I have listed a new property at 305 15140 29A AVE in Surrey.
Quiet, clean and comfortable. This 3rd floor 2 Bedroom/ 2 Bathroom unit with an in suite laundry in The Sands has it all. Walking distance to Southpoint and the Shops at High Street as well as quick access to Transit and Highway 99 for an easy commute. Hurry on this one!
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(Article by Tiffany Crawford published in The Province July 26 2018)



If you’re thinking about buying a summer cottage or place to retire by the sea in British Columbia, you may need keep saving.

The cost of a recreational property in B.C. surged nearly 20 per cent in the past year, and in some of the more popular destinations, like Tofino, they went up more than 100 per cent.

That’s according to the 2018 Re/Max Recreational Report released Thursday. The report finds that the aging population has retirees driving and inflating the recreational market in popular leisure locations.

Overall, B.C. saw an increase of 19 per cent, with the median price in areas like Tofino on Vancouver Island increasing 112 per cent to $1.4 million for waterfront properties thanks to high demand and a low supply.

Inventory for all property types is low in the region, the report found, with 28 properties listed in Tofino and 63 in nearby Ucluelet. The cost of a non-waterfront property in Tofino increased 43 per cent to $1 million in Tofino and 33 per cent to $595,000 in Ucluelet.

The report says millennial buyers are moving their young families to the area as a lifestyle choice with the slightly older crowd looking more for second home and investment.

Sun Peaks, one of Canada’s largest ski areas, saw an increase of 34 per cent, which Re/Max says was thanks to schools and an increase in services attracting retirees and families.

Other popular destinations for recreational properties in B.C. include Salt Spring Island, where the median price of a waterfront property jumped 29 per cent to $590,000, and Whistler, where all property types went up 46 per cent to a median price of $790,000.

This Re/Max chart shows how the cost of a recreational property in popular destinations in B.C. jumped over the last year.

Overall in Canada, the median price for all recreational properties increased by 13 per cent compared with July 2017, according to Re/Max.

Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president of RE/MAX INTEGRA Ontario-Atlantic Canada Region, says Canada’s senior population is the largest it has ever been, and many of these retirees are using recreational properties as retirement properties, driving up prices in a majority of markets.

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Located on a Spectacular full 1 acre property, and overlooking the Hazelmere Valley in Redwood Park Estates, is this Stunning West Coast Architecturally designed home with views of Mt Baker. Open Staircase, Vaulted Ceilings, Amazing Family Room viewing of wonderful southern-exposed grounds with Cherry Blossoms. 2 bedrooms on the main & 2 bedrooms up, including the Master Retreat. Recent updates include 3/4" solid oak floors in 2015, and Concrete Composite Siding, Vinyl Decks, & glass with metal handrails - all done in 2011. Impressive cedar beams and accents throughout. Hot Water on-demand. Heat pump. HE Furnace. Garden Shed with 60 Amp Power. Quiet rural living with Grandview Corners Shopping & Rec Centre just 8 minutes away. Opportunity for a Remarkable Lifestyle and Superior Investment.
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‘Perception and fear trump fundamentals’ in pre-sale condo market

Frank O'Brien Western Investor
May 9, 2018


 
 




 
for sale

 

High-profile real estate developers, marketing executives and real estate agents are bracing for a sustained downturn in the housing market after sales in April – usually one of the most active months of the year – plunged by double-digits across Metro Vancouver.

Vancouver lawyer Richard Bell, executive vice-chair and founder of Avesdo Inc., told a real estate seminar May 8 that the Vancouver new home market has seen an “incredible run over the past 10 to 15 years.” But, he added, “We all knew it would come to an end and the end is nigh.”

In April, just 43 per cent of pre-sale condos offered in Metro Vancouver sold, compared to 94 per cent in January, 83 per cent in February and 63 per cent in March, said Cameron McNeil, a partner in MLA Canada, the real estate marketing firm that hosted the Pre-Sale Pulse seminar at Olympic Village.

In the resale sector, April sales of detached houses plunged 34% through the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, compared with a year earlier, while townhouse and condo sales were down 25 per cent and 24 per cent in the same period.

“I have been seeing more and more price reductions in the detached housing market,” said Tina Mak, a top-producing Vancouver agent with Coldwell Banker Wesburn Realty. Mak, founding president of Asian Real Estate Association of America, Vancouver Chapter, said investors should not expect a quick return on investment if they had bought recently.

“All you can expect is capital gain.  However, as long as the NDP is in power, I strongly believe the double-digits gain honeymoon is over. On top of that, there are many different new taxes, stricter rental rules,” Mak stated in a missive to clients this week.

“This would be the seventh cycle since I got into the business in 1992,” she said. “The fact is when the market swings back up again, the next peak is always higher than the previous peak.”

Meanwhile, she is “looking for U.S. investment opportunity for many of my investors.”

Like Mak, McNeil said the fundamentals remain in place for a strong Metro Vancouver housing market: an estimated 40,000 immigrants arriving annually, relatively low mortgage rates, low unemployment and a robust economy.

“Our industry, though, is driven by fear and perception, and fear and perception trumps fundamentals every time,” he said. McNeil said condo developers can expect slower sales over the next few months.

An estimated 11,000 new condos will start marketing this year in Metro Vancouver, McNeil said, but this “will barely scratch the surface” of the true demand. He added that, like the last downturn in 2008, people would likely be surprised at how quick the recovery will be.

“This is Vancouver,” agreed Bell. “It will come back.”
 
 
Note: the original version of this article mistakenly attributed Tina Mak's quotes to Vancouver realtor Michelle Yu, for which the author apologizes.
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Great Podcast Series from Steven Quinn of the CBC. 

 This podcast takes a dive into some of the things that people find it difficult to talk about concerning Real Estate and the forces that affect the rising prices and diminishing affordability in Vancouver. It's worth a listen and gives an unbiased perspective of the different cultures that make up the City.

 

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/podcasts/current-affairs-information/sold/             

                                                

                                         

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British Columbia through increased taxes, will not help the Government achieve its 114,000-unit affordable housing objective. Like the Luxury PTT, UDI requests the Ministry consider exempting or rebating the FBT when development sites are being purchased. Grandfathering UDI is extremely disappointed the Government decided not to provide grandfathering for projects in Metro Vancouver for either tax, and only 3-months for the FBT in areas outside of Metro. This is inadequate because it takes years for projects to be constructed and completed. We have repeatedly communicated to the Government that this disregard for contracts entered into in good faith exposes both the development industry and the BC government to costly legal action, such as the class action lawsuit citing unconstitutionality and discrimination of the 15% foreign buyer tax, currently before the BC Supreme Court. The suddenness of these new taxes with no grandfathering provisions for existing contracts also undermines our Province’s reputation as a stable economy to invest in. UDI requests existing pre-sale contracts be exempted from the FBT. At the very least, the grandfathering period for the increases should be extended to one-year across the Province, including in Metro Vancouver. Impact of the Speculation Tax UDI was not opposed to the concept of a 2% Speculation Tax being applied to the urban areas of Metro Vancouver when it was originally proposed by academics. However, the Speculation Tax as proposed in Budget 2018 has morphed well beyond the original proposal and could inadvertently capture British Columbian and Canadian non-speculators, including long-time family owned recreation and seasonal properties. We disagree with the Speculation Tax being applied to British Columbian and Canadian taxpayers, and being implemented in resort and cottage areas such as the Okanagan and the Gulf Islands. There is a shared concern that the broad scope of the tax will unintentionally harm the tourism sector, small businesses and British Columbians across the Province. This includes areas of the Province where the tax does not apply, because the Government has foreshadowed that the initial boundaries of it may expand. UDI requests that the Speculation Tax not apply to British Columbian and Canadian taxpayers. We also request the tax not apply to development sites, as requested for the other taxes. UDI suggests delaying the implementation of the tax until next year so the Ministry can conduct thorough modelling analyses of the potential impacts on the communities where it will be applied, and have detailed consultations with local governments, business/tourism groups, the real estate industry and other key stakeholders in those areas before proceeding with the tax. Further changes to the tax will likely be necessary.

