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GARBUTT + DUMAS REAL ESTATE TEAM
630 Fifth St
New Westminster, BC, V3M 2X9
604.805.3115
info@gdrealestate.ca




James Garbutt

Shawn’s top picks for investment properties

Shawn’s Weekly Top Picks for Investment Properties

Every week I will be posting 3-5 listings that I think are great investments for those who are looking to buy and hold, build, and move in. The neighbourhoods that I will be exploring are:

  1. Vancouver West
  2. Vancouver East
  3. East burnaby
  4. South Burnaby
  5. North Burnaby
  6. New Westminster
  7. Surrey

Why are you doing this?

There are so many aspects to take in to account when finding the right investment property.  You want to look at location, price point, location of that exact property, the details of the home and any issues with the lot. Whether it’s sloped, at a high point on the block that allows for a view or whether it’s riddled with trees that make it near impossible to build on without going through a lengthy process with the city halls. I will try to narrow searches down for you to make the selection process easier.

Vancouver West: 4454 W 13th Avenue

Price: $ 2,398,000
Lot: 33 x 122 (4,026 Sq Ft.)
House size:  2,356 Sq Ft.
Bedrooms: 5
Year Built: 1930
Zoning: RS-1

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Chose it:

The location is key. The price point is also great for Point Grey and the homes shows rentability. This is great while waiting for the development permits. This home is in modest shape and there appears to be little to no large trees on the lot. Although the 1930’s age may require a large portion of the home to be recycled, roughly 75%+. The RS-1 zones have recently been allowed duplexes, but given the neighbourhood elevations, a single family home with a lane way home would be best suited for the neighbourhood. In addition, the RS-1 zone allows for up to 70% FSR buildable. Please refer to the building guidelines as every house design may not qualify for the density bonus from the 60% shown on the zoning plan. The finished buildable maxed out at 70% is over 2,800 Sq Ft.

Vancouver East: 82 Ontario Place 

Price: $ 1,788,000
Lot: 33 x 121.93 (4,023.69 Sq Ft.)
House size:  2,356 Sq Ft.
Bedrooms: 6
Bathroom: 3
Year Built: 1969
Zoning: RS-1

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Chose it:

Why I chose it: The location is key. It is nestled between Main and Cambie which are direct routes to downtown Vancouver. It is a few blocks over from one of the largest developments in Vancouver, Oakridge. The price may be a bit high but the location is great!

East Burnaby: 7274 Stride Avenue

Price: $ 1,199,000
Lot: 53 x 120 (6,360 Sq Ft.)
House size:  2,425 Sq Ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Bathroom: 2
Year Built: 1949
Zoning: R5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Chose it:

The location is key. This property sits a block away from the South Gate development, which is lead by Ledingham McAllister which will be 60 acres large and home to a new community. This home may be rezoned to higher density possibly two family infill housing. This will need to be verified with the city. The location is also a few blocks over from the Edmonds Skytrain station that is easy access to Vancouver and other parts of Metro Vancouver.

New Westminster: 2038 8th Avenue

Exterior FrontPrice: $ 1,249,000
Lot: 50 x 120 (6,000 Sq Ft.)
House size:  2,775 Sq Ft.
Bedrooms: 5
Bathroom: 3
Year Built: 1945
Zoning: Future NR2

 

 

 

Why I Chose it:

The location is key. This property Is two blocks away from the 22nd Street Skytrain Station and is in the New Westminster Official Community Plan for higher density. Higher density can be either infill (townhome) housing or low rise multi-family. The city would need to be consulted for verification. The home has also been tastefully renovated

New Westminster: 825 Dublin Street

Price: $ 1,249,000
Lot: 49.50 x 130 (6,435 Sq Ft.)
House size:  2,191 Sq Ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Bathroom: 2
Year Built: 1912
Zoning: NR1

 

 

 

Why I Chose it:

Why I chose it: The location is key. It is in the heart of New Westminster. Easy walking distance to New Westminster Secondary, Moody Park and some restaurants. It is also off of 8th Street which gives access to the #1 highway. It is also on the North side of Dublin which is then high side of the suite and with the additional square footage allowable in the basement for NR1 makes this is a great purchase for a building property. Be wary that there is one large tree in the back. Although the city has tree bylaws, there may be a chance to replace the current tree.

