Category: real estate

Home inspectors to be licensed

When you are buying a home we always recommend that you get a home inspection done. (This is the equivalent of a survey in the UK.) After all a major investment does merit having someone look over the home and point out any issues.

What may come as a surprise to many people is that the person you engage as a home inspector does not need to have any qualifications. At least until now. British Columbia is about to become the first Province to require that Home Inspectors be licensed.

To become licensed, home inspectors will need to meet the qualifications of: the B.C. branch of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors; or the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia; or the National Certification Program for Home & Property Inspectors.

Qualifying for a licence will involve passing exams and proving experience as required by those organizations.

In addition Home Inspectors will carry insurance and have to pass criminal checks too.

As realtors we are called on to recommend Home Inspectors. So we have been very careful to vet the people we recommend. Now it will be a lot easier for all concerned.

Vancouver real estate board’s February statistics

METRO VANCOUVER BENCHMARK

The Vancouver Real Estate Board publishes a benchmark that tracks the price of a benchmark property across the region. There are three categories:

  • Detached
    These are houses, sometimes called single family homes
  • Attached
    This refers to townhouses and half duplexes.
  • Apartments
    This means apartments within high or low rise buildings.

I have set out the benchmark prices across the region, with the annual percentage price rises in brackets and 3 year percentage rise in square brackets.

The top percentage price rise over the year is shown in bold.

Detached homes saw prices fall pretty much across the board, with Port Moody being the exception.

Vancouver East was the exception in both apartments and attached homes, showing only a small fall.

DETACHED BENCHMARK PRICES
  • Detached Greater Vancouver $659,638 (-11.2%), [3yr: 12.9%]
  • Burnaby $652,089 (-11.4%), [3yr: 10.7%]
  • Coquitlam $593,987 (-9.9%), [3yr: 14.3%]
  • South Delta $660,478 (1.7%), [3yr: 25.9%]
  • Maple Ridge $408,206 (-10.8%), [3yr: 11.6%]
  • New Westminster $538,566 (-0.3%), [3yr: 10.9%]
  • North Vancouver $783,339 (-13.3%), [3yr: 9%]
  • Pitt Meadows $473,782 (4.2%), [3yr: 23%]
  • Port Coquitlam $505,488 (-8.1%), [3yr: 21.8%]
  • Port Moody $718,962 (13.4%), [3yr: 34.2%]
  • Richmond $649,909 (-9.9%), [3yr: 12.9%]
  • Squamish $543,788 (-4.2%), [3yr: 33.8%]
  • Sunshine Coast $363,529 (-13.8%), [3yr: 1.1%]
  • Vancouver East $592,138 (-11%), [3yr: 11.9%]
  • Vancouver West $1,134,773 (-19.3%), [3yr: 13.7%]
  • West Vancouver $1,166,637 (-21.7%), [3yr: 3.5%]
ATTACHED BENCHMARK PRICES
  • Attached Greater Vancouver $425,309 (-8.1%), [3yr: 19.3%]
  • Burnaby $397,357 (-11.6%), [3yr: 11.8%]
  • Coquitlam $381,560 (-9.4%), [3yr: 14.4%]
  • South Delta $381,656 (-16.2%), [3yr: 16.5%]
  • Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows $296,543 (-5.9%), [3yr: 22.7%]
  • North Vancouver $536,610 (-9.3%), [3yr: 15.8%]
  • Port Coquitlam $371,926 (-5.1%), [3yr: 16.1%]
  • Port Moody $335,114 (-15.9%), [3yr: 9.3%]
  • Richmond $424,081 (-6.3%), [3yr: 21.6%]
  • Vancouver East $470,965 (-2.9%), [3yr: 34%]
  • Vancouver West $650,919 (-6.9%), [3yr: 25.2%]
APARTMENT BENCHMARK PRICES
  • Attached Greater Vancouver $425,309 (-8.1%), [3yr: 19.3%]
  • Burnaby $397,357 (-11.6%), [3yr: 11.8%]
  • Coquitlam $381,560 (-9.4%), [3yr: 14.4%]
  • South Delta $381,656 (-16.2%), [3yr: 16.5%]
  • Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows $296,543 (-5.9%), [3yr: 22.7%]
  • North Vancouver $536,610 (-9.3%), [3yr: 15.8%]
  • Port Coquitlam $371,926 (-5.1%), [3yr: 16.1%]
  • Port Moody $335,114 (-15.9%), [3yr: 9.3%]
  • Richmond $424,081 (-6.3%), [3yr: 21.6%]
  • Vancouver East $470,965 (-2.9%), [3yr: 34%]
  • Vancouver West $650,919 (-6.9%), [3yr: 25.2%]

Ranking cities by cost of living and quality of life

Every year, Mercer looks at the cost of living in a number of cities around the world. The report has just come out for 2008 and might put Vancouver into context for people. We sometimes forget that Vancouver, on the international scale, is pretty affordable.

Here are some of the findings:

Top most expensive cities in the Americas. Their rankings are in brackets.