 

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I have listed a new property at 17410 32 AVE in Surrey.
Large 2.2 Acre Property, not in ALR Four bedroom Family home with mountain views and private setting. Sloped Property is ideal for building your Dream Home with a w/o basement. Great holding property in North Grandview with several significant development applications in progress nearby. Owner will consider renting back for 12-18 months. Lots this size are becoming rare
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 Video

 

 

'People are buying blind': Home inspections drop drastically in no-subjects market.

 

Home inspector Vince Burnett has been in the industry for 17 years and thrived in other red-hot real estate markets. He should be run off his feet these days, but he hasn’t done a single home inspection in two weeks.

As few as 10 per cent of homes sold in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are being inspected before deals close, a number that is drastically down from about 75 per cent a year ago, and an illustration of the latest concern in a sizzling market where some realty firms and mortgage brokers were already worried about a rising number of so-called no-subject offers.

Buyers going after limited listings are lobbing these in because, with prices spiralling ever higher, they are under intense pressure to find other ways of being competitive with their bids.

The Home Inspectors Association of B.C. is calling on the B.C. government to put in place a seven-day cooling off period to temper a market where it says buyers have “tight timelines of as little as two days from open house to making an offer in a competitive situation (with) no time for proper due diligence, including a thorough inspection. Fear of losing the home in a competitive bidding situation has encouraged buyers to take the dangerous step of making subject-free offers.”

The association warns it’s a precarious situation for buyers, but the rise in subject-free offers has hit home inspectors hard, too.

“Usually in January there is quite a bit of work, other than in the first week. Then you get into the spring season, March and April, and it’s 10 or 12 inspections a week, and you are going,” said Burnett, who is also president of the HIABC.

For years, he has been doing around 325 inspections a year, but right now, heading into July with no sign that there will be any pickup, he said: “I haven’t done 100.”

Shawn Anderson, a Vancouver-based home inspector, has his own gauge: “I was refusing about 20 to 30 inspections a week a year ago. And then all of a sudden, I was down to refusing two a week. People are buying blind. Now, I am going in after they buy and looking at the horror story.”

Anderson used to do very few inspections after a sale, but now some 30 per cent of his business is on homes that have already been sold.

“Recently, I had one house that was so catastrophic, it needed some $350,000 in repairs. They were not expecting that at all because it was newly renovated. But that only concealed all the issues. It was lipstick on a pig. It needs a new foundation, piping, you name it, it needs to be done,” said Anderson, who has been an inspector for six years and was a builder for 25 before that.

The HIABC is warning more of these cases will likely emerge. On Tuesday, it highlighted its point with the case of a Kevin Girard, who bought an East Vancouver home without doing an inspection.

Last October, the 40-year-old and his spouse bid $955,000 on an older home in Hastings-Sunrise. It was listed at $899,000 and “we heard there were five bids. We were in the middle. We expected this and wanted to have a differentiating factor.”

Ahead of taking possession, “we had asked if we could get in to do some measuring for our furniture, but they wouldn’t allow it,” said Girard.

On moving day, they arrived to find “an absolute disaster,” said Girard, who described the home as being “not safe for our one-year-old daughter. That was the biggest problem.”

There were also holes in the wall, exposed electrical lines, flooring that didn’t meet walls, kitchen cabinets sitting unevenly over dirt floors covered in rodent droppings. The house, when they had seen it, had been “staged. They had positioned things to cover up problems. Drywall had been ripped out. There weren’t enough circuit breakers for things like the stove to be powered. We had to MacGyver things to make them work.”

Real estate agents have come under fire for fanning the heat of multiple-offer situations with false claims that competing bidders have higher and more appealing offers.

But Girard, who described himself as a financial planner with some 550 clients, said that when it comes to managing his own affairs, “I’m a risk-taker. I probably wouldn’t have backed out. This was my shot in Vancouver.”

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Vancouver realtor wants shadow flipping rules to have teeth

 

A Vancouver realtor says the recommendations of the B.C.'s Real Estate Council's independent advisory group regarding shadow flipping are a step in the right direction, but penalties need to be significant and transparent if the industry wants to salvage its reputation.

Aaron Jasper, a former park board commissioner in Vancouver, said realtors found to be acting unethically should face steep fines as well as possible suspension or even revocation of their real estate licences.

"We need to give the public confidence that all of us in this industry are really putting our clients' interests first," Jasper told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"I think that it's in everybody's interest — those of us who are realtors, those who are consumers — that the bad apples in our bunch are weeded out."

Jasper also said that the practice of dual agency or double ending — when the same realtor represents both the buyer and the seller of a particular property — is something the industry needs to move away from altogether.

Transparent complaint process needed

An independent advisory group tasked by the real estate council with examining the practice of shadow flipping released its first interim report yesterday.

Shadow flipping is the practice of reassigning a real estate contract before the original sale is completed, usually inflating the price in the process. The council began its investigation in February after a Globe and Mail report brought the practice to light.

Jasper said that, in order to combat such practices, B.C. realtors must face serious penalties that they know will be enforced. As part of that, Jasper suggested a more transparent complaint process, including a publicly-searchable online database of realtors that includes past misconduct and disciplinary action.

"The lion's share of us in the business, I believe, are very ethical in our conduct," Jasper said.

"I'm optimistic that we can get this back to a place where people are feeling confident that their interests are being served."

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Province reporter Sam Cooper details issues surrounding real esate wholesale in Metro Vancouver.

Vancouver’s real estate market has been very good to Amanda. She’s not a licensed realtor, but buying and selling property is her full-time job.

She started about eight years ago as an unlicensed “wholesaler” in Vancouver.

She would approach homeowners and make unsolicited offers for private cash deals. Amanda made a 10-per-cent fee on each purchase by immediately assigning the contract to a background investor. It is seen as the lowest job in property investment, but it is low risk and very profitable. Amanda has done so well that she now owns two homes in Vancouver and develops property in the U.S.

Unlicensed wholesaling is an illicit and predatory business that is quickly growing in Metro Vancouver because enforcement is virtually non-existent.

It’s similar to a tactic currently being examined by B.C. real estate authorities known as “assignment flipping,” which involves legally but secretly trading homes on paper to enrich realtors and circles of investors.

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  However, unlicensed wholesaling is completely unregulated. Amanda estimates hundreds of wholesalers are scouring Metro Vancouver’s never-hotter speculative market — not including the realtors who are secretly wholesaling for themselves.

Amanda decided to step away from the easy money for moral reasons.

She’s most concerned that wholesalers are targeting B.C.’s vulnerable seniors who don’t understand the value of their old homes. She is also worried about offshore money being laundered, and the resulting vacant homes.

Because wholesalers are unlicensed, they have no obligation to identify their background investors or reveal the source of funds to Canadian authorities who fight money laundering.

“Vancouver seems to be evolving from a residential city into almost like a lockbox for money,” Amanda said. “But I have to live among the empty houses. I’m a resident, not just an investor.”

Amanda said she believes that unethical and ignorant investors are driving B.C.’s housing market at full speed towards a crash. For these reasons, and with the condition that we not use her real name, she came forward to reveal how wholesalers operate.

The calling cards of wholesalers — hand-written flyers offering homeowners “confidential” and “discreet” cash sales — started flooding westside Vancouver homes over the past 18 months. With the dramatic surge in home prices, wholesalers now are spreading into neighbourhoods across Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

In eight years Amanda has never seen the market hotter than it is right now, and her colleagues are urging her to start wholesaling again.

“A lot of money is leaving China, so now every second day people are asking if I can go out and find places for them. They have tons of money,” Amanda said. “They are basically brokering business deals specifically for Chinese investors.”

She said the mechanics of wholesaling schemes work like this:

The investor behind the unlicensed broker targets a block, often with older homes, and gives the wholesaler cash in a legal trust.

The wholesaler persuades a homeowner to sell, offering immediate cash, no subjects, no home inspections, and savings on realtor fees.

While the wholesaler claims to represent one buyer, or in some cases to be the buyer, Amanda said three or four contract flippers are often already lined up, with an end-buyer from China who will eventually take title in most cases. These unlicensed broker deals appear to be illegal.

A veteran Vancouver realtor confirmed these types of deals. The realtors we spoke to have been asked by their brokerages not to comment to reporters, so we agreed to withhold their names.