Fall 2018 Market Update

THE MARKET HAS SLOWED

We’re in a correction, but it’s nothing like the 2008 crash.  This year we have seen a slow down in overall market activity as the volume of real estate sales is down compared to this time last year.  We had a good run, through 2016-2017 we saw a 40-50% increase in property values which is not sustainable growth.  Now, the market is becoming more balanced, less chaotic, which means that buyers are able to put subjects on their offers again. The days of bidding war after bidding war, and buyers taking on extreme risk of subject free offers seem to be over… for now.

WHAT ARE HOUSING PRICES DOING?

Well… it depends.  Every property type and city seem to be experiencing different levels of change.

LESS EFFECTED

We’re seeing about 5-10% reduction off peak pricing for your typical condos, townhouses and detached houses in the markets we work in. These are for your move-in ready, entry to mid level price points.

      

Least Effected:

  • Condos in Vancouver under $1M, and     suburb condos under $700K
  • Townhouses in Vancouver under $1.2M, and suburb townhouses under $900K (excluding Fraser Valley)
  • Houses under $1.6M

In terms of cities, less expensive suburbs close to Vancouver (New Westminster, Port Moody & Port Coquitlam) seem to be holding up particularly well.

MOST EFFECTED

  • Luxury homes
  • Land value
  • Fixer uppers
  • Busy streets or prominent negative feature

For some property types we’re seeing upward of a 20% adjustment from peak pricing.  In terms of cities, the more expensive ones; West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Vancouver West. Due to significant increase in supply of $2M+ homes. In the hot 2016 and 2017 market, buyers were less picky, foreigners were propelling the luxury market and builders were hungry for land.  All of this has changed.

UNAFFECTED?

Pre-sales for new condo developments remain to be hot.  We’re still seeing peak pricing, lineups and quick sellouts in this sector.  In particular, we’re referring to more affordable price points, in desirable locations with easy access to public transit. Too much speculation? We’ll have to wait and see.

WHAT’S NEXT?

New mortgage stress test and higher interest rates!  Long story short, lending is getting tighter.  Buyers that qualified for a $500,000 mortgage in 2017, and now qualified for $400,000.  This paired with and increase in interest rates of more than 1% in the last 18 months could start showing it’s colours in late 2018 or early 2019.

Stress test info: https://www.ratehub.ca/blog/how-to-stress-test-your-mortgage/

OUR THOUGHTS & PREDICTIONS: 

JAMES: “It’s hard to predict a crash, and corrections happen often.  In fact, we’ve seen fall market corrections over the last 3 years.  This one is slightly worse than the previous years, which is due to an oversupply of expensive real estate.  Personally, I believe that we’re in the worst of themarket correction now.  The stats are out there, fear is out there and the media is publishing negative press… same as every correction in previous years. We just seem to forget.”

DENNY: “The Fall is likely going to have a surge in sales activity for a couple months, but I expect prices to remain flat.  Typically we see the activity pick up in the New Year, so I would not be surprised if the market goes on a small run early in 2019.  As for next spring, I think we’ll see an increase in prices of around 5-10%, due to the seasonality of the real estate market and buyer/seller behaviour.”

JAMES: “Buyers, keep looking and think long-term.  Ignore the media and buy with confidence if the right place comes up.  The inventory is higher than its been in the last couple years, demand is down and I think there will be some great opportunities out there this Fall. Plus, enjoy the luxury of a subject offer… it was rare for 

most of 2016 & 2017.”

DENNY: “Sellers, keep things in perspective. Timing the peak of any market is impossible to predict, but looking back to 2015, property values are still 25-50% higher today dependant on location. That’s a pretty solid return on investment in a very short period of time. If you are thinking of selling this Fall, be realistic about pricing. Over pricing a listing in this market can be detrimental to its success, and could result in a frustrating experience. Good product will sell, but expect a few more days on market than we’ve seen in previous years.  Now is not the time to launch that $3 Million dollar home. Wait till spring.”

