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!

July 9, 2018

Your Home Inspection Checklist

We've all heard that you must have a home inspection - but the reality is, most buyers and sellers don't know what a proper home inspection report should actually disclose.

To simplify matters, we've compiled your Home Inspection Checklist - great for any buyer or seller to have at their disposal. Make sure your home inspector has checked all the essentials!

Any questions? As always, don't hesitate to get in touch. We're always here to help!

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

info@michaelcowling.com

604-276-2335

 

Posted in Real Estate Tips
June 21, 2018

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? 5 Reasons to Move

Sometimes, the decision to move can be because of something obvious that’s bothering you - noisy neighbours, relentless nearby construction, or an ever-increasing crime rate in your area. Or perhaps you’ve changed jobs, and the morning commute is becoming too much. These kinds of reasons makes the choice to move from one residence to another an easy one. 

However, sometimes the desire to relocate comes from something less obvious - maybe you’re wondering what it would be like to live in a new neighbourhood (with new neighbours!) or you’re feeling as though you’ve outgrown your home. 

Our team at RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates breaks down the factors you’ll want to consider when thinking of making a move. 

Here are 5 top reasons you’ll want to start looking at a new home:

Location, location, location!

Considered one of the golden rules in Real Estate - and for good reason! Your home can be absolutely perfect, but if you’re stuck in traffic for 2 hours every day to commute to work and school - chances are the enjoyment of your property will greatly lessen. 

Space has become an issue

Maybe you have too much, or too little. The fact of life is, that it changes! Children eventually leave home, or take up much of it while they’re young. If you’re finding yourself as an empty-nester cleaning bedrooms that are rarely used, it might be time to find a smaller home.

You’d like to access its equity 

Perhaps you purchased your Richmond home back in ______, when the average home sale price was in the ______ range. Today, perhaps you’re able to now sell for ____; which could be an attractive option for someone looking to upsize or downsize, use the money to experience new adventures, or even enter a retirement facility. 

Your home has become a money pit

More on the topic of money - sometimes, home ownership costs can get out of hand. Depending on the age of the home and its current condition (as well as the condition in which it was purchased in) sometimes these repair costs can quickly rack up. It’s important to assess the value of your home and stack it against these maintenance costs to determine if they’re even worth it! 

It just doesn’t make you happy anymore

Perhaps a combination of the above reasons have caused you to feel an unmistakable sense of unhappiness every day you come home. It could be that your family has changed, your lifestyle has changed, or perhaps the neighbourhood has. Or maybe, you’re simply ready for a new change! Quality of life is very important and must be considered when making one of the biggest decisions of your life. 

There are just a few top reasons why you might want to consider making a move to a new home. Remember though, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side! If you’re weighing your options, please feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help you assess your options, and can help you determine what you could afford in today’s market. 

Thanks for reading!

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

info@michaelcowling.com

604-276-2335

 

Posted in Real Estate Tips
June 4, 2018

How to Spend Father's Day in Richmond, BC

 

 

 

If you're spending Father's Day weekend in town, we've got some great ideas - sure to please everyone in the family! Whether it's a scenic bike ride from downtown Richmond to Steveston's beautiful waterfront, or some quality time on a sun-soaked patio, we've got it all.

 

#1 Go Fish! Just in time for Father’s Day weekend, the 19th annual BC Family Fishing Weekend is back! This is a free event to enjoy on the lakes across the Lower Mainland, with expert assistance - and for this weekend only, no fishing licenses are required!

 

#2 Put in Some Quality Patio Time If the Dad in your life is a low-key guy, this kind of activity might be right up his alley! Fire up the grill for some great eats out in the sun on your back deck. If you’d rather someone else do the cooking, head on over to The Flying Beaver, Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant, or Pajo’s Fish & Chips. Just be sure to book your reservation early, though - these fill up this time of year!

 

#3 Vancouver’s Car Free Day Feel like getting into Vancouver for the day? Just be prepared to be on foot - Father’s Day marks the return of the annual Car Free Day festivities. There are tons of live entertainment, vendors, and kids’ activities to enjoy.

 

#4 Explore the Richmond Night Market Where else can you enjoy deep-fried squid, fish-shaped waffles, and mini donuts - all in one place? Undoubtedly, the food is always the main attraction at the Richmond Night Market - so if Dad’s a foodie, bring him here for some adventurous samplings! Plus, there is live entertainment, vendors galore, and bumper cars, and carnival games to test your skills. Check it out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 7PM-12PM (11PM on Sundays), at 8351 River Rd., Richmond.