 

 

“I work with some non-licensed flippers,” one said. “They walk on to the lawn of an older house, see the owner and yell, ‘We’re not realtors!’ The owner invites them in, thinks they’re saving a commission — which they are — and loses big-time on the actual sale. I’ve seen it first-hand.”

According to flyers obtained from across Metro Vancouver and interviews with homeowners who were solicited, wholesalers often say they have Chinese buyers willing to pay a premium for quick sales.

Homeowners in Richmond, Vancouver’s east and west sides, Surrey, Langley, Coquitlam, Burnaby, White Rock, Delta and North Vancouver confirmed such offers in interviews.

One resident of Vancouver’s west side Dunbar area said she was annoyed by wholesalers constantly soliciting her, and a man in Surrey said his elderly mother was bothered by wholesalers.

“A guy walked up and he offered $700,000 cash within a day, and he said I would save on the realtor fees,” said Zack Flegel, who lives near 119th Street and Scott Road in Delta.

“He also says he will give me $100,000 cash and move me into a $600,000 house. He said he has a bunch of properties. He was talking about my house like it was a trading card. We don’t have abandoned homes yet like Vancouver, but this is how it happens, right?”

After the offer is accepted, the wholesaler assigns the purchase contract to the investor for a 10-per-cent markup, Amanda said. But some wholesalers aren’t content with making $100,000 or more per sale.

“People were going in and offering, for example, an 80-year-old widow, she bought the house for $70,000 and it is now worth $800,000 and they were offering her $200,000,” Amanda said. “So they are making $300,000 or $400,000 (after assigning the contract).

“And you are socializing with other wholesalers, and it is hard to hear them say, ‘Oh this whole street is filled with seniors whose partners are dropping off like flies.’ Or, ‘They just want to get rid of it, they have no clue what their house is worth, and it’s the whole street.’”

Amanda said her father died recently. She pictured her mother being targeted by wholesalers and resolved never to play that role again.

“There are elements of this that are elder abuse, absolutely.”

In a recent story that deals with implications of rising property taxes rather than predatory real estate practices, the Financial Post reported that, especially in Vancouver and Toronto’s scorching markets, “it’s not uncommon for some Canadian seniors to be unaware of the value of their location.”

B.C.’s Superintendent of Real Estate, Carolyn Rogers, conceded the potential for elder abuse as reported by Amanda.

 

 

“We would welcome an opportunity to speak to (Amanda) and assuming she gives us the same information, we would open a file,” Rogers said. “The conditions in the Vancouver market right now present risks ... and seniors could be an example of that.”

It is illegal for wholesalers to privately buy and sell property for investors without a licence, Rogers said. She said her officers have approached some wholesalers recently and asked them to become licensed or cease their activities.

A review of the superintendent’s website shows no enforcement orders, fines or consumer alerts filed in connection to unlicensed wholesalers making cash deals and flipping contracts.

Amanda said that over the past year she learned of new levels of “layering and complexity that I didn’t see five years ago” in wholesaling and assignment-clause flipping.

“Five years ago I didn’t see realtors wholesaling, and I didn’t see people calling me so that I would get them a property and not assign the property to them, but work as a ‘partner’ and I would attach a 10-per-cent fee.

“And then they would assign it to their boss and attach 10 per cent, and then that person’s boss would attach 10 per cent. I’ve been watching over the last month, and it has got astounding.”

Amanda said some wholesale deals involve only unlicensed brokers and pools of offshore cash organized informally, and some appear to involve realtors and brokerages hiding behind unlicensed wholesalers.

“I’ve seen it from the back end. We have friends in the British Properties and the realtor said he will buy their property for $2 million. And then six months later it was sold for $3.5 million. When I’m looking at that, it is a pretty clear wholesale deal.”

Darren Gibb, spokesman for Canada’s anti-money-laundering agency, FINTRAC, confirmed that unlicensed property buyers have no obligation to report the identity or sources of funds of the buyers they represent.

However, Gibb said, if realtors are involved in “assignment flipping” it is mandatory that they and unlicensed assistants make efforts to identify every assignment-clause buyer and their sources of funds.

Vancouver realtors confirmed that money laundering is a big concern in assignment-flipping deals, whether organized by an unlicensed wholesaler or a realtor.

“When you are a non-realtor broker you no longer have to play by any rules,” one Vancouver realtor said.

“There is a role for assignments, but nobody is asking where the money came from. We are creating vehicles for money laundering.

“No person in their right mind wants to buy your house once, and sell it three more times in a small window of opportunity, unless they have a whole pool of people lined up trying to get their money out of the country. The higher the prices go, these vehicles to get money out of the country get bigger and bigger.”

NDP MLA David Eby and Green MLA Andrew Weaver commented that allegations of unlicensed brokers targeting seniors and participating in potential money-laundering schemes call for direct action from Victoria and independent investigation, because these concerns fall outside the jurisdiction of the B.C. Real Estate Council and its current ongoing review of real estate practices.

“It is very troubling to me,” Eby said, “that not only do we have a layer of real estate agents that are acting improperly and violating the rules, but there might be this additional layer who are not bound by any rule and have explicitly avoided becoming agents for that reason.

 

 

“This unscrupulous behaviour is targeting seniors who need money for retirement. What kind of society is that?” Weaver said.

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Heard these words before? 

Sometimes they might be true, but quite often, especially in areas that are being developed or re-developed your Property may have attracted the interest of a "Flipper"

 If you are interested in Selling it at this point, I feel it is in your best interests to find a Realtor, of your own to broker the Sale for you.

  Sure,you will need to pay a commission, but truth be told the Person representing the "Flipper" is not doing this act for free. His benefit is hidden in the "Lift" they expect to get when they pass your Property off to the end user....Sometimes multiple "Lifts"

  Your own Realtor can assess the value of your Property and expose it to the Market where the "End User" can access it without the "Middleman" siphoning off your money in the process.

The added advantage is that the "End User" will have to compete with the broader market in price and terms. while you approach the Market "In the Drivers Seat"

 

 This article was done after Kathy Tomlinson did an Investigative Report on Flipping and Assignments for The Globe and Mail:

 

 

Assignment clauses in real-estate transactions allow properties to be traded multiple times before a deal closes. Agents can earn multiple commissions and investors tax-free profit. A home at 1750 Drummond Drive is in Vancouver, Jan. 6, 2016 (Ben Nelms For The Globe and Mail)

INVESTIGATION

The real estate technique fuelling Vancouver's housing market

 

They had a deal.

The Rappaports’ home, on Vancouver’s West Side, would net the couple $5.2-million last year. Jo and her husband had bought the stately Craftsman home in 1987 for $362,000. They raised their sons there and loved it. But the neighbourhood had changed. Investors were razing the houses and it was time to move on.

“It used to be the prettiest block,” Ms. Rappaport said. “And it has been a construction zone for the last two years.”

The couple suspected the house would be torn down, like so many others on their lush and lucrative street, but they stood to profit nicely. There was some toing and froing over details, then a slight change of plans. For reasons the Rappaports never quite grasped, they were no longer selling their property to the foreign businessman whose offer they had accepted. Instead, they were selling to his real estate agent, Wayne Du of Amex Broadway West Realty, who told the Rappaports that he and the businessman’s wife would be purchasing instead, as co-owners.

The Rappaports weren’t thrilled, but there was nothing they could do to prevent it. Their contract, after all, contained what’s called an “assignment clause,” which gave the businessman the option to sell or transfer his interest in the property before the closing date.

Three months after the deal closed, the new broker-owner relisted the house – which he then had a stake in – and resold it for $6.2-million, a substantial if not unusual price increase that works out to roughly $11,000 a day. Mr. Du is now advertising the house for sale again for $6.58-million. It’s all perfectly legal, even if it displeases the Rappaports.

The Rappaports sold their Craftsman home for $5.2-million and it was back on the market three months after the deal closed for $6.2-million. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

“It’s obscene,” Ms. Rappaport said. “I had no idea our house was going to be resold. We were shocked when it was flipped.”

