Category: real estate

What to look out for when buying a strata property

How to read a listing for a strata property
Listing with maintenance fees and restrictions

Apartments, townhouses and in some cases duplexes require a few additional considerations when you are buying. This little guide will help make your purchase a safer one.

Collectively apartments and townhouses are defined as strata properties. These are multi-family properties where some of the property is owned in common. In an apartment building that will be the hallways, entrance, gardens, roof, and parking structures. You, as an owner, have your own apartment but the common areas need to be looked after and this is done by means of a monthly maintenance fee. Also called a strata fee.

If you look at the MLS listing above, the maintenance fee and related items are highlighted in green. The fee in this instance is $375 a month, which is something you’ll need to allow for in your budget.

A straightforward comparison of maintenance fees however is not the whole story, because what is included in your fees can vary widely. It is worth looking into this in detail. The bare minimum that is included is usually “Management, Garbage Pick-Up and Gardening”. In the example I’ve shown the maintenance fees include more than this as there are also “Caretaker, Gas, Hot Water, Playground and Recreation Facility”.

So in this case your fees will be providing you with hot water, the gas for your stove, and some recreation facilities. Now you are in a better situation to judge whether this is good value or not.

Another element to check is the Bylaw Restrictions, which I’ve highlighted in red. It is another fact of life when living in a strata property, that there are rules that will apply to you. The biggest ones of these are included in the MLS listings. These are:

  • Rental restrictions – None
    This means any unit can be rented. Beware that this can be changed at any time by 3/4 vote of the owners of the strata (you’re one). If that happens you will no longer be able to rent the place.
  • Rental restrictions – Partial or Complete
    Renting may be restricted completely or by some other formula. Usually that is an absolute number or a percentage of the units in the building. If you need to rent the unit then it is safest to avoid places where there are any restrictions.
  • Pet Restrictions
    Many places have some kind of restrictions. The most common that I see is a limit of 2 dogs or 2 cats or 1 of each. You may find weight limits on dogs too, so that larger breeds are not accepted.
  • Age Restrictions
    These are rarer to see, but some places will only allow owners over 55, or even over 19. You may want to live in a place without children, or with seniors only of course.

With all these restrictions the easiest thing is for your realtor to set you up with a search that excludes places with restrictions that you don’t want. There is nothing more disappointing than finding the right place only to discover that your children or pets are not welcome.

There are a lot of other considerations in buying a strata property and I am used to taking my clients through the whole process of buying this kind of property, so feel free to contact me for specific advice.

June’s real estate round up

Housing statistics

In June British Columbia’s real estate market has been approaching balance – mostly. Like any generalization, including this one, there are exceptions and some of them are significant.

BC’s real estate market is managed by a number of real estate boards, and each has a somewhat different approach to how statistics are presented, so this round up is patchy.

In Vancouver, the market has been moving towards a balanced one. Balance means that the market favours neither buyer nor seller. In recent months we have seen that the sellers have had the edge in some areas, and buyers in others. This is still true, but it is Vancouver West, South Surrey/White Rock and West Vancouver that have been sellers’ markets. Much of the rest of the region has been balanced or has favoured the buyer. Detailed information is available on our real estate blog.

The Fraser Valley market is also balanced, though moving towards a buyers’ market. Sales were seasonally lower but prices were marginally higher than May 2011. The market in the valley is also variable according to the type of property and the specific areas, so once again it is important to get expert advice.

Victoria has been a buyers’ market and June continues this story. Prices may be edging up, but the increase in the number of listings is a strong sign that buyers have the advantage at the moment.

I am still waiting for statistics from the Okanagan where the real estate board is slower to produce updates – I guess they are too busy enjoying the relaxed lifestyle!

If you want tailored information on real estate for any area then let me know.

Vancouver Island real estate news for June 2011

Nanaimo harbour

According to the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) sales and prices were both down marginally (about 1%) over last month and last year’s figures. As always this hides a lot of variation across the area.

Like Victoria, we seem to be in a buyer’s market, with the inventory of listings increasing this month. There was a 3.3% increase over the figures for May 2011.

The average price across VIREB’s six zones for the last 12 months (July 2010 to June 2011) shows:

  • Campbell River down 4 % (to $287,086);
  • the Comox Valley also down 4% (to $348,858);
  • Nanaimo up 2% (to $370,322);
  • Parksville/Qualicum was down 2% (to $387,111),
  • Port Alberni jumped 11% (to $270,359);
  • the Cowichan Valley was up 1% (to $352,853).

The variation in these markets is something that our local experts can advise on.

Buyers’ market for Victoria real estate in June 2011

House on the outskirts of Victoria
A home in Victoria

According to the Victoria Real Estate Board the average price for single-family homes sold in Greater Victoria last month (June) was $629,292, up from $628,462 in May. The median price also rose to $569,900 while the six-month average declined slightly to $619,568. There were 23 single family home sales of over $1 million in June.

While sales for the year so far are down on those for 2010, the sales in June were close to the norm for this time of year. However the total number of listings is increasing, and according to the Board’s president, Dennis Fimrite: “The available choice for buyers increased further last month with 5,050 properties available for sale at the end of June – the highest monthly level in 15 years.” That strongly suggests a buyer’s market and anyone looking at a purchase now would be in a good bargaining position. Our partners in the area are happy to advise!

My personal June real estate round up

Dundarave is one of the hot areas in West Vancouver

This is a quick look at the sale prices for houses in a few of the areas that we personally serve as realtors. I pulled out the average sale price in these cities this June and June of last year.

What is interesting is that prices have gone down in the outlying suburbs [Maple Ridge (-5.6%), Port Coquitlam(-0.3%) and Port Moody(-5%)] and up in other areas. The increases in Vancouver West(30.3%), West Vancouver(19.7%) and North Vancouver(13.9%) were all substantial ones.

Sales volume was down in most of these areas, with West Vancouver(100 sales compared to 60) and Vancouver West(144 v 132 in June 2010) being the main exceptions.

This continues the pattern we have seen lately of certain areas being “hot” (perhaps with buyers from Mainland China fuelling the fire?) and others being cooler.

June 2010
Avg Sale Price
June 2011
Avg Sale Price
Coquitlam 702,367 734,168
Maple Ridge 497,450 469,555
North Vancouver 928,704 1,057,940
Port Coquitlam 546,700 544,968
Port Moody 863,591 820,088
Vancouver West 1,923,164 2,505,286
West Vancouver 2,016,225 2,413,915
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