 

#5 Enjoy the Great Outdoors Father’s Day can be a great time to get back to the basics! Strap on your helmets, and bring your bikes to some of your favourite cycling destinations. We’re lucky to enjoy beautiful scenic and shoreline views (plus relatively flat, level-ground!) which makes for easy, ideal biking for all skill sets.

 

Do you have any fun ideas for Father's Day weekend?

 

Please leave your comments below - we’d love to hear them!

 

info@michaelcowling.com

604-276-2335

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

 

Posted in News
May 24, 2018

Buying or Selling a Home with Unpermitted Work

So you’ve found the home of your dreams – or you’re selling your home – and it has unpermitted work done on it. What to do?

 

First of all, unpermitted work is when construction has been done on a home that doesn’t have the necessary permits to make it legal. The work can include most components of the home—electrical, plumbing, structural, etc. Some of the most common examples of this can be found in additions to homes and finished basements.

 

My advice to buyers and sellers in my 30 years of experience in Real Estate?

 

Always get the proper permits and observe your local regulations when it comes to home improvements.  Not obtaining the proper permissions and documentations can not only prove to be time-consuming, but it can also be dangerous, too!

 

Keep in mind that the rules for permits change based on location, too – so where you may require a permit for one job in one municipality, you may not require the same in another.

 

So why do people do work without permits?

 

Some homeowners simply may not be aware of the requirement for a permit, but the reality is, many will skip the step in order to save time and money. However – not so fast!

 

What they don’t realize is that by skipping this vital step, you can end up paying a lot more money down the road (not to mention, there is a possibility of putting yourself and others in danger).

 

This is short-term thinking – with long-term consequences!

 

Buyers

 

You’re looking at a home, and it completely ‘fits the bill’ – except one catch. It has unpermitted work.

 

It can be tempting, as a home with unpermitted work will often end up selling cheaper than their equivalents with permits.

 

But – remember that there are a lot of risks associated with doing so. Here’s what you need to know!

 

It will now be your responsibility, and you can still be penalized

Local home inspectors will sometimes come down on homeowners who have unpermitted work done on their homes; and this could entail that they force you to remove your entire project, or even pay taxes on the difference.  Your homeowner’s policy might not cover these additions, and mortgage companies can even require an immediate loan repayment!

 

 

Your Options as a Buyer

 

You have a few choices as a savvy buyer; ones I can help guide you through. You could request the seller fix the issue or simply take the deal, or move on.

 

Sellers

 

Perhaps you have been aware of the unpermitted work in your home, or you might be one of the few who discover it when it’s time to sell.

 

First of all, you’ll want to determine if there is indeed unpermitted work in your home.  Find the original blueprints and check them against your current one. If you can’t find these easily, you might be able to access them via the city. Questions about finding these in Greater Vancouver? Be sure to contact us!

 

Have unpermitted work? Decide if you’ll sell as-is, or get a permit.

 

If you decide to sell as-is, you’ll often have to offer quite a severe price reduction.

 

But most importantly – you must disclose the non-permitted work! Not disclosing it can put you in danger of a lawsuit and is unfair to the new buyers.

 

If you don’t want to take a price cut, it might be worth looking at applying for the permits and seeing what the costs are and what the timeline is. Depending on the area you live in, obtaining the quotes and processes (including the final inspections) will be a process – we can help point you in the right direction with this. Keep in mind that it’s possible that the ultimate costs of this could be even higher than your price reduction for the unpermitted work, too.

 

Closing Thoughts

 

If you don’t want problems down the line – be sure to always obtain the proper permits for your home improvements. Before you make any changes to your property, you’ll always want to educate yourself on your local regulations, and be sure to only hire professionals with high-standing reputations who only work with the correct permits and documentation.

 

However, these instances of buying or selling a home with unpermitted home do occur – and there’s always a solution. We’re here to help you find the one that works for you!  

 

Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch!

 

Contact us today

 

 

info@michaelcowling.com

604-276-2335

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates 

Posted in Real Estate Tips
May 21, 2018

Yet another bank discounts variable mortgage rate

In the news! (as published by The Canadian Press | May 17, 2018) 

HSBC says it is discounting its variable mortgage rate starting Thursday to a level that undercuts the recently discounted rates of other major banks, as competition in the space intensifies.

