British Columbia Real Estate News

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

March 15, 2018

How to Spend Spring Break in Richmond, BC

Looking for some memorable ways to spend Spring Break in Richmond, BC? 

There are tons of immersive, educational, and FUN ways to spend the break for kids of all ages. 

Their parents might even enjoy these, too! 

West Dyke Trail | Photo: Tourism Richmond

Explore Richmond Nature Park

Sunday, March 18  2PM

Take part in a free one-hour naturalist-led tours and learn about the plants and animals that live in this special park! You can enjoy the easy walking trails too, and there are two dedicated geocaching options as well. It's a great way to enjoy our local beauty while getting outside and staying active!

For more information visit

Take in Richmond’s History 

Spark the imagination of the entire family with some of the excellent programming offered up by Steveston’s heritage buildings and National Historic Sites. 

Drop by the Steveston Interurban Tram for a tour, and collect a Steveston History Hunters scavenger hunt flyer. Don’t forget to check out the century-old interurban car!

Visit the Steveston Museum, for free crafts and other activities are on the schedule for March 22, 28 and 29 (12:30PM -3:30PM).

Over at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, they’ve got some spring break camps on the roster. The family-friendly museum is also open from noon - 5PM daily, with free guided 15-minute tours available. 

Take in Spring Break at the Cannery (Monday, March 19 - Saturday, March 24). The Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site over Spring Break on weekdays from March 19th - 29th is the place to be - activities, crafts and games for kids of all ages!

Check out for more details

Experience Richmond Media Lab

Thursday, March 22 3PM-8PM

Get one step ahead of today’s advancements in technology - this sounds creative, fun, AND educational! Youth can try their hand on any digital medium (think film, music, photography, digital drawing, and other media arts).

Visit for drop-in times, snack breaks, etc. 

 For more ideas on how to spend your spring break, visit and 


Michael Cowling & Associates 


Posted in News
March 5, 2018

3 Tips to Get Settled In a New Neighbourhood


Starting over is never easy! Moving can be tough to begin with, and it gets harder when the move includes relocating to a new city or neighbourhood.

It might feel intimidating to find your place in your new neighbourhood, but there are some ways you can ease the transition. Who knows? You might even make some great new friends along the way! 

Be Approachable

Do you beeline to your car in the driveway before work every day, or do you wave to your neighbours? Make chances for your new community to greet you! Simply being out of your home - and with a smile on your face - goes a long way in making neighbours feel comfortable around you. Make eye contact, smile, and say hello! If you're looking for a conversation starter, you can ask about the trash pick-up, the schools, or the best walking trail. The outcome might just surprise you. 

Get Out and Enjoy the Neighbourhood Hot Spots

Instead of zipping over to the Starbucks drive-thru on your way to work, check out the coffee shop on the corner where your neighbours frequent (or at the very least, skip the drive-thru!). Get to know the baristas and before you know it, they'll have your Americano started as soon as you come through the door! Check out the local walking trails (we've got some great ones in most suburbs here in Greater Vancouver!) walk to the mailbox, and if you have a dog, take them out as much as possible - a dog is the ultimate conversation starter!

Build Your Network

When you start taking part in activities that are meaningful to you, you'll be far more likely to meet like-minded people! Check online for opportunities to volunteer or be involved in groups of interest. If you're a parent, this can come easily - schools are always in need of chaperones, volunteers, and committee members. If you're moving on a work relocation, many employers will provide programs which connect their relocated employees with longtime residents in your area, too. 

These are just three tips to get you started - do you have any to share from your experiences? In short, you'll really just want to put yourself out of your comfort zone (even if just a bit!) and put effort into creating connections with others in your new community. After all, it's these kinds of connections you'll make in your own community which make a house feel like a home. 

Thinking of making a move in 2018?

We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 


Posted in Real Estate Tips
Feb. 28, 2018

Top Ways to Increase ROI With Just $1,000

When thinking about how to add value to your home and increase ROI, sometimes it’s better to think small rather than big. Sure, a full kitchen reno would be nice, but there are plenty of more economical upgrades that can bring up your listing price.

Armed with just $1,000, here are five renovation ideas that will increase ROI – and the likelihood of a quick sale!

Shut the front door!

We all know first impressions are important, so the first step is making sure your home’s front door is in tip-top shape. You can do this by replacing the door outright ($1,000) or repainting it ($75 for paint and tools).