 

G + D Giving Back to Children’s Wish

Hearing ‘you are getting a wish’ can elicit many reactions.  For 15-year old Ben it felt like winning the lottery.  For us, it was an incredibly rewarding experience.

We had the pleasure of meeting Ben and his mother Jane at Steel & Oak Brewing Co.   We shared stories about life, about their trip to Fiji, got to know each other, and showed them the inner workings of a production brewery.  Although he’s too young to drink, Ben is really into science and thought it was a great experience.  He had lots of questions, and many that I couldn’t answer, so head brewer Eric had to take over the tour.  At the end of it, we traded beer swag for farm fresh eggs, made a true connections, and felt that we made a positive impact on a great family.

Ben’s story:

Born with a complex heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, Ben hasn’t had an easy life. Heart surgeries have punctuated his childhood – the first occurred when he was a baby and the most recent was just over a year ago. Ben’s condition has affected his whole family. His mom Jane remembers the precarious times when “the strain [of being] focused on one child’s existence was painful…my other children were small and I felt such guilt when I couldn’t be physically and emotionally with them.” Ben is the youngest of four, with three older sisters; unsurprisingly he is a considerate and outgoing kid.

Granting the Wish:

To celebrate Ben’s stable health and honour this journey the whole family has been through, Ben chose to visit Fiji with his family this spring. The wish was a week in paradise – Ben surfed, made local friends, swam in the crystal blue waters and spent much-needed time with his family. The trip became a reality thanks to our donation (which feels great!).

Ben’s wish and the 1,000 others granted by Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada every year are funded solely by the generosity of our community.  I met Hannah (Development Coordinator for Children’s Wish) randomly at a wedding in French castle last fall, we discussed Children’s Wish and what they do, and after a few drinks I said ‘count me in!’.  I’m certain she didn’t think she would hear back from me, but that was not the case.  I was very inspired by the work she does, and when given the opportunity to contribute we gladly stepped up.

This was an incredible experience and something that I’ll never forget. When you hear the story that Ben and his family have been through, there is no better feeling than rewarding them with an amazing trip to Fiji.  We hope this is just the first of many wishes we grant because it sure feels good.

(Ben asking hard questions, James making up answers)

“There is profound joy and magic that comes from granting a wish for a child with a life-threatening illness. For our wish kids, their families and donors, wishes really do work wonders.” – Hannah

Left to Right: Jennifer (Children’s Wish), Jane (Ben’s Mom), Ben, James, Hannah (Children’s Wish)

Thank you Hannah, Jennifer and Children’s Wish for making this happen!

Ben, we look forward to having a beer with you in 2021 😉

 

Cheers,

– James, Denny, Rosa & Jakub (The G+D Team)

Donate to Children’s Wish Here

 

Condos and townhomes in Burnaby are hot! March 2017 Market Update

The market for condos and townhomes in Burnaby is hot!

So hot, prices are up 25 per cent over this time last year. In fact, they’re even higher than the peak of the market we saw last spring and early summer.

One of the hottest neighbourhoods is Brentwood Park. This area, near Lougheed and Willingdon, is feeling the excitement from the redevelopment of the Brentwood Town Centre that is already underway.

When the $1.3 billion project is completed, it will be like its own city within the city.

And that’s boosted interest in existing developments nearby. Of the last 40 condo sales in Brentwood Park, 75 per cent of them went for list price or above.

Condos and townhomes in Burnaby are hot

A typical 2 bedroom 2 bath condo, 850-875 sq. ft., in an established development like Oma, is now going for about $600,000. Last year it would have sold for $480,000.

Condos and townhomes in Burnaby

A typical 630 sq. ft. 1 bedroom condo in an established concrete development like Tandem is now selling for $450,000. Last year it would have sold for $370,000.

 

We’re seeing similar stats in other areas of Burnaby as well, including South Slope and Burnaby East.

If you’re a buyer, the market for condos and townhomes in Burnaby might be more favourable in the Metrotown neighbourhood. An abundance of available product there means 60 per cent of  sales in the past 60 days have gone for below list.