Assignment clauses are an obscure but increasingly ubiquitous feature of domestic real estate transactions in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, where feverish real estate prices have triggered a frenzy of buying and selling, and a national debate about the risks of an overheated market and the role of foreign investment. As part of an ongoing investigation into the phenomenon, The Globe and Mail examined scores of transactions and hundreds of records, and spoke with more than a dozen real estate agents and observers to understand the role of assignments in the Vancouver market.

The findings shed light on an opaque and speculative realm of the housing market, in which properties are traded one or more times before a deal closes – legal but controversial flipping that creates opportunities for agents to make multiple commissions and investors to profit tax-free from houses that are not yet technically in their possession.

Because assignment sales are rarely listed publicly, they have created a thriving grey market that is accessible largely to investors, speculators and real estate agents who have insider information.

What’s more, the assignment market appears to reward neither the original seller nor the ultimate buyer, despite pushing prices higher and higher: Sellers receive less for their properties than what buyers are finally willing to pay at the end of the chain. And buyers – many of them foreign or backed by foreign investors – pay more than they would have to if the middlemen weren’t involved.

The resulting distortions threaten to strain the public’s trust in the real estate brokerage business, according to some in the profession, while others openly question the sustainability of a market they are heavily invested in – and helped create.

“It worries me a lot that this could all come crashing down. I worry about it all the time,” said one Re/Max agent, Khalid Hasan, who said he owns or co-owns 15 to 20 properties, all destined for resale.

“A lot of people are just assigning and flipping in this market – because they can make more money,” said Mr. Hasan, who said he’s bought several properties through assignments. “We witness assigning all the time – crazy assignments.”

Mr. Hasan cited one recent case, in which two investors paid $2.5-million for side-by-side properties, then quickly assigned the contracts to a foreign buyer for $3-million.

“They got half a million dollars for doing nothing,” said Mr. Hassan, who – like many real estate agents who spoke with The Globe for this story, whether anonymously or on the record – would only refer to transactions without identifying the properties in question.

Easy money

While many agents make quick, easy money charging fees for arranging assignments – up to $50,000 a deal – others go for bigger profit by buying and selling houses themselves.

While it is virtually impossible to determine the degree to which real estate professionals are personally invested in the market, anecdotal evidence of a brisk insider game abounds – the vast majority of it legal, though some running afoul of regulations enforced by the Real Estate Council of British Columbia.

In an effort to get a glimpse of how many real estate agents trade in property, The Globe and Mail reviewed more than 2,000 public records – including building-permit data, sales transactions and land titles. The method is imperfect, but no one keeps track of how much trading is being done by and among agents.

In one sample of 250 houses sold and resold in Vancouver’s West Side for more than $2-million in recent years, 11 per cent involved buyers and sellers with the same names as real estate brokers. Some listed their occupation as “Realtor,” several others as “businessperson.” In Vancouver, 1 per cent of the population are brokers – meaning that figure is is potentially 10 times what might be expected.

The Globe also reviewed records of 1,585 building permits issued in the suburb of Richmond since 2011. More than 200 of the single-family properties – 14 per cent – were owned by people who were brokers or shared a name with a broker; or by a numbered company with a broker listed as a director. Some owned multiple properties. A sample of 2015 Vancouver building permits yielded similar results. (Building permits are instructive because broker-owners often demolish an older house, build a new one and sell it for up to double their purchase price.)

In an already tight market, analysts said, all of this activity ties up inventory, contributing to unhinged prices, as brokers and investors hold property and trade empty houses.

“It does propel the market upward,” said housing-market analyst Ben Rabidoux, who does market research for institutional investors. “They are feeding into the market and making it hotter, while padding their commissions. It’s just so toxic.”

The Globe also reviewed several MLS ads, where an investment property owned by an agent is listed for sale by themselves or their brokerage firm. Other agent-owned houses are not on the market, but sitting empty – possibly being held until prices go even higher. Empty houses are a bone of contention for many Vancouverites, given the lack of affordable housing.

Agents who say they are not involved in speculation said it feels like a rigged game. “With upset clients – that’s where it leaves me,” long-time broker Carsten Love said. “They aren’t given the time and the chance to go after properties. Everything moves so quickly.”

Hong Shen's previous land that was sold. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

The amount of money being made in some deals is astonishing, particularly when buyers purchase, demolish, rebuild and resell.

Nan Zhang, of Royal Pacific Realty, was in the process of getting her real estate licence in 2014, when she bought an older house in Vancouver for $2.8-million. She had it knocked down, then rebuilt. Nineteen months later, she sold her property for $5.6-million – netting an estimated $2-million profit, after substantial effort of her own.

The original seller, Hong Shen, said she was shocked when The Globe informed her how the broker had profitted. “I’m very angry,” she said, acknowledging there was not much she could do after the fact. “The buyer would buy the house with no conditions, so I said yes.”

By law, brokers must tell buyers and sellers, in writing, if they have a personal interest in a deal before the offer to purchase is accepted. They’re also required to inform sellers if they plan to resell.

When she purchased Ms. Shen’s house, however, Ms. Zhang was not yet a licensed real estate broker, so she had no obligation to disclose her intention to resell or rebuild the property. She did nothing wrong.

“It was my husband’s deal,” Ms. Zhang told The Globe by telephone. She considered it an unremarkable transaction in a market such as Vancouver’s. “There are lots of successful investments,” she said, questioning why one like hers was drawing attention.

Quick deal, long close

In faster deals involving assigments, brokers or their assistants often entice homeowners to sell by knocking on their door and offering a clean deal on the spot.

After the offer is accepted, however, the buyer doesn’t close on the deal. Instead, the broker arranges to assign the contract, sometimes more than once, for fees that range from $20,000 to $50,000, according to real estate experts and court records.

Routine real estate deals close within 30 to 60 days, in most cases. By contrast, assignment deals often involve long closes, which provide an even greater window of opportunity for flipping. Sellers who agree to a quick sale in a hot market often demand closing periods of up to six months, so they can find where they’re going to live next. Often, the seller has no idea their property is being resold before they move out. Realtors told The Globe the downside to flipping through assignment is that they can’t show the house to the end buyer, for fear of upsetting the seller, who is in the dark about what is going on.

“There should not be a Wild West mentality where Realtors can just knock on homeowners’ doors to get a sale, then use a sales contract to reassign it to numerous investors,” said Mr. Rabidoux, the market analyst. “They have no idea that when they are talked into selling their property, they are effectively selling a call option that is going to be assigned to other buyers.”

Middlemen do not pay land-transfer taxes on assignment deals because the property is not technically changing hands. The transfer tax – $38,000 on a $2-million sale in B.C. and increasing with the price – is triggered only at closing, when a final buyer assumes the title. And while assessment takes into account any price changes between offer and close, this leaves an unusual loophole in which assignment flipping is effectively tax-free. This loophole diminishes the effectiveness of the tax as a deterrent to speculation.

Assignment clauses in real-estate transactions allow properties to be traded multiple times before a deal closes. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

Assignment deals can also lead to litigation. Broker Leo Zhang of Sincere Real Estate Services is accused by seller Wen Hsien Tsai of devising a scheme to acquire Mr. Tsai’s home for less than it was worth, then make a profit assigning the contract. In a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Mr. Tsai alleges Mr. Zhang approached him at his West Vancouver home last year, saying he had a buyer who would pay $5.1-million, on the spot. Mr. Zhang would get commissions from the buyer and the seller, which is allowed under B.C.’s real-estate rules.

Mr. Tsai accepted the offer with no conditions. In the six months before the closing date, he alleges, Mr. Zhang and the buyer, Zhixiang Li, assigned the contract to a numbered company, which then assigned it again – to an end buyer – for $7.2-million. Mr. Tsai claims the broker stood to make $50,000 extra for arranging the deal, while the other middlemen split the remainder of the $2-million “lift.” No money changed hands, however, because the seller refused to complete the deal.

In court filings, Mr. Zhang claims the original buyer legitimately wanted to move, but couldn’t sell his house. He also alleges Mr. Tsai approached him, wanting to sell, not the other way around. Mr. Zhang’s statement of defence also pointed to the contract, which contained a standard clause allowing it to be assigned.

Both Mr. Tsai and Mr. Zhang declined comment. None of the allegations has been settled in court.