Rolling up your sleeves and pulling out the sandpaper is definitely the most frugal option if you’re up for it. Opt for a bold colour that will stand out from the street and add curb appeal, such as ruby red or yellow. Also, look for an easy-to-install decorative door knocker to give the door an elevated, decorative vibe. If the door needs more than a coat of paint to revive it, spending extra replacement cash will pay off. Installing a brand new front door — especially a steel one — can increase ROI by thousands of dollars.

Totally floored

If your home has outdated flooring, such as wall-to-wall carpet or linoleum, bring it into the modern age. Talk to your local flooring company about how much square footage they could replace, staying within your $1,000 budget.

There are some surprisingly cost-effective options out there thanks to material advances, such as tongue-in-groove laminate wood or eco-harvested bamboo. New flooring is always appealing to prospective buyers because it gives the house a clean-slate feeling. In fact, a new floor could increase ROI enough to double your original cost when pricing out your property.

Brass tacks

Look around your house and if you spot the shine of 1980s brass fixtures, replace every last one of them. This once-popular faux metal makes a home look instantly outdated and, well, cheap. In fact, if any of your home’s knobs, pulls or faucets are older than 10 years, now’s the time for an upgrade.

Ranging in price from $2 to $50, look for brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze or black or white fixtures – and keep the same treatment throughout. Even if the items they’re attached to are a little worse for wear, new hardware will instantly increase ROI.

Bright ideas

To showcase your home in the best light and increase ROI, consider installing new overhead light fixtures throughout your home. Creating a cohesive lighting plan by matching fixtures and shades, and added floor and table lamps, will catch the eye of discerning buyers.

With a revamp budget of $1,000, set aside $100-$200 per fixture and $10 per room for packages of soft, incandescent light bulbs. Also, replace standard light switches with energy-efficient dimmer models ($10-$20). Cutting utility bills is important to buyers.

Deep Clean

Though it might be hard to believe, cleaning the front of your home could increase its value by several thousands of dollars. Renting a power washer can cost less than $100 per day, allowing you to remove dirt and mildew from top to bottom.

If you have no interest in getting down and dirty, hiring a house maintenance company will probably set you back around $200. Go the extra mile — and increase your ROI — by also repainting the trim and fascia boards for $1,000. Paying a professional cleaning or painting company to refresh the face of your house will add instant value.

article via RE/MAX Canada, Feb 2018

Thinking of making some home improvements to boost ROI? Get in touch today! 

We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 


Posted in Real Estate Tips
Feb. 17, 2018

4 Factors That Will Impact Housing Activity in 2018


Are you on the fence about whether 2018 will be the year you sell your home, or purchase another? Keep these four things in mind when you're deciding if you should buy or sell this year.

1. New mortgage rules

A few weeks into the stress test, how has housing activity been affected thus far, and was all that stress substantiated? It’s still early days to make a definitive call, as year-over-year comparisons of home sales and prices are skewed. It’s not that we’re lacking in 2018, but rather that the first quarter of 2017 was record-breaking. There’s definitely a bit of latency out there, but at the same time there are some definite hot pockets across Ontario – Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Muskoka – where activity is up.”

We recently charted Ontario’s six largest housing markets over the past 10 years, and one thing is for certain. Despite shifting economies, varying interest rates and mortgage rule changes, the last 10 years have been favourable to those who invested in Canadian real estate.


2. Interest rates

Rising interest rates are a sign that the economy is performing well. The Bank of Canada already hiked its key interest rate earlier this year, and if the economy continues to grow at the current rate, further increases are likely. But this is not a reason to panic. When interest rates rise, it means the economy is performing well, which means people are making more money and thus, more likely to buy a home. This can bode well for homebuyers and sellers alike.


3. Immigration and population

According to 2016 census data, Canada’s population hovers around 35 million people, with two-thirds of the growth between 2001 and 2016 attributed to immigration. A growing population will also have a positive effect on housing activity and prices. The rental market is already experiencing multiple offers and bidding bars, and inventory is low. It’s expected that the rental market will heat up even more, because most new immigrants rent before they buy and this can mean great news for real estate inventors.

There’s a very good reason that Canada is in the spotlight on the world stage. Immigrants are attracted to Canada for its bustling economy, high standard of living and affordability – yes, that’s right, affordability. When compared to other world-class destinations like Hong Kong, London, Paris, New York, L.A. and others, and despite Toronto’s affordability woes, the city is still competitively priced.


4. Supply (and demand)

Housing activity – specifically its supply and demand – is impacted by all of the above-mentioned factors. The rental market, along with condominiums and townhomes, will continue to be stretched thanks to growing demand by newcomers and first-time buyers who have been priced out of the single-detached market.