And just as the market for high-end houses has been struggling a bit, the market for condos and townhomes in Burnaby above $600,000 is a little slower.

There’s a lot of new development coming down the pipe, so it’s hard to say how long the market for condos and townhomes in Burnaby will stay hot. But with interest in condos and townhomes high across the Lower Mainland right now, there’s no end in sight. That might be a little frustrating if you’re a buyer. But if you’re selling, you’ll be rewarded.

Vancouver too expensive? Move to New West!

As real estate prices in Vancouver’s neighbourhoods escalated out of reach, Vancouverites looking to own their home are heading east.

New Westminster Realtor James Garbutt says he’s seeing more and more buyers looking at the city as an affordable alternative to Vancouver, but without giving up the amenities of city life. While $1.2 million might get you a tear-down on a small lot in East Van, in New West it can put you in a beautifully-renovated Craftsman heritage home that’s centrally-located close to schools, parks, shopping and transit.

The city’s condo market offers similar value, says Garbutt. “Let’s take your typical 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo in a newer concrete high-rise. Currently in Yaletown or False Creek you’re looking at $1,100/sqft.  In Burnaby’s Brentwood Park area you’re looking at $800/sqft , and in Downtown New West this figure goes down to $625/sqft.”

That value isn’t going unnoticed in Vancouver. In fact, says Garbutt, over the past year about 30 percent of visitors to open houses he’s conducted in New West are from Vancouver.  For detached homes in particular the number is much higher.

Garbutt recently sold a beautiful Craftsman style home at 903 Henley St, New West. Roughly 75% of the open house visitors came from Vancouver.  It achieved multiple offers, and the buyer was a young professional couple from Downtown Vancouver.

 

Vancouverites are moving to New Westminster

This Craftsman heritage home in New Westminster was recently sold by Realtor James Garbutt to a couple from Vancouver.

 

For detached, single-family homes in New Westminster sold in 2016, 51 per cent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver, suggesting their clients likely are as well, says Garbutt. For condos, 36 percent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver.

“In New West, our main sources of buyers are coming from more expensive markets, primarily Vancouver,” says Garbutt.

 

Who’s buying houses in New Westminster

Who's buying houses in New Westminster

Where buyers are coming from to buy houses in New Westminster

Who’s buying condos in New Westminster

Who's buying condos and townhouses in New Westminster

Where condo and townhouse buyers in New Westminster are coming from

 

New Westminster is no longer a secret, says Garbutt. “It’s centrally located. There’s a great sense of community and local pride that many other suburbs lack.  And, quite frankly, it’s the most affordable community to buy into that’s within 30 minutes of Downtown Vancouver.”

The city is undergoing a renaissance. After languishing through the 1990s as a marketplace for cheap street drugs peddled by Honduran dealers loitering around its SkyTrain stations, Downtown New West has come alive with new restaurants, with more on the way. At Eighth and Columbia Streets, the gleaming Anvil Centre has replaced a squalid block of cigar shops and temporary employment agencies. The western end of historic Front Street has been opened to the sky with the partial demolition of the old parkade. The waterfront has been enlivened by Pier Park and the River Market.

The historic Queen’s Park neighbourhood abounds with lovingly-restored family heritage homes along quiet, leafy streets, and the Sapperton area surrounding Royal Columbian Hospital is alive with young families attracted to its affordable, smaller detached houses and new condo developments.

 

The leafy streets and lovingly-restored heritage homes of New Westminster’s Queen’s Park neighbourhood.

 

Progressive businesses like Steel & Oak Brewing Co.Brick + MortarEl Santo and 100 Braid St. Studios actively promote the city far and wide on social media using the hashtags #newwest or #theroyalcity, which have more than 130,000 posts on Instagram combined.

To preserve the city’s historic identity, City Hall is taking steps to implement historic design guidelines in neighbourhoods like Queen’s Park. The City works with developers to maintain historic building facades, like the Trapp & Holbrook and the Freemasons Hall, which is currently being transformed into a new residential development.

 

Vancouverites are attracted to New West

The City is working with developers like Robert Fung to preserve historic facades such as the Trapp + Holbrook condo tower on Columbia Street.