Assignment clauses are intended to give buyers a legal way to back out of a purchase if their circumstances change. In that way, they also protect sellers, whose deal is protected so long as another buyer or assignee is found. They became an issue about six years ago with presale condominiums that hadn’t been built yet. Buyers were assigning the contracts for a higher price. Many condo developers put a stop to that, however, by removing or altering the clauses allowing it.

In the Lower Mainland’s red-hot, high-end housing market, however, the assignment clause is a powerful instrument to make profit; it is, paradoxically, both cause and effect. Many sellers, though, don’t even know these clauses exist – let alone that they agreed to one in their sales contracts.

“A properly advised seller would insist on a no-assignment clause in the contract – but I have never seen that on a house sale,” said Ron Usher, a lawyer with the association representing B.C. notaries.

‘As the sellers, we are in the dark,’ says Phil Sunderland, who sold his parents' home for $1.6-million. (John Lehmann/ The Globe and Mail)

Phil Sunderland and his sister sold their parents’ house – where they grew up – for $1.6-million, to real estate broker P.K. Kainth of New Coast Realty. Mr. Kainth wasn’t the original buyer, however. He got in by assignment before the deal closed. He then built two new houses there, which he now has up for sale – at $3-million each.

“I’m sorry when I see what’s happened there. We were told [by the city] there was no way that property could be subdivided,” Mr. Sunderland said. (A city clerk told The Globe the lot was split into odd shapes, but still passed the requirements.)

The broker remained compliant with disclosure rules because – as in the Rappaport deal – he jumped in after the initial offer was accepted. The rules require brokers disclose to homeowners if they stand to personally profit if they are making an offer, not if they acquire the property later through assignment.

“As the sellers, we are in the dark,” Mr. Sunderland said. “It’s a non-functional regulation.”

The rules are enforced by the self-governing Real Estate Council of B.C., which investigates complaints against licensed brokers. However, The Globe found several instances where sellers didn’t know about a broker’s interest or didn’t understand how it played out – let alone where to complain. Some deals were made on the spot – in one day – where sellers felt real estate agents took advantage of them.

Gloria Amirault sold her Vancouver house to a numbered company, where a broker is named as director. Her house also wasn’t for sale, but a friend called saying another broker had a buyer who wanted to meet that day. By dinnertime, Ms. Amirault had sold for $2.1-million. The numbered company flipped the property three months later, for $300,000 more.

“I was told I couldn’t get any more,” Ms. Amirault said. “I was not told they were going to flip it. I think it’s dishonest.”

The broker whose name is on the corporate records told The Globe he had nothing to do with the deal or the company; he simply put his name on the numbered company “a long time ago.”

There is an exception to the rules governing brokers, saying they don’t have to disclose their vested interest if it’s in a company where they don’t own more than 5 per cent of the shares. There is no way to check that, however, because in B.C. shareholder information is not public.

Former realtor's assistant Lynn Yang: ‘You tell them I really like your house. Can you sell it to me? We will make a deal.’ (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

‘Poor Canadians’

Many brokers use assignment clauses to make money as middlemen, but one fast-growing Vancouver-area firm has gone a step further: actively encouraging its agents to invest in real estate. New Coast Realty opened in 2012 in Richmond and now has 400-plus brokers and several locations. In a recent blog aimed at real estate professionals, then-vice-president Benson Wang told them insider information gives them an edge.

“Purchasing properties with your real estate license is a great way to earn money for yourself,” Mr. Wang wrote. “Listing agents looking to get a property sold will come directly to you with offers that you can choose to undertake. This means you get a clear advantage over other investors.”

The Globe found several properties registered under the names of brokers working for New Coast.

Lynn Yang worked as an assistant for one of New Coast’s top brokers in 2014. She said one of her jobs was to knock on doors and persuade homeowners to sell quickly in private deals arranged by her boss.

“We would circle an area and try to buy them all – and then flip. [Homeowners] would be told: ‘I don’t know English, my English isn’t very good. I just want to buy your house,’” Ms. Yang said.

Brokers’ assistants are not bound by the rules governing agents.

“Maybe you say you are working for a Realtor, maybe you don’t. You tell them, ‘I really like your house. Can you sell it to me? We will make a deal,’” said Ms. Yang, who is in a dispute with her former employer over $20,000 in wages she claims she is owed. “I am disappointed in the Canadian government. They don’t have the sense to look at what’s happening out there. Poor Canadians – they just don’t understand.”

Bilingual ads by New Coast suggest it’s interested in “purchasing land, old houses and commercial real estate.” However, its managing broker, Josh Rosenberg, insisted New Coast itself has never purchased property from clients – and its ads are aimed at attracting other buyers.

“I can see how they might be read to suggest that New Coast might be interested in buying real estate, but that is just the result of perhaps not the clearest translation of marketing materials,” Mr. Rosenberg said.

Three other staffers who recently left New Coast spoke to The Globe on the condition they would not be named. They described curious tactics to get homeowners to list their houses for sale with its brokers – including paying clients $2,000 up front.

Brokers are encouraged to maximize commissions, the former staffers said, by then selling to buyers also represented by New Coast. One former broker said foreign buyers often pay too much, believing there are multiple offers.

Mr. Rosenberg told The Globe he had no knowledge of these tactics and would not permit them. “I have never seen evidence of any of these things at New Coast and they would not be condoned,” he said.

Property on West 29th Ave. was purchased in 2014 for $2.3-million. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

Another high-level insider said some brokers also help buyers assign contracts – up to three or four times – until a final buyer pays top dollar. Helen Yin, a former New Coast broker, said she was encouraged to make more money that way, but didn’t.

“I don’t want to do that. Because when I do the deal, I want to go home and sleep,” said Ms. Yin, who is also in a wages dispute with New Coast and has filed suit in small-claims court.

New Coast takes half of each broker’s commissions, in exchange for providing listings and other supports – which is unusual in the industry. At most firms, experienced brokers receive their commissions, then pay various fees to the brokerage.

Mr. Rosenberg said New Coast complies with all rules governing real estate brokerages. He acknowledged contracts are assigned, calling it “common practice across the industry.” He said any suggestion that foreign buyers are paying a premium is “an unsubstantiated insult.”

William Messer was the managing broker for New Coast when the business started. He said the owner, Ze Yu Wu, hired him to interpret Canadian real estate rules for Mr. Wu and the company’s board of directors.

“They get Chinese [clients] who are ignorant of the market to buy their high-end investments. They tell them it’s going to appreciate and they will have a tax-free gain,” said Mr. Messer, who believes foreign buyers are treated unfairly in the current system.

Mr. Messer said he wrote to the Real Estate Council of B.C. in 2013, expressing concerns that both sellers and buyers weren’t being properly informed on what properties were really worth, which is against the rules. He left the company soon afterward.

‘It’s a travesty’

The Globe attended a New Coast seminar for aspiring brokers last November. Mr. Wang, lead instructor at the time, told them to stay as close as possible to Chinese buyers when they visit Vancouver, to “be their translator” and encourage them to offer top dollar for a property.

“Pick up the client at the airport. Drive them to a hotel. Pick them up first thing in the morning and then drive them around until they make an offer – that day,” Mr. Wang said.

He also encouraged the would-be brokers to charge foreign clients for as many services as possible.

A home that has recently sold on Crown Cresent. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

“I have multiple properties and an annual income 10 times higher than the average Canadian. I am making more money than multiple doctors,” he said.

Mr. Wang said he left New Coast in January.

Before he started New Coast, owner Mr. Wu bought several properties in Richmond, which resulted in complaints and lawsuits from homeowners who alleged they’d been duped into selling for less than their homes were worth.

In documents filed in court, Leo Boucher said Mr. Wu approached him at his house, offering him $840,000 in a private deal. Mr. Boucher is a senior and said his wife had cancer at the time. He sold to Mr. Wu for $950,000 in 2011, and soon found through an appraisal that his house was worth $1.25-million. Mr. Boucher claimed 57 people on his street had been approached with similar offers. Mr. Wu responded to the suit by claiming he spoke no English and then countersuing. The case was settled confidentially.

Jim Davis agreed to sell his deceased mother’s home in 2011 for $870,000 – the same day he was approached by Mr. Wu.