When it comes to move-up buyers, it’s a chain reaction with supply staying on par, if not deteriorating slightly from levels seen in 2017. The new mortgage rules and rising interest rates have reduced first-time buyers’ purchasing power. When first-timers can’t afford to buy the starter homes, this then impacts move-up buyers who depend on the proceeds of their starter sale in order to buy up.

Original article here. 


When you're ready to make your move, be sure to work with your trusted Real Estate advisor. Get in touch today. 

We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 



Posted in News
Feb. 5, 2018

Buying A Home? Don't Let The Mortgage Stress Test "Stress " You Out

One month into 2018 - which means we’re officially one month info the latest mortgage stress test. 

This article from RE/MAX offers a new perspective. Read below! 

We’re officially a month into 2018, and one full month into the latest mortgage stress test. Are you feeling the pinch? With the Bank of Canada’s latest interest rate hike, and more increases rumoured for 2018, if you’re looking to buy a home and sweating a bit about budget, you’re not alone.

But let’s take a step back and look at the stress test from a different perspective.

Why was the stress test introduced? Concerns are mounting about the amount of household debt Canadians have been taking on. With interest rates hitting a record low, many stretched their home-buying budget (and mortgage amount!) to the max – particularly in Canada’s priciest housing markets, such as Greater Toronto and Vancouver.

Those who bought homes or renewed mortgages in the last decade have been treated to historically low interest rates, but as we all know, what goes down must come up (or something to that effect). And as we saw twice in 2017 and already once in 2018, interest rates are creeping up.

A little background

The stress test was put into play to ensure Canadians will be able to service their mortgage debt in the face of rising interest rates. The new mortgage stress test requires that mortgage borrowers qualify against the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate (as of January 17 it’s 5.14 per cent), or at their contractual mortgage rate plus two per cent – whichever is greater.

Important to note: This applies to insured and uninsured borrowers.

This doesn’t mean you can’t afford to buy a home. It just means some homebuyers will have to reframe their thoughts and plans in order to get their foot in the door.

Same plan, new approach

You’ve decided that home ownership is for you. The new mortgage rules will require a strategy shift, but ultimately, your goal hasn’t changed. You’ve got some options.

1. Lower your budget, expand your search

Our Housing Market Outlook identified two notable real estate trends that are expected to continue through 2018: a rise in condo living, and an increase in “move-over” buyers.

Condos offer affordability by design – their compact size comes with a smaller price tag. Shared amenities mean you’ll have to pay condo fees, but at a lower price than you’d pay in a freehold home. And oftentimes condos are located on or near transit hubs that allow you to get by without owning a car.

If you’re not willing to compromise on square footage, then you could be a “move-over” buyer on a suburban trajectory. Living in the suburbs or even in a neighbouring city often means longer commutes to work, family and friends, shopping and daily errands. But for those who want the extra bedroom, a backyard and perhaps a pool, it could be worth the trade-off.

2. Increase your funds

First of all, let’s look at the money you may already have. Have you been contributing to an RRSP? Aside from the tax benefits of doing so, the first-time Home Buyers’ Plan lets you borrow up to $25,000 from your RRSP to put toward the purchase of a home. If you’re buying a home with a spouse or someone else who qualifies as a first-time buyer, they can also borrow $25,000 for a total of $50,000!

Keep in mind that the HBP is essentially an interest-free loan from your retirement fund. Beginning the second year after your withdrawal, you’ll need to start re-funding your RRSP with the amount you borrowed. You’ll have 15 years to repay and if you don’t, you will be taxed.

Now, let’s look at the money you don’t have, but could have with some careful planning and self-control. Assuming you are employed (and for most of us, there’s no way around this one), set aside as much as possible from every paycheque into a high-interest savings account, a Tax Free Savings Account or another low-risk investment vehicle. The amount you can realistically save will depend on factors like your income, regular bills, debt payments and lifestyle. Some of these you can’t control while others you can.

Admittedly, the saving process takes time, but this is nothing new. With time, willpower and a plan, home ownership is within your reach.

If you have questions about home ownership and the new mortgage stress test rules, be sure to get in touch.

We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Jan. 23, 2018

Canadian Real Estate - Your Market Outlook for 2018


It certainly has been an exciting time in Real Estate. Many of you might recall that 2017 commenced with a nervous question: Will our national housing market crash? We headed into 2018 with more of a collective sigh; with our analysts projecting deceleration in activity and pricing. 