Vancouverites are buying in New West.

An architect’s rendering of a new residential development being built behind the preserved facade of the New Westminster Mason’s Hall on Agnes Street.

 

With the pressures of growth, New West is looking at finalizing a new Official Community Plan in June (check out the 25 year vision at: OUR CITY 2041), that will introduce higher density in certain neighbourhoods and laneway houses throughout the city.

The city is growing conservatively without losing its identity, says Garbutt. It’s being proactive about managing that growth. That’s attracting new businesses and new residents. Especially from Vancouver.

 

Housing market waking from seasonal slumber

Winter may be hanging on tenaciously, but the housing market is waking from its seasonal slumber.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reports 2,425 residential home sales in February; that’s 59.2 per cent more than were sold the month before.

And while it’s still 41.9 per cent less than the record 4,172 homes that were sold in February, 2016, it’s only slightly less than the 10-year average for the month.

REBGV president Dan Morrison says rotten weather may have helped keep buyers at home. But the supply of new listings is also tight. The 3,666 new properties for sale in February was 36.9 per cent less than a year ago, and 11.4 per cent fewer than January. It was also the lowest number of new listings for the month since 2003.

That’s keeping prices buoyant in the local housing market, says Morrison.

“While home sales are not happening at the pace we experienced last year, home seller supply is still struggling to keep up with today’s demand,” says Morrison. “This is why we’ve seen little downward pressure on home prices, particularly in the condominium and townhome markets.”

The ratio of sales to active listings actually increased 10 per cent from January to 31.9 per cent; experts say housing prices don’t start going down until that ratio dips below 12 per cent for a sustained period and they go up when the ratio stays greater than 20 per cent over several months.

Condo sales strong in local housing market

Condo sales are still hot in the housing market

Condo sales are still hot in the New Westminster and Burnaby housing market, despite the wintry weather.

In fact, the benchmark price for a typical condo in Greater Vancouver increased 2.7 per cent in February to $526,500. In New West, the benchmark price for a condo went up 1.4 per cent to $392,400; that’s a 21.3 per cent increase over a year ago. The benchmark price for condos also increased in Burnaby, by as much as 2.6 per cent to $503,600 in North Burnaby, to 1.9 per cent in South Burnaby, where a typical condo now goes for $561,600.

The benchmark price for townhomes in Greater Vancouver is now $675,500, a 1.3 per cent increase since January and 18.3 per cent more than Feb., 2016. New West townhomes experienced similar increases to a benchmark of $545,500 while in North Burnaby, the benchmark price increased 3.1 per cent over the previous month to $539,500.

House prices are staying steady; in Greater Vancouver the benchmark price of $1,474,200 for a single-family detached home was unchanged from January. In New West, the benchmark price for a typical house went up .3 per cent in February to $1,026,700 while increases in Burnaby ranged from .1 per cent in the South to $1,636,100 to a 1.3 per cent jump in North Burnaby to a benchmark price of $1,499,600.

The February stats

The winter that won’t quit

We thought we were done with winter.

We thought it was safe to start thinking about crocuses…

The mounds of snow and ice from a series of snowstorms in December had finally melted away when winter returned.

It’s been an exceptional season in these parts. We’re usually lucky to get away with one or two snowfalls through the season. And they’re quickly washed away by relentless rain.

But this year the cold and snow have stuck around. That’s made it tough for people to get around, navigating sidewalks that haven’t been shovelled, searching for parking in lots shrunken by sky-high piles of ploughed snow and ice.

It’s also created challenges for real estate. Photos of new listings can date pretty quickly when they’re shot through snowdrifts. We’ve got to remember to pack shovels to clear walkways when we’re hosting open houses.

There's been a lot of extra work in this winter that won't quit

Shovelling a path through the snow to an open house is all in a realtor’s day’s work this winter.

 

On the upside, sleds that were purchased years ago are finally out of storage, we’ve actually been able to skate on outdoor, natural ice (for a few days at least), the skiing has been fabulous and our familiar surroundings have taken on a whole new beauty.

So cozy up to the fireplace, snuggle into your favourite blanket and enjoy this stroll through our latest blast of winter. We’ve endured the cold so you don’t have to!