  • New York City, US (22nd)
  • São Paulo, Brazil (25th)
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (31st)
  • Toronto, Canada (54th)
  • Los Angeles, US (55th)
  • Vancouver, Canada (64th)

It is probably not a surprise to find that European cities feature prominently in the top 10 list of the most expensive cities in the world:

  • Moscow, Russia (1st)
  • Tokyo, Japan (2nd)
  • London, UK (3rd)
  • Oslo, Norway (4th)
  • Seoul, South Korea (5th)
  • Hong Kong, China (6th)
  • Copenhagen, Denmark (7th)
  • Geneva, Switzerland (8th)
  • Zurich, Switzerland (9th)
  • Milan, Italy (10th)

This reinforces to me that Vancouver and BC’s other major cities are under-valued. We can be thankful of that even as we see our cost of living rising.

QUALITY OF LIFE

It is worth noting that Mercer also has a quality of life survey and the results from that give Vancouver yet more kudos.

The top 5 cities for quality of living worldwide according to Mercer:

  • Zurich, Switzerland (1st)
  • Vienna, Austria (tied for 2nd)
  • Geneva, Switzerland (tied for 2nd )
  • Vancouver, Canada (4th)
  • Auckland, New Zealand (5th)

And while we’re looking at this, why not see where Vancouver stacks up against other cities in North America in that same index.

  • Vancouver, Canada (4th)
  • Toronto, Canada (15th)
  • Ottawa, Canada (19th)
  • Montreal, Canada (22nd)
  • Calgary, Canada (25th)

Hope you find this interesting.

Welcome back to the Buyer’s Market

Anyone who has been following my real estate news snippets that go out with our newsletters will have seem me mention that we are moving into a buyer’s market. The press in Vancouver, largely quoting from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), have also been telling the same story.

How do we know it is a buyer’s market? The main indicators is that there are more listings on the market, there are price reductions appearing and the number of sales are slowing.

To quote from the REBGV’s press release:

“Increased property listings and moderating home prices have eased the Greater Vancouver housing market into a buyer’s phase. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver declined 42.9 per cent in June 2008 to 2,425 from the 4,244 sales recorded in June 2007.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties increased 18.3 per cent to 6,546 in June 2008 compared to June 2007, when 5,533 new units were listed.”

What is the effect of the Buyer’s Market? For sellers the main issue is to price their homes realistically. This means moderating expectations of achieving huge increases in the value of the home. Our recent history of year on year double digit price rises has left many sellers expecting more money for their home than the market will bear. We are seeing sales slowing down and more choice for buyers, so an over-priced listing will tend to hang around on the market. But it is still possible for well-priced homes to sell quickly and even last week we saw competing offers for a townhouse in Kitsilano.

For buyers the market is less crazy than it has been. More choice is certainly welcome, as is the chance to take a bit longer over making decisions. Making offers below the asking price is now to be expected especially where a property has been on the market for a long time. When I did a quick look at the statistics for the last 2 months, I saw sales at between $5,000 and $25,000 below asking across most of the area.

For people moving into the province, this market is good news. Being able to choose your home and get it at a discount will be some compensation for the long wait to get here.

Ok wines

Some years ago I recall asking my Canadian mother about Canadian wines. She had lived outside of Canada for many years but on returning to Canada had become a born again Canadian – everything about Canada was wonderful. No criticisms were tolerated.

However, my question about Canadian wines prompted my mother to pucker her mouth and wince. These turned out to be characteristic expressions that you could almost guarantee seeing on the faces of anyone drinking Canadian wines.

Thankfully things have changed a lot. I don’t know about wines in other parts of Canada, but in BC our wines have been winning awards and drawing attention internationally. So it seemed that it was our duty, as intrepid reporters, to investigate the state of BC wines.

And what better place to do it than the Okanagan valley. Sue and I went over to Kelowna for a few days and managed to squeeze a few winery visits into our time there. In fact,  as Linda, our partner there, told us most people end up going on winery tours.

We started out around Kelowna where there are at least 16 wineries. These include Mission Hill (nice tour) and Quails Gate. Both of these have fine dining restaurants open both for lunch and dinner. Tip: if you are planning to eat at these places, make a reservation.

Kelowna is not the only place with vineyards. Driving south through Peachland and Summerland you see signs for a few wineries (helpfully signposted from the highway). We went to Penticton at the south end of Okanagan Lake and then up the eastern edges of the lake towards Naramata. The road up to Naramata was a wine mecca it seemed. Everywhere you looked, whether down toward the lake or up the hill sides, there were vines. The occasional fruit trees broke up the scene.

We had lunch at Lake Breeze winery. The patio was a lovely place to sit and enjoy the food. The menu included suggested wine pairings – which is the whole point of this exercise right? – and these worked well. I enjoyed their Pinot Blanc very much and Sue had the Ehrenfelser. Not a wine variety we’d tried before – but this is the whole point right?

We can recommend the Okanagan. But you probably knew that. It is a destination for many people looking for the lifestyle. Recreational real estate has been one of the most buoyant of markets and the Okanagan has been on a building boom. Wherever we drove, it seemed there were new resorts or condo developments on offer. I thought that this might indicate an over-supply, but from what I gather demand is still high and though sales are no longer at their red hot level, they are still strong. From our visit I can certainly see why.

 

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