“He said he was looking for a house for his family, he liked the area and he wanted to raise his family in the area,” Mr. Davis said in an interview. Records indicate Mr. Wu then quickly assigned the contract to another buyer for $100,000 more. Mr. Davis filed a complaint with the Real Estate Council against Alban Wang of Amex Sunrich Realty, the broker who facilitated the deal. The regulator said it received 12 similar complaints. It gave Mr. Wang a 14-day suspension for his role.

“What the hell is wrong with our government that will allow these guys to operate like this? It’s an absolute joke. It’s a travesty. He got an unpaid vacation,” Mr. Davis said.

In recent years, the council has disciplined 13 brokers in B.C.’s Lower Mainland for failing to disclose their interest in deals, some involving assignment of contracts.

“We are seeing an uptick in the number of complaints about assignments,” said the regulator’s professional standards adviser, Maureen Coleman. “We treat it very seriously because it speaks to fundamental duties to clients – disclosure and conflicts of interest and remuneration.”

Two new homes on the land where Phil Sunderland's old home once stood. (John Lehmann for The Globe and Mail)

It’s considered professional misconduct when brokers do not follow the disclosure obligations of their codes of conduct. The maximum penalty is losing their licence. However, in the 13 cases reviewed by The Globe, 10 of the agents were suspended for three months or less. The council advises people to read their sales contract and hire a lawyer before signing.

Mr. Love, the Realtor, said that, while much of what’s going on is indicative of a hot market, he thinks it’s tainting his profession.

“It’s a dangerous type of business – you are opening yourself up to all kinds of issues and problems,” Mr. Love said. "They are committing a sin in our business in that we put our clients first."

ktomlinson@globeandmail.com

 

Follow  on Twitter: @KathyTGlobe

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Great Article in The Province today. Spells how the affordability of Vancouver Property and Childcare is driving Families to look for family friendly alternatives in the `burbs (or further!)

 I couldn`t help but grin at the writing style, but  sadly the "Pain" is real to many people in terms of  vacancy, space and affordability.

 

 

When I first moved to Vancouver, it felt like living in the future. Hell, a lot of TV shows and movies set in the future use Vancouver as their backdrop. It just feels like a place where so much is going right–the buildings shine, the water glistens, and the grass is green year-round, and there’s a progressiveness and thoughtfulness that permeates everything. The city cares about social justice, about the environment (Vancouver aims to be the most environmentally-friendly city in the world by 2020), about the day-to-day lives of the people who live in it.

It’s not just beautiful. It’s beauty overkill. You can stand on the Seawall and watch the sun set gloriously over the mountains while otters play in the water next to you. After living here, so many other cities just feel flat and lifeless (ironic, considering some people have dubbed Vancouver “No-Fun City” because of its relatively tame nightlife–but I bet those people haven’t walked Granville Street at two in the morning to take in the hilarious procession of the drunken, disheveled 19-year-olds in ill-fitting clubbing clothes).


 

For six years, we lived in the West End. I loved it there. We had an apartment overlooking English Bay–it was tiny, but I grew to love that, too. I could walk to work, and grab groceries on my walk back, and then eat a hot dog on the beach. It was great. I wanted it to last forever.

I love Vancouver.

There’s only one problem.

Vancouver doesn’t love me.

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The first thing to really bite us was the reality of how hard it is to make friends here. It’s a problem that plagues everyone. Growing up in Manitoba, it took a lot of effort to get from place to place, so plans were never tentative. In Vancouver, you have options. It’s so easy to get from place to place, and always so much going on, that social commitments are tenuous. People bail all the time. You can plan a party, have a dozen people RSVP, and then have every one of them cancel an hour before the party. That exact scenario happens often enough that we have a term for it: getting “Vancouvered”. And yes, I’ve been party to it. I’ve cancelled on people at the last minute only to find out later that they spent their evening alone. On their birthday. It’s one of those memories I try to keep buried.

I’m sorry I did that to you. Me and a dozen other people.

It’s hard to make friends when everyone is so noncommittal. But another factor is an oddity we discovered over the years–because space is small, and people spend so much time out in the city, no one invites people over. Having friends over to your apartment isn’t something that happens casually, which makes it really hard to play 4-6 person board games.

Ask anyone about this stuff. They’ll confirm it. Socially, Vancouver sucks, and almost no one here has particularly close friends. Just a selection of good acquaintances.

Okay, so I miss having a really tight-knit group of friends. That alone hasn’t been enough to make me want to move away. I’m an introvert. I’m doing just fine. And, after seven years, I’m making some headway in the friends department. Just in time to move away from them! Great job, Aaron.

No, these were issues we could power though. We could still make this relationship work. Or so I hoped.


‘Bulldozer bait’ $6-million mansion is just another Vancouver tear-down


 

It was about a year ago that the city calmly told me it didn’t love me any more, and wanted to see other people. Younger people, I’m sure. That asshole.

You see, when it was just my wife and I, gallivanting around the city, things were great.

Then, we decided to have a kid.

To the surprise of no one, Vancouver has top-notch facilities and resources for this sort of thing–we had two excellent midwives and, when our daughter was born, we spent several days in a beautiful private room at one of the best women’s hospitals in the world. We never saw a bill for any of that, by the way. Not even for the midwives. I’m fervently Team Socialism.

When we returned home, the three of us crammed into our tiny (about 450 square feet, I think) one-bedroom apartment, knowing that our love affair with the apartment couldn’t last. Alas. We loved the West End, and tried to find a place nearby, but six months after she was born we were still coming up empty.

Do you know how many two-bedroom apartments are available downtown right now for under $1500 / month? I just counted. There’s one. And it’s spam. If you can manage $2000 / month, there are eight to choose from. But not many families can float $2000 / month on a single income.

 

 


 

“But this is 2016,” you say. Yeah! Problem solved! Dual-income is the way to go! My wife had been in school for a few years and was itching to get back to work. We could double our income, nuke our debts, and live like goddamn royalty, complete with an heir. It was a brilliant plan, and one that would have worked flawlessly if it had any basis in reality.

We’ll get back to that five paragraphs from now. For now, just assume the plan has a fatal flaw. So, no, we’re dealing with one income.

Pursuing a cheaper place to live, and hoping to finally get our daughter her own room, we ended up moving to Oakridge. If you haven’t had a pleasure of visiting Oakridge, don’t. Yes, it’s technically still in Vancouver. Yay! We managed to be one of those families that kept their claws in the city proper, and didn’t retreat to Burnaby, or Richmond, or worse.

But Oakridge is the opposite of the Vancouver dream. It’s endless rows of giant houses owned by foreign investors, devoid of playgrounds or groceries or anything of interest. There’s a mall, if that’s your thing. There is Queen Elizabeth Park, which is lovely in summer and has a nice little duck pond, but there’s no Seawall. I mean, good lord, you can’t even get a decent cup of coffee without hopping on a bus. And any place where you can’t find decent coffee shouldn’t be allowed to call itself Vancouver.

As for social justice, progressiveness, environmental awareness–in the previous election, Oakridge voted Conservative. Our MP made the news when she declared (in front of a church) that she thought the government should have the right to spy on its citizens, and detain them indefinitely without cause, because it’s what Jesus would have wanted.

(Thankfully, she was booted this last election, and replaced by the Minister of Badassery. Yes, the one you’re thinking of.)

Anyway, fine, we had to leave downtown. Vancouver has one of the highest standards of living in the world–it makes sense that the city core is a little inaccessible. But the truth is, it’s hard to find a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the city limits. They just don’t exist. People have claimed that there’s a three-bedroom apartment out there, somewhere, but it’s only accessible to those who possess the key.

Okay, so then we decided to look for a daycare for our kid, and I can tell that you’re already laughing, and I don’t appreciate it.

We put our names on the waitlists for fifty daycares. Oh, how I wish I was bullshitting you. The number was actually fifty. We could show you the spreadsheet. In two years, slots became available for us in two of those. Asking around, it seems the average wait to get into a daycare is two to three years.

This presented two problems.

Number one: Vancouver doesn’t have enough daycares to keep up with demand. If you want to have a dual-income family after you’ve had a kid, you need to wait a few years before that’s even possible–which means you’re trying to survive on a single income in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

But we did get a slot. Remember when I told you that you could get a two-bedroom apartment if you’re willing to fork over $2000 / month? Well, that’s how much daycare costs, too.