Metro Vancouver real estate has “lukewarm start”

Metro Vancouver real estate hasn’t exactly started the new year like a house on fire.

“From a real estate perspective, it’s a lukewarm start to the year compared to 2016,” said Dan Morrison, the president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

That’s creating some opportunities for buyers who had decided to step aside from last spring’s market madness.

In fact, prices for detached homes have declined about seven per cent since July, said Morrison. “Conditions with the market vary depending on property type. The townhome and condominium markets are more active than the detached market at the moment.”

That’s been our experience. Townhomes and condos are selling quickly. Some are commanding offers greater than their listed price. Detached houses are staying on the market longer.

True to form, sellers are waking from their usual December doldrums. New listings of detached homes, townhomes and condos increased 215.5 per cent over the end of 2016. There were 4,140 new listings in January, but only 1,312 in December.

Overall, there are 7,238 homes currently listed for sale in Metro Vancouver, 9.1 per cent more than a year ago.

Sales of detached homes in January were down 57.6 per cent from a year ago. Condo sales dipped 24.7 per cent and townhouse sales went down 32.4 per cent.

That’s helped nudge the ratio of sales to active listings to 21 per cent, the lowest since January, 2015. Analysts say housing prices start to feel downward pressure when the ratio goes below 12 per cent for a sustained period.

House prices down in Metro Vancouver real estate market

The benchmark price for a typical detached home in Metro Vancouver has gone down 6.6 per cent over the last six months to $1,474,800. It’s also dipped slightly for townhomes to $666,500. That’s .4 per cent less than it was six months ago, but it is .7 per cent more than it was in December.

For condo apartments in Metro Vancouver, the benchmark price has increased .3 per cent over the past six months to $512,300. In New Westminster, the benchmark price for a condo is up 5 per cent over the last six months to $387,700. For condos in North Burnaby it’s gone up 6.3 per cent to $490,800.

REBGV stats for Metro Vancouver real estate market in January

Who’s buying a home in New Westminster?

We’re always curious about who’s buying a home in New Westminster.

After all, we don’t just work in New Westminster, we also live and play here.

It’s important for our clients, and for us, to have a handle on how the city is changing and how those changes might affect the local real estate market.

Whenever we hold an open house, we ask visitors where they’re from. The majority are usually local, mostly curious neighbours. But as we started tracking the numbers, we were seeing more and more people coming to our open houses from Vancouver. In fact, through Oct. 2016, 22 per cent of visitors to our open houses were from Vancouver.

When we looked at actual sales last year, the trends were even more definitive.

For detached single-family homes, 51 per cent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver, suggesting their clients likely are as well. For condos, 36 per cent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver. The next biggest source was from Coquitlam. But New Westminster residents who’ve chosen to stay in the city were close behind.

Infographic of who is buying a home in New Westminster

Who is buying a home in New Westminster

Overall statistics of who is buying a home in New Westminster

Overall 39 per cent of the buyers’ agents were from Vancouver.

It’s not surprising, really.

As real estate prices spiralled upward through the first half of 2016, Vancouver homeowners were cashing out and looking for value by buying a home in New Westminster.

Buying a home in New Westminster is affordable

New home buyers who can no longer afford Vancouver are looking for a place that fits their budget but still offers them the amenities of the big city they desire.

Like Justin Turcotte. The 29-year-old filmmaker and his wife, Jaycey, moved to New Westminster last year from East Vancouver. They bought a home in Sapperton because they could afford it, something they could no longer do west of Tenth Avenue.

Buying a home in New Westminster is an affordable alternative to Vancouver for many

Justin Turcotte, 29, takes a break from gardening in front of the home he and his wife, Jaycey, bought in New Westminster a year ago. The couple discovered the city when they could no longer afford to buy in Vancouver, where they’d lived the past six years.

 

But moving to New West hasn’t cost them the urban vibe they loved in East Van, says Turcotte. “It really doesn’t feel like a suburb.”

New Westminster is no longer a secret. The city is centrally-located, there’s a great sense of community and, quite frankly, it’s the most affordable community to buy into that’s within 30 minutes of downtown Vancouver.