As predicted, we saw activity flatten slightly in the summer of 2017 - with a slight growth in the amount of listings (finally!). Furthermore, new mortgage regulations were announced in October 1st, 2017 - making it tougher for Canadians to qualify for uninsured loans, affecting consumers with down payments of 20% or more - taking effect January 1st of 2018. 

Wonder what this means for our Canadian Real Estate markets this year? We’re expecting to see a return to a more stable, balanced Canadian market. 

Based on the sales-to-new listings ratio—where 50% is a balanced market—the overall Canadian market appears to be balanced, according to RBC Economics December Monthly Housing Market report. Toronto and Calgary are also in balanced territory while Montreal and Vancouver are still leaning towards a seller’s market. As you might imagine, some markets are still hot - despite the rise in interest rates and recent mortgage regulation changes - but will likely experience a softening as 2018 progresses. 

As a result, it’s expected that even more buyers across Metro Vancouver will end up competing for cheaper properties—as we’ve been seeing in the spiked interest in condos and townhomes (2017 was even named “The Year of the Condo!”). We won’t be surprised by an active spring market, especially in the attached market segments. 

What does this mean for sellers?

If you’re thinking of selling in Greater Vancouver, you’ll want to stay competitive and have an experienced Real Estate professional on your side - who will help you get the best dollar for your property with strategic pricing strategies. 

2018 could be a great year to sell your home or investment property - get in touch with Michael today! 

If you have questions about buying or selling in Richmond, Ladner, Tsawwassen, or Vancouver West - be sure to get in touch! 


We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 


Posted in News
Jan. 18, 2018

How Rising Interest Rates Will Affect Your Mortgage

Yesterday, the Bank of Canada (BOC) raised its overnight interest rate 25 basis points to 1.25 per cent  - citing the growing economy and rising inflationary trends. The six major banks had raised their posted five-year, fixed-rate mortgage rates to 5.14 per cent from 4.99 per cent.

If you're wondering what impact this could have on your mortgage, you're not alone! This increase is expected to signify a tighter lending environment in 2018. 

Just over a year ago, a "stress test" for people taking out mortgages with less than 20% down payment on the value of a home was introduced. Starting to EVERYONE seeking mortgage financing, regardless of how big of a down payment is made. Homebuyers will now have to show that they can afford their mortgage payments at either the five-year average rate posted by the Bank of Canada, or 2 percentage points higher than whatever deal they wereable to negotiate with their lender — whichever measurement is higher. This would apply to all variable and fixed-rate mortgages, and regardless of length of term. These changes are being extended to all of the new borrowers purchasing and have more than 20% as a down payment (therefore taking out an uninsured mortgage). As well, homeowners who have more than 20% equity in their home who are looking to refinance will be impacted.

As mentioned in a recent article by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver...

"Since January 1, 2018, all home buyers, even those who don’t require mortgage insurance, must qualify for their mortgage at a higher rate. Under the new rules, the minimum qualifying rate for a mortgage is:

the greater of the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate; or

the contractual mortgage rate plus two per cent.

 Mortgage costs and income required 

Mortgage terms before rate increase assumes: 75% loan, 25% down payment, 25-year amortization; interest rate: 4.99%?

Mortgage terms after rate increase assumes: 75% loan, 25% down payment, 25-year amortization; interest rate: 5.14%

Click here to read the BOC’s announcement.


Posted in Market Updates
Jan. 9, 2018

Everything You Need to Know About Condo Fees

 Likely you've heard that 2017 was a big year for attached and apartment home sales across Greater Vancouver; quickly rising in popularity as a top housing choice for first-time buyers due to their relative affordability in our scorching hot market. Furthermore, condos can be an excellent option for anyone (first-time buyers, downsizers, or the working professional) who doesn't want the associated maintenance that comes with home ownership. 

We've adapted this article from RE/MAX to inform you on everything you need to know about condo fees - how they are calculated, and what they cover. 

What are Condo Fees?

Every condo owner will pay an ongoing, non-negotiable fee; adjusted annually based on the condo's operating budget.  The larger your unit in the building, the larger your fee will be. 

Your condo fees are divided into different categories: utilities, maintenance for common areas, amenities, and the reserve fund

Utilities - a portion of your condo fees will often go to utilities like water, hydro, and sometimes your heat. However, some brand-new condos are now built with individual hear pumps which are controlled by the individual owner. Be sure to ask your REALTOR® before you purchase. 

Maintenance - because you don't have to do the maintenance, means that someone else does! These fees cover the expense of having all of this taken care of: think snow and garbage removal, cleaning, window washing, and any minor repairs to the shared common areas. 