Just let that sink in.

Yeah, if you do some digging you find that there are cheaper options. $2000 is definitely at the high end, but if you want anything cheaper than that, you have to wait for years to get a slot.

We took the slot and put our daughter in daycare, for a while. To be fair, this ended up being a great decision, and did so many amazing things for our daughter. But in order for it to afford it, my wife had to be working–and in order for her to work, our daughter had to be in daycare. Which meant that we had to eat $2000 / month while she looked for a job. The job market here is tough, especially for a new grad, and our window to make it work quickly vanished. We had to give up daycare before my wife could find a job.

It’s a terrible one-two punch. There aren’t enough daycares, so you have to spend years trying to get in. And when you get in, they cost money you don’t have, because you waited so long to get to this point. Even maternity leave won’t save you, because you can’t go back to work if you don’t have childcare. The reality of Vancouver is that the average family with a young child isn’t going to survive.

Just to be clear: yes, our own decisions brought us to this point. We decided to have a kid, and assume all the responsibilities that came with that. But the moment we were no longer a couple, the moment we became a family, the city spit us out. And there was no way around it.

Living in Vancouver is like living in the future, but it’s a future where families don’t exist.

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Each year, the Vancouver public school system loses between 600 and 700 students as families leave the city–and these are only the children whose parents managed to make it to kindergarten before throwing in the towel. Living in the city as a young family is just a game of trying to see how long you can hold on while the city tries to kick you off. Some last for quite a while. Some even emerge grinning and toothless from the other end. But these are the outliers. For almost everyone, your first ultrasound photo is also your eviction notice.

A lot of people try to stay close by, to stay part of the Vancouver zeitgeist–Burnaby, or Coquitlam, or New Westminster, or Richmond. We’re going further, to Vancouver Island. It’s a stunningly lovely place that, in many ways, is Vancouver’s opposite–a place that’s quiet and steeped in history (versus Vancouver’s shiny-new gleam). But it’s also a place that retains a lot of what we love about Vancouver. It has mountains, and ocean, and I think–I hope–I’ll do some of the best work of my life out there. Affordable daycare and rentals that include a studio space mean that my wife can start her own business. It’s an oasis of Vancouver expats, and they brought some of the best pieces of the city with them–including, thank god, decent coffee.

Most importantly, it’s a place that wants us to be there.

Maybe, one day, I’ll have my ten million to buy a penthouse in downtown Vancouver, and I’ll return to live as a god among Vancouverites. Maybe I’ll even retrieve the key to the three-bedroom, then do a backflip into my glass-bottom pool while sipping a craft beer.

But even if I could, would I want to? Do I really want to spend my life trying to win the affection of a city that doesn’t love me back?

I don’t know. All I know is that I gave it a shot, and now it’s time to spend some time apart.

Goodbye, Vancouver.

You were the best. I loved you.

I just hope that, one day, you’ll learn to love in return.

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I came across this article this evening. 

 

For Sale By Owner vs. Hiring a Realtor: A True Story

Last day at 743 on front porchWhen my husband Jim and I married in 2009, we decided that moving into a place that was "ours" was a top priority. The only thing keeping us from this goal was selling two homes in a buyer's market. It's not easy to sell a house in a down market under the best of conditions, but it's especially depressing to realize that you may not even get what you paid out of the house upon completion of the sale. That's why it's tempting to slap up a "For Sale By Owner" sign up in the yard in an attempt to salvage as much of your investment as possible.

I conducted an experiment with my home sale. When I first put my house up for sale in September 2010, I went to Lowe's and bought a "For Sale By Owner" sign and read up on the best sales techniques that I could find online. For the next six months, I learned many valuable lessons and want to share those with you.

Real Estate Agents - Friend or Foe?

The first thing I realized when I put my house up for sale "by owner" was how nasty and mean some real estate agents are. Even a couple of aquaintances who are agents were openly hostile to the idea of me selling by owner. However, a few agent friends gave me good advice on how to price my home, looked at my staging and gave advice, and generally were supportive. All along, I had a backup plan. My life-long friend Jenny Farrell ( a ReMax agent) agreed to be our agent for both houses if my "for sale by owner" plan didn't work. I'm offering advice to agents who encounter "For Sale By Owner" homes. If you are nice and helpful instead of a condescending "Know-it-all" you might be able to get some more business.

Pricing

I made the classic rookie mistake of pricing my house too high. In a neighborhood where comparable houses were only selling for $140-150 k I went ahead and priced mine at $162k. Why? Because it was adorable! Your house is not going to be that adorable to other people. They have a specific list of things they are looking for. If your house doesn't have those attributes, don't take it personally. It will be perfect for someone. Lesson: Price your home appropriately (according to market value) from the start. Interested buyers will notice your home more in the first two weeks it's listed than any other time. Don't turn them off by over-pricing the property.

Staging

I spent at least six months getting my house ready to sell. I cleaned the basement (and my husband Jim painted it), I threw away and gave away a bunch of crap. I painted each room a simple beige and painted the ceilings and trim white. Then I packed away all family photos, piles of paper, and extra furniture. I bought new pillows for the beds and sofas and I aquired a couple of new area rugs. I bought a new table runner and centerpiece for the dining room table. These new things really served one purpose. It made it look as though I had a sense of style and coordination. (I fooled them!) People need to be able to imagine their stuff in your house, so clear out as much personal stuff as possible. Hoarders, you need professional help. Stuffing your closets and garage full of crap is not appealing to potential buyers! Get a storage unit if you can't part with your treasures.

Online listings

I created a profile on the online selling site DwellWell.com. It did not get me any leads, but it did serve a useful purpose. It allowed me to create my own "for sale by owner" site (for free) so I could share the link on my social media sites. I also created a posting on Craigslist.org. Mostly all I got from that was spam. I did have one lady call and make an appointment to see the house, only to cancel the next day. 

Photographs

I invested in professional photographs by an experienced residential property photographer. Paul Gates just happens to be a classmate of mine. Whether you are selling yourself or listing your property, having photos that truly present your home at its best are a good investment. Plus, you will have a memento of your property to keep forvever. You can see the beautiful photos he took of my house here.

Kick-off Open House

When I first got my house ready to sell, I picked a Thursday evening and held an open house. I told everyone I know, sending out email, tweets and Facebook posts to all my friends. No serious buyers came, but it turned out to be an excellent excuse for my friends and me to stand in the kitchen and drink wine late on a school night.

Social Media

As I already eluded to, I used social media to let people know about my house. With more than 4,000 friends on Twitter and 1,500 on Facebook, I figured I'd have at least a chance of finding someone to buy my house. What I learned later is that even with those numbers, it still wasn't enough to guarantee a buyer for MY HOUSE. I found out very few of my friends shared my listing with their friends via social media.

A For-Sale-by Owner Offer!

I did receive an offer on my house while it was listed for sale by owner. A nice young man named Matt wrote a low-ball offer of $132,000 and presented to me with this logic, "Since you don't have to pay a realtor, I offered a lower price." Sigh. I am the one who was supposed to be saving the money, not you, moron. I countered with $150,000 and never heard from him again.

A Word About Open Houses

I held an open house every Sunday through September and October and even into November. There was at least three hours of cleaning ahead of each open house, and I always put out fresh flowers on the table. Then I got a few helium balloons, put up some sturdy signs, and opened up the house for four hours. Looking back, these open houses were a total waste of time and money. I learned that open houses do not sell homes. What does? THE INTERNET!

Listing the House

I listed my house in April 2011 and in a matter of three months it was sold. My realtor Jenny was a great moral support, but realtors really earn their keep during the offer negotiation and closing process. In fact, they don't spend much time trying to get people to buy your house. The internet is like a magnet that draws people to your listing. House sales are all about numbers. The more people who know about the house and can find the house, the higher the likelihood one of those people will buy your house. When my house was for sale by owner, the only people who saw my house were the people who drove by or found out from friends. People who are looking for a house usually start their search on the internet and then go to see the houses that match their criteria.That is why listing the house is so valuable. More people can search for and see your house. 