The bank says it will offer a five-year variable closed rate of 2.39 per cent, down from 2.49 per cent and 1.06 percentage points below its prime rate. It says there's no end date but that the rate could change at any time.

HSBC's lowered rate comes after TD Bank and Bank of Montreal started offering five-year variable closed rates of 2.45 per cent in recent days at a heavy discount to their prime rate until the end of May.

Scotiabank says it has also started lowering its rate to match the limited-time offer of its competitors.

The moves come amid slowing mortgage growth. The Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday that national home sales volume sank to the lowest level in more than five years in April, falling by 13.9 per cent from the same month last year. The national average sale price decreased by 11.3 per cent year-over-year.

Home sales have slowed due to various factors, including measures introduced by the Ontario and B.C. governments to cool the housing market, such as taxes on non-resident buyers.

Other headwinds for mortgage growth include higher interest rates and a new financial stress test that makes it more difficult for would-be homebuyers to qualify with federally regulated lenders, such as the banks.

The tighter lending rules are making it harder for homebuyers to qualify for uninsured mortgages and shrinking the pool of qualified buyers for higher-priced homes, CREA's chief economist Gregory Klump said in April.

Meanwhile, Canada's largest lenders all raised their benchmark posted five-year fixed mortgage rates in recent weeks as government bond yields increased, signalling a rise in borrowing costs.

In turn, the central bank's five year benchmark qualifying rate _ which is calculated using the posted rates at the Big Six banks _ increased last week to 5.34 per cent. This qualifying rate is used in stress tests for both insured and uninsured mortgages, and an increase means the bar is now even higher for borrowers to qualify.

Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch! 

Contact us today!

info@michaelcowling.com 

604-276-2335

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

 

 

Posted in Market Updates
May 17, 2018

Can a majority of owners force the sale of a strata complex?

What happens when a majority of strata owners in a multi-unit complex decide they want to sell their units and wind up the strata, but not all property owners support the decision?

This happened earlier this year in Richmond’s Ascott Wynd complex when six of 102 owners disputed the winding up of the strata. They reasoned the sale wouldn’t be in the best interests of the owners and would cause significant confusion and uncertainty in their affairs.

However, BC Supreme Court Justice Milman disagreed, saying the sale was in the best interests of the owners and ruled the complex could be sold.

Why would strata owners decide to sell their complex?

The reasons vary and include:

their aging strata complex requires so much repair work, it makes more sense to demolish the building and build a new one in its place;

a low-rise strata building is in an area rezoned for higher density developments, and property owners will make a profit selling to a developer who’ll demolish the low-rise building and construct a higher-rise property in its place; and

their strata is located within a larger area (a few blocks) undergoing redevelopment as part of a broader urban renewal project.

New strata rules make winding up a strata easier

In 2016, new strata property rules came into force allowing strata owners to terminate a strata corporation with an 80 per cent vote. This was a change from the previous unanimous voting requirement.

Although a resolution to cancel a strata plan can be passed by an 80 per cent vote, there’s court oversight intended to address unfairness alleged by an owner or creditor.

The strata corporation is required to apply to BC Supreme Court for an order confirming a wind-up resolution. The court must consider:

the best interests of the owners;

the probability and extent of significant unfairness to one or more owners; and

the probability and extent of significant confusion and uncertainty.

Recent court cases:

In 2017, six condominium owners in the Hampstead, a Vancouver West End strata complex, went to court to stop their 33-unit strata building from being sold by a majority of owners for redevelopment. They lost their case. The judge agreed the wind-up resolution had been conducted fairly, in the best interests of all strata owners.

In 2018, two owners in the 36-unit Barclay Terrace in Vancouver’s West End refused to sell. The judge allowed the sale stating it was in the best interests of the owners and wouldn’t give rise to significant uncertainty.

- as originally published via the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board 

Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch! 

Contact us today!

info@michaelcowling.com 

604-276-2335

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

Posted in News
May 8, 2018

Mother's Day in Richmond, BC

 

 

Here are four ways you can treat the special Mom in your life in our community!

 

Say it with flowers 

You can’t go wrong with fresh, local blooms! Pick up a fresh bouquet at one of our favourites, Touch of Flowers.

 

Save the date 

Make a special breakfast reservation at one of our local breakfast hot-spots, like Blue Canoe Waterfront or The Buffet at the River Rock Casino, Just be sure to book ahead, as these tables fill up quickly! 

