
New listings were down 14 per cent in March from last year but up 5.2 per cent from February. Total listings, however, have been growing steadily, up 16 per cent in March 2012 com-pared with March 2011 and up 8.4 per cent from February.
"The total number of properties for sale in Greater Vancouver has increased each month since December, which means there's more selection to choose from as we enter what's traditionally the busiest season of the year in our market," REBGV's president, Eugen Klein, said in a release.
Robyn Adamache, senior market analyst for Metro Vancouver with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said the resale market was now balanced, as was expected for this year. And that's true even for markets that were hot last year like Richmond, West Vancouver and the west side of Vancouver, where the single family home prices pushed the overall aggregate price up, Adamache said.
"And we're actually seeing on the single-family home side, Burnaby and the east side of Vancouver are moving more toward sellers' market conditions," she said.
A sellers' market is one where new listings are not keeping up with demand. The Vancouver-area resale market has been balanced since last year with prices and sales generally flat, Adamache said.
In the Fraser Valley, sales dropped 22 per cent year-over-year yet the bench-mark price of a detached home was up 6.8 per cent to $572,700 over the same period. The price of townhomes and apartments were both up 1.5 per cent to $315,000 and $210,600 respectively.
As in Vancouver, new listings were down (9.2 per cent) while active listings were up (4.5 per cent).
Meanwhile, in a study released Tues-day, the Conference Board of Canada has labelled the real estate markets of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley balanced in February, while it was a buyers' market in Victoria.
In Vancouver, sales were up in February compared with January but listings were down significantly - 19 per cent. That brought the sales-to-new-listings ratio to 0.517, well within the balanced market range of between 0.433 to 0.722.
In the Fraser Valley, the sales-to-new-listings ratio in February was 0.543, between the balanced market range of 0.429 to 0.699
April 3, 2012
A Strong buyer's market in Surrey at this time.
According to MLS® statistics there are currently 801 detached homes, 354 townhouses and 197 condo’s for sale in Surrey.
Over the past 30 days there have been 114 detached homes sold (just over 14% of inventory), 60 townhouses sold (almost 17% of inventory) and 17 condo’s sold (just 8.6% of inventory) in Surrey. The current list to sell ratio for Surrey over the past 30 days is just over 14%, which is considerable below a balanced market of 22%. Clearly a buyer’s market at this time. For more up to date real estate market conditions contact firstname.lastname@example.org at anytime.