Amenities - the more amenities your condo has, the higher these fees will be! Many condos offer residents the use of an in-building pool, fitness facility, games and entertainment room, and even an in-house theatre. Your fees cover these too, so if you don't use these things, perhaps purchasing into a building which has fewer could save you $$$ on your fees. 

Reserve - when you pay your condo fees, a portion is kept aside by the board as part of their savings account. This savings account is to pay for costly items which arise - like a roof replacement. In the case that there is not enough in the account to cover the bill, every condo owner will have to pay their share in order to cover the cost. Just like any home owner, you need to be considering emergencies when budgeting for your condo purchase, too! 

Be sure to incorporate condo fees into your budget if you're considering investing in a condo - plus, these can increase as time goes on and the condo ages. Prior to submitting an offer on a condo, be sure to acquire a copy of the condo's status certificate. These only cost $100 but will provide you and your REALTOR® with the important financials you'll want to know before making an investment. 

If you have questions about condo ownership in Richmond, Ladner, Tsawwassen, or Vancouver West - be sure to get in touch! 

We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 


Posted in Real Estate Tips
Jan. 2, 2018

Your January Home Checklist

New year - new goals, right? 

A great resolution for any homeowner in 2018, is to make a commitment to home maintenance. Why? It’s always easier and cheaper to do home maintenance than to repair a home—sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars!

Because it might be too chilly to tackle any outdoor chores this month, we've listed some great to-do's you can take care of indoors. 

1. Pack Up the Holidays

First of all, shop smartly for your home organization solutions if you don't already have them. Only purchase storage bins which fit the space that you have, and shop your own home for leftover cardboard (to wrap cords and lights around) and sandwich bags (for the tiny decorative pieces). Sort them by size, too - use plenty of dividers, so you can unpack them with ease over the next holiday season!

2. Protect the Pipes

As temperatures plunge, you'll want to prevent exposed pipes from freezing. A frozen pipe can crack or burst, flooding your home. If you haven't already, be sure to turn off the water to outdoor spigots. Shut off water valves and open spigots to drain existing water.

3. Clean Hardware

With more traffic coming and going from your home over the holidays, it's a good time to wipe down your hardware! Shine and tighten doorknobs and hinges; tighten loose cabinet pulls and nobs; and level cabinet doors.

DIY Tip: To clean metal hardware, wash with soapy water, then shine with a microfibre cloth dipped in vinegar or lemon juice. 

4. Clean Dirt and Declutter

Get a head start on your spring cleaning for a great start to 2018! Now is the time to seek and destroy any dirt, grime, and dust. However, you'll want to first banish piles, clean out closets and drawers, and tackle the basement if you can stand it. This makes your final clean for 'sparkle' a lot easier!

5. Go Green

Can't deal with the 'grey' that can be January on the West Coast? Start planning your flower and veggie gardens. If you're starting seeds inside, plant them about 6 weeks prior to the last frost here in Metro Vancouver.

How do you plan on caring for your home in 2018? 

Please be sure to give us a call at (604) 241-7653 with your questions, or email 

We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Dec. 16, 2017

How Will the New Mortgage Stress Test Rules Impact You?

Photo via Jonathan Hayward, the Canadian Press

You've likely heard that the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced new mortgage qualification rules that come into effect on January 1, 2018. 

These changes are being extended to all of the new borrowers purchasing and have more than 20% as a down payment (therefore taking out an uninsured mortgage). As well, homeowners who have more than 20% equity in their home who are looking to refinance will be impacted. 

What does it mean for home buyers and owners?

The minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages will now required to be the greater of the five-year benchmark rate (by the Bank of Canada) or the contract mortgage rate +2%. Simply put, its greatest impact will be how much you can qualify to borrow.

Who is exempt from these new qualification rules?

Anyone who is renewing their current mortgage, and those purchasing with less than a 20% down payment on an insured mortgage. 

What about getting pre-approved?

If your final approval happens after January 1st of 2018 -> most likely, it will be subject to the new rules. A "pre-approval" is not the same as the "final approval".

Unfortunately, this means some buyers might need to reconsider their budget and strategy with their trusted advisor - keeping the new mortgage restrictions in consideration. 

Talk to an expert 

Wonder how much house you'll be able to afford to buy? Get in touch today - we're here to help you plan your successful Real Estate investments for the long term. 

Please be sure to give us a call at (604) 241-7653 with your questions, or email 

We're here to help!

Michael Cowling & Associates 


Posted in Real Estate Tips