 

Savour a sweet treat

Treat Mom to some goodies from local chocolatier Wild Sweets; ranked one of the '25 Best Chocolatiers in the World', awarded 'Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America' and Canada's only science-based cocoa bean-to-bar chocolate-makers! 

 

Sip and shop

Richmond offers some beautiful wines AND shopping! Head to Lulu Island Winery for a delicious tasting, then hit the unique, local shops along Steveston’s boardwalk. 

 

Regardless of how you choose to spend Mother’s Day this year, the most important part is that you enjoy quality time together. 

 

Happy Mother’s Day from our team and families to yours!

 

Best, 

Michael Cowling & Associates 

 

Posted in News
May 1, 2018

Richmond's pre-sale condo flipping to be tracked by province

Graeme Wood / Richmond News

APRIL 30, 2018 05:15 PM

Minister of Finance Carole James says her government is cracking down on tax evasion within the opaque world of pre-sale condo assignments.

Wednesday’s announcement, to require real estate developers to collect and report information on pre-sale condo assignments, comes five months after Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced it was investigating select developments in Toronto and Vancouver.

“We are making it fairer for people who want to buy a condo, by making sure those who flip pre-sale condos are paying their fair share.”

Prior to a development being constructed, speculative buyers may pay a deposit for the right to buy a unit upon completion at present-day pricing. If the market price rises in the intervening years of construction, the buyer could sell (assign) the pre-sale contract (the right to buy) and reap a large profit. This is perfectly legal as long as the transaction is recorded and the appropriate capital gains or business taxes are paid. 

According to the CRA, a local buyer could be on the hook for the taxes owing, if they were not paid/withheld here, or from overseas.

However in many cases there is no paper trail left behind with these so-called “shadow flips.”

But even with better records and tracking, tax experts have identified gaps in collecting taxes from real estate transactions, especially from foreigners.

According to University of B.C. real estate economist Tom Davidoff, pre-sales have been a popular means for developers to finance their projects.

Many Richmond condo pre-sale contracts have been sold by marketing agencies in Asia. Pre-sales are popular there because there is no foreign buyers’ tax on pre-sale flips. Only the final sale is registered with the Land Titles and Survey Authority of B.C., hence such flipping obscures the true impact of foreign money in Richmond’s real estate market, where one in four new condos close to non-residents.

A recent Globe and Mail investigation shows pre-sale flipping is popular with a privileged clique of realtor “insiders” in Metro Vancouver, who use their relationships with developers to access contracts first.

In November, Davidoff told the Richmond News that from a free market perspective, it is problematic there is no public record keeping of pre-sales. This meant final buyers, typically locals, have limited information to the market and hence are put at risk.

Davidoff said developers have been reluctant to provide details, from what is effectively an honour system, because “A, there’s a lack of reporting infrastructure and B, there’s a lack of incentive.”

The flipping frenzy has led to rising costs in the multi-family market, according to Richmond realtor and real estate blogger Steve Saretsky, who said last week the new reporting measures “won't necessarily impact prices but could discourage some offshore investment that maybe otherwise was hoping to make a tax free gain.”

In the past year condo prices have soared 27 per cent in Richmond, while townhouse prices have gone up 13.4 per cent.

Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch! 

Contact us today!

info@michaelcowling.com 

604-276-2335

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

Posted in Market Updates
April 25, 2018

Vancouver Turns Vacancies Into Cash Cow

 

The city of Vancouver's new empty homes tax is expected to bring in $30 million in revenue in its first year.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said $17 million has already been collected from owners of almost 8,500 properties that were determined to be vacant or under utilized for at least six months of the year.

For those who didn't rent their empty property and chose to pay the empty homes tax, I just want to say thank you for contributing to Vancouver's affordable housing funding and making sure we can invest more in affordable housing,'' Robertson said at a news conference Monday. ``For those who did rent their empty homes, thank you very much for adding to the rental housing supply here in Vancouver. It's desperately needed.''

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, requiring homeowners who do not live in or rent out their properties to pay a one per cent levy based on the assessed value of the home.

Robertson said the tax was intended to address the city's near-zero vacancy rate.

The most recent figure from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation puts the city's rental vacancy rate at 0.8 per cent, up slightly from the previous year, the mayor said.

It's unclear yet if the tax has increased the availability of rental accommodation, Robertson said, adding that the city is developing better data collection methods to monitor the impact of initiates like the tax more closely.

The city previously said about 60 per cent of properties affected by the tax are condominiums.