Even people who grew up here are appreciating the value of buying a home in New Westminster.

Anna Horvath considered moving to Gastown, Chinatown and Mount Pleasant in Vancouver when she was shopping for her first home before she realized there’s no place like her hometown. She ended up buying a condo in the Trapp + Holbrook on Columbia Street.

Unique buildings are attracting people buying a home in New Westminster

New condo projects like Robert Fung’s Trapp + Holbrook on Columbia Street are helping make New Westminster more attractive to young urban professionals who’ve been priced out of the Vancouver market.

“The area needed to have a sense of community,” she says. “I wanted it to be on a transit line and no bridges between my place and the downtown core. I did not want to spend most of my disposable income on a mortgage.”

Anna’s thrift is well founded; a two bedroom, two bathroom condo that’s between 800 and 900 square feet, in a five to 10 year-old building, will cost a little over half in Downtown New West than it would in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood.

Buying a home in New Westminster is more affordable

But this new demographic of young professionals buying a home in New Westminster does create some challenges for British Columbia’s oldest city, says its mayor, Jonathan Coté.

“It certainly does present a challenge to be able to anticipate that services are in line with the growing population and demand,” says Coté.

To meet that challenge, the city embarked on a three-year process to update its Official Community Plan, a kind of road map for growth that was last visited in the 1990s. New Westminster’s population is expected to exceed 104,000 by 2041.

“The Official Community Plan is definitely a document that guides us how the city will transform,” says Coté. “The timing is perfect for a city in our stage of growth that is starting to become attractive.”

But to manage the city’s growth, it needs a variety of housing options, and the infrastructure like schools, transportation, recreation, culture and jobs, says Coté.

Attracting families buying a home in New Westminster

One key component is the city’s new Family-Friendly Housing Policy.

It was sparked by a 2015 City of New Westminster supply analysis that ranked New West 21st out of 22 Metro Vancouver communities for ground-oriented housing and 20th for housing options with three bedrooms that are more family-friendly.

But the need for family housing is growing. Census data from 2011 shows an 11 per cent increase in the number of families living in New Westminster compared to 2006. Of neighbouring communities, only Surrey and Coquitlam saw a larger jump, and BC’s overall increase was just 6 percent.

Matt Lorenzi and his family know the frustration of buying a home in New Westminster.

Matt Lorenzi says he searched for more than a year to find a condo in New Westminster that could accommodate his family of four.

Matt Lorenzi knows the frustration of finding a family home in New Westminster only too well. He spent about a year searching for a new, larger home that could accommodate his growing family, his budget, and his desire to stay centrally-located in the Lower Mainland as well as close to transit.

“We wanted more space, something as modest as a third bedroom or spacious den,” says Lorenzi, whose family of four could no longer fit into their one bedroom plus den apartment. “We knew the supply of three-bedroom condos was limited. But we didn’t really realize it until we started our search.”

After a series of consultations with residents and builders, the City brought in a new bylaw that mandates new multi-family projects must dedicate at least 30 per cent of the units to two and three bedrooms with at least 10 per cent of the total comprised of three-bedroom units.

New multi-family rental buildings must also include a minimum 25 per cent two and three-bedroom units, with at least five per cent of the total comprised of three-bedrooms or more.

The bylaw, the first of its kind in British Columbia, came into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

So far developers have been receptive, says John Stark, New Westminster’s acting manager of planning. “There is a realization in the development community that three-bedroom units appeal to a wider market segment, like extended families and young professionals looking at shared living arrangements.”

In fact, says Stark, some projects that have been submitted by builders in the past year are even exceeding the mandated requirements for two and three-bedroom units. One of those is a new condo development planned for 100 Braid St.; 26.1 percent of its units will be two-bedrooms and 13.5 percent will have three bedrooms.

Stark credits an ongoing dialogue with developers as well as some key compromises, like not requiring the third bedroom to require direct light from a window, for the smooth transition. He says the city is committed to gauging the ongoing success of the bylaw and adjusting it if necessary.

“We’re still in the early days,” says Stark.