The REAL Offer

I received a reasonable offer on the house ($142,000) and counter-offered. We ended up with a very respectable $145,000 purchase price. I must say, the whole offer-counter-offer process can be like a chess game. Both realtors (yours and theirs) usually have a good sense of what is going on with their clients. They are both motivated to sell the property, and they have really valuable advice to offer at key decision making moments. For example, the person who made the offer on my property asked for some pretty pricey ad-ons, and I said no on the advice of my realtor. It all worked out, so I did the right thing. If I would have been on my own, I probably would have wasted a bunch of money on unnessary stuff, or second-guessed myself to death.

Lessons Learned

  • People tell you not to become "emotionally attached" to your home. In practical terms, it means that you will inevitably behave as though your house is worth more than it is due to your emotional attachment. I experienced this several times and a good realtor will talk you though the real chances and the real numbers and bring you down to reality.
  • The power of the internet is what will bring the right buyer to your home. Only large real estate companies that use the MLS (multiple listing service) will have enough search engine power to get your home noticed. 
  • Your realtor earns their keep by assisting you with the offer/counteroffer and the inspection process.
  • The advice of an experienced realtor can ultimately save you time and a lot of hassle. That is worth the money.

 

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11 things your realtor may not tell you, but should
 

Real estate agents are both salespeople and consultants: this dual role occasionally lead to some conflict.

Photograph by: Monkey Business , Fotolia

Realtors live a conflicted life.

On the one hand, they are salespeople. They only make money when their deal closes.

On the other hand, they are consultants. They advise buyers and sellers throughout the process, ideally giving clients advice that is disinterested from their own financial outcome.

Often, these two objectives are aligned and there is no issue. For example, a listing agent makes more money if he is able to sell a house for a higher amount. However, there are many situations where the right advice for a client is not aligned with the agent's monetary incentives. For example, a buyer's agent makes more money when his buyers buy a house for a higher amount.

The majority of successful real estate agents are true professionals who take the long view. Their advice is in their clients' best interests. Some agents go further by being fully transparent when conflicts arise (which often do) and make certain they are fully disclosed to their clients.

So how do you know your agent is doing the right thing and giving you the best advice? Here are 11 things that your agent should be telling (or asking) you:

Stay put

From a purely financial perspective, you want to move as few times as possible. Let's face it, moving is expensive. Once you add up transaction fees, costs of moving, costs to furnish your new place, etc., it's a lot of money. Further, in the early years of paying off an amortized mortgage, your monthly payment goes mostly to interest. As you pay it down, your payments increasingly go to principal. Staying put is a great forced savings tool.

More house, more problems

As a buyer, you should try to find the most modest home that will make you (and your family) happy. The larger the home you own, the more expenses you will have. Whether you are looking to buy a two-bedroom house or a 6,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, one key question you should consider is whether the house is too big for your current and future needs.

Your home is not an investment

A very common question our buyer clients ask us is whether a particular house is a good investment. We subscribe to the Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad) way of thinking and tell our buyers not to consider their home an investment. An investment should generate cash flow. A home does the opposite - it sucks up cash. And the larger the home, the more expenses it will generate: more taxes, more maintenance, and more money to furnish it, clean it, heat it, etc.

When buying, think long term

If the time horizon is long enough, almost all real estate will appreciate in value. The problem is, the real estate market is cyclical and no one knows when the peaks and valleys will occur. The longer you can anticipate living and being happy in the home you are purchasing, the safer it will be.

When you are buying, don't only think of your needs today; think of how they might change. If you have teenage kids about to go off to college, will you really want the big house with all the bedrooms and the big yard? As a general rule, if you are going to be in the house more than five years, then you probably should purchase. If it's 10 or more years, then you certainly should be purchasing. Three to five years is the grey rent vs. buy area.

Selling your home privately can be costly

There is a huge financial incentive for a listing agent to sell a home without another agent's involvement. If the listing agent can pull it off, she stands to make the full commission (instead of sharing it with the buyer agent/broker). There are many techniques agents have developed to heighten the chance they sell it themselves.

The most prevalent (and notorious) is the "private exclusive" listing in which the listing agent tells her clients she will market the house privately (note: "privately market" is an oxymoron) for some period of time. If she is unsuccessful, then, as the strategy goes, "no harm, no foul;" she will then put the property on MLS and expose it to all buyers and agents. Another form of this is the "coming soon" listing.

Why?

Perhaps the most important question an agent can ask a buyer or seller. Truly understanding the motivations behind a decision will help make sure that a move is the right course of action. Your agent should want to know if it is a push or pull situation. In other words, is something driving the buyers out of their current living situation (for instance, lease expiring, growing out of current house)?

Or is there something the buyer wants in a different area (a job transfer, change of commute)? Sometimes, the answer to the Why question has nothing at all to do with real estate. For instance, if owners are moving because they are "unhappy" in their current home, the agent should ask if something could be done to the home to solve their issue. If you are moving because you think a new home will fix all your problems, you should reassess. One thing we've learned: A great house won't fix an unhappy marriage.

A "great deal" and a "great house" are almost always mutually exclusive

One of the key attributes of a buyer agent is his ability to negotiate. Coupled with that is that buyers want to get the best deal they can. The truth of the matter is that the better a home is, the less negotiating leverage buyers will have. Too many buyers pass on a great home because they are not able get the discount they were hoping for, only to end up purchasing an inferior property later.

Will this house hold its value?

Most buyers ask this question. It is a good one. First, you want to consider neighbourhood catalysts. What are the job prospects in the area? Are there any other changes happening (new developments, transportation routes, etc.)? Second, with respect to the house itself, if the house appeals to you, then it most likely will appeal to another buyer when it's your turn to sell. If your needs/wants are more mainstream, then you will likely have a larger pool of buyers. If your needs/wants are more custom, then you should be prepared to have a harder time to sell when it's your turn.

The great deal you think you are getting might not be that great

There are two unique things about real estate. One is that the price you pay for a property is public record. The second thing is that the market assumes you paid the fair market value. So even when you think you are getting a great deal in your purchase price, when it's your turn to sell, your prospective buyer will benchmark its value off what you paid for it. So whatever reason there may have been for you getting such a good deal (e.g., motivated seller, you are a skilled negotiator), your buyer will want to capture that discount in his purchase, too.

Liquidity

An important factor to consider is how long it will take to sell the property when it's your turn to sell? The more desirable a property is, the more liquid it is. The time to consider liquidity of a home is before you purchase it. If a home has been on the market for a long time in a hot market, it could be almost impossible to sell in a soft one.

Your kid is ugly

A key requirement of a consultant's job is to be completely honest with a client. When advising sellers how to prepare their home for sale, it can be a very delicate conversation. Owners are often extremely emotionally attached to their homes and their stuff. It can be extremely difficult to tell an owner that something in the home is a major detractor and will negatively affect the value. Your agent is doing you a disservice by not being fully upfront with you

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Wishing Everybody All The Best for 2016!!

 

The BC Government is hinting that there will be some incentives for First Time Buyers in the new budget next month, so we will keep our eyes open for that.

 

The City has approved the DWP project for the Sanitary infrastructure to service Area 2 in Grandview Heights along the Hwy 99 corridor. This will blaze the trail for more new product to come out in that NCP. 

 

 

 

 

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  Hi! Welcome to my Blog.

  It seems lately that the stories in the media always have something to say about the momentum of price movement in the Vancouver area....

   I don't have a "crystal ball" but it seems apparent that the most compelling reason that we have seen such appetite for Real Estate here in the Lower Mainland boils down to one overwhelming driver which I categorize as ..."Global Demand for a Local Supply" 

  This supply is limited by Ocean to the West, Mountains to the North, an International Border to the South and the Agricultural Land Reserve in many areas as you move East through the Fraser Valley.

  Factors that contribute to price in addition to these limitations are individually perceived preferences such as  School catchment areas, Convenience of Commuting to the Metro area, Shopping or Community Amenities within Walking Distance and several other measures of value that influence Buyers.

  From the first time Buyer to the Sophisticated Investor there is Value to be found in any Market at any time. I enjoy the hunt for these Properties and it should be an enjoyable experience for you as well.

  Take advantage of my site to look for your "piece of the action" and if you want any help I am just a phone call away......

Best of the Season to All!

 

Ben

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