The tax on the properties where owners said their home was empty ranged from $1,500 to $250,000, Robertson said, noting the highest tax bill came from a $25-million home.

The funds will support the city's affordable housing initiatives and residents can provide feedback on exactly where the money should be spent.

Robertson said increasing capacity at homeless shelters or adding to the city's rent bank, which provides one-time interest-free loans to low-income residents in a financial crisis, are among the possible initiatives that could benefit.

The median tax due is just under $10,000 and Robertson said anyone who doesn't pay up will face fines and have the bill added to their property taxes next year.

``Those who are not playing ball here and who are skirting the system, we will get you,'' the mayor said.

Nearly 99 per cent of homeowners completed an empty homes tax declaration.

The tax cost the city $7.5 million to implement and annual operating costs for the first and subsequent years are pegged at $2.5 million.

Audits are underway and the city said just under 1,000 complaints or disputes have been filed that need to be addressed in the coming months.

Robertson said it will be up to city council to decide whether the tax is having the desired effect, and that will likely take a few years of data to determine.

``I would say at this point it looks like some signs of success,'' he said.

Linda Givetash 

The Canadian Press (as seen in www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca)

Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch! 

Contact us today!

info@michaelcowling.com 

604-276-2335

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

Posted in News
April 18, 2018

Richmond’s First Disputed Strata Sale Approved by Judge, Fuels Speculation

Graeme Wood / Richmond News

April 17th, 2018 

 

Image via the Vancouver Courier

 

Richmond’s first strata termination and sale under a recently-revised Strata Property Act has been granted by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

Despite opposition from a minority group of owners, Mr. Justice Warren B. Milman ruled April 10 in favour of the 86 owners who agreed to sell the three-storey, 102-unit Ascott Wynde property at the corner of Cook and Garden City roads.

“I must weigh the interest of the strong majority in proceeding with the [strata termination] and sale that they voted for,” concluded Milman in a written decision, following an assessment of various complaints made by those who opposed the $49.8 million sale to Everbright Properties Inc.   

The decision, required by law under the Act in order to consider any undue hardship of the minority, has Coun. Carol Day concerned for vulnerable seniors and renters facing the likes of “sharks who are currently circling other complexes in the area.”

Among the complaints heard, the difficulty residents may face in relocating was among Milman’s key considerations, including whether or not existing residents would be able to have priority access to the new, proposed 150 townhouse development that is to be built in place of the two 41-year-old buildings.

“I accept that relocating is likely to be difficult for at least some owners, for various reasons,” stated Milman.

However, Milman concluded that a 60 per cent premium sale price above the 2018 assessment value of the property was not “significantly unfair” to those who opposed the strata termination.

What could be unfair, Milman concluded, is not granting the sale, which passed under a new (2016) rule of the Strata Property Act that allows for strata terminations with a minimum 80 per cent of owners’ blessings, as opposed to 100 per cent under the old rules.

Milman noted owners face a “daunting maintenance and repair burden” of $5 million over the next 5-7 years, resulting in special levies of an estimated $36,700 to $67,700.

 Some opponents, such as Victoria Grigorenko, who lives with her 87-year-old mother, argued they cannot find another place to live in Richmond. Or, if they do, it will be in a similarly old building that may have the same repair burden. It is believed by many owners that the Ascott Wynde sale has inflated listing prices in the area. Rennie and Associates agent Jason Lai said his agency is working on a number of strata sales in the city.

Milman found the compensation to be sufficient and heeded the advice of Lai that there are many older apartments in Richmond being sold for less than the listing price. Since the sale process began in 2016 units have soared in assessed value by about 50 per cent.

Nevertheless, noting strata lawyer Peter Robert’s comment that “the market has spoken,” Milman concluded “there is no sound basis for the contention that the owners are to receive inadequate compensation for their units.”

A contention from opponents, such as Gordon Bell, that the sale included a land expropriation for yet-to-be-approved road widening (and thus the price was lower than it should be) was dismissed by Milman. Rather, he agreed with Lai that it was a number of prospective purchasers who factored in the potential road widenings into their price points.

Day said that there are no plans to widen roads in the area to accommodate new developments and as such the deal may not be as good as it could have been.

Day, who attended court hearings with opponents, wants to see city policies that prohibit fast-track rezoning and/or density bonuses for properties where a strata is terminated without 100 per cent approval. 

Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch! 

Contact us today!

info@michaelcowling.com 

604-276-2335

RE/MAX Michael Cowling & Associates

Posted in News