That gives Lorenzi hope his family will be able to stay in New West, even as their living requirements change. After flirting briefly with the idea of moving to Port Moody or elsewhere, they were able to find a suitable condo in Victoria Hill

“Over the eight or nine years prior to moving (to Victoria Hill) we grew to love New West,” says Lorenzi. “The city should encourage a mix of housing, especially larger units for growing families.”

Buying a home in New Westminster “the right choice”

Justin Turcotte says he’s confident moving to New West was the right choice.

“It took a bit of warming up to the idea of living so far from Vancouver,” says Turcotte. “We’re discovering new things about the city and have been pretty impressed by what we’ve seen so far. I definitely still think that it’s only going to improve and offer more.”

Anna Horvath says she’s also feeling good about her decision to stay in New West, close to family and the friends she grew up with.

“It ticks most of the boxes.”

 

A version of this article was commissioned for Tenth to the Fraser magazine, where it appears in the February, 2017 edition.

Premier says 15 per cent tax on foreign home buyers will ease

BC Premier Christy Clark says the 15 per cent tax on foreign home buyers in Metro Vancouver will soon no longer apply to some buyers.

Foreign buyers with temporary work permits that allow them to work and live in British Columbia will no longer have to pay the tax, said Clark on Sunday. She made the statement to reporters while she was marching in Vancouver’s Lunar New Year parade, but the government has yet to release a formal announcement or a timeline when the change might happen.

“We believe the best and the brightest should be able to come to B.C.,” Clark told reporters.

The tax on foreign home buyers in Metro Vancouver was implemented on Aug. 2 as a way to temper housing prices the government said had risen out of reach of many locals because of wealthy foreign buyers.

“We need to make sure that we do everything we can to try and keep houses affordable,” said Clark when she first introduced the tax.

The chilling effect of the tax was felt almost immediately.

From June 10, when the government started tracking foreign buyers, to Aug. 1, foreign buyers accounted for more than 13 per cent of home purchases in Metro Vancouver. After the tax kicked in, the BC government reported only .9 per cent of Metro Vancouver homes sold in August went to foreign buyers.

A host of other government interventions like changes to mortgage rules and qualifications for mortgage insurance may have contributed to the 2.2 per cent drop in the benchmark price of a typical home in Metro Vancouver over the last half of 2016.

Mortgage insurance premiums going up

Mortgage insurance premiums from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will be increasing March 17.

For the average homeowner whose mortgage is insured by CMHC, that could mean an increase in their monthly mortgage payment of about $5 on a $250,000 loan with a downpayment between 5% and 9.99%. The increase applies to new mortgage applications received after March 17. The premium for current mortgages or applications that are submitted before March 17 won’t be increased.

What the increases in mortgage insurance premiums means for monthly mortgage payments

A sample chart provided by CMHC shows what the increases to mortgage insurance premiums will mean for monthly mortgage payments.

 

“We do not expect the higher premiums to have a significant impact on the ability of Canadians to buy a home,” said Steven Mennill, the senior vice-president of insurance at CMHC. “Overall, the changes will preserve competition in the mortgage loan insurance industry and contribute to financial stability.”

CMHC is a Crown corporation that is the largest provider of mortgage insurance in the country.

Private insurer also raising mortgage insurance premiums

Canada’s largest private mortgage insurer, Genworth, is matching the CMHC premium hikes.

“We believe this new pricing is prudent and reflects the new regulatory capital framework for mortgage insurers,” said Stuart Levings, the president and CEO of Genworth Canada.

The increase is necessary because new rules that came into effect on Jan. 1 require banks and insurers to hold more capital against the value of the mortgages they’re holding. It’s also the latest in a suite of changes to mortgage rules implemented last fall by the federal government to help temper the furious housing market in some parts of the country, including Metro Vancouver.

Mortgage insurance is required by Canadian law whenever a homeowner’s down payment on a home purchase is less than 20 per cent of its total price. The premium can be paid in a lump sum, but it’s more typically added to the mortgage principal and repaid as part of a homeowner’s regular mortgage payments. The insurance protects lenders in case borrowers default on their loans.