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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

7 exterior spring maintenance tips for your home

It may be hard to believe, but spring is just around the corner! (In fact, some might say it should have been here already!) And after such a rough winter, you can be sure there’s going to be some exterior spring maintenance for your home you’ll want to attend to as the temperatures warm up!

1. Roof: Inspect your roof. With all the snow and ice we had this year, you want to make sure your roof weathered the weather! If you’re uncomfortable with climbing a ladder, stand back and scan your roof with binoculars. Look for cracked or missing shingles, and a buildup of debris.

Cleaning the roof of debris is part of exterior spring maintenance.

Leaves and needles left on the roof can eventually damage the shingles.

 

2. Gutters: Check the gutters (Yes, this exterior spring maintenance tip will require climbing a ladder). Look for damage like cracks or gaps in seams. Clean out debris like leaves and pine needles. Run water from a hose to make sure there’s no leaks and the downspout is draining properly.

Some exterior spring maintenance will require climbing a ladder

Climb a ladder to check the gutters and clean them of leaves and other debris that may have accumulated through the stormy winter and fall.

 

3. Siding:  Clean the siding. That will prevent mould from taking hold. If the exterior of your home is wood, inspect it for weathering and peeling paint because those could invite rot. Touch up and repaint as needed. If your home is brick, look for cracks in the mortar where water may have penetrated and expanded and contracted as it froze and thawed. If you can slide a coin into a crack, it needs to be fixed. The same applies to your foundation.

4. Windows and doors: Inspect the seals and caulking around windows and doors. Scrape out any old, deteriorating caulk and then recaulk.

5. Decks, stairs and porches: Check them for damage or deterioration like loose planks or broken railings. Wood that is exposed to the elements should be treated and resealed every 4-6 years. If your deck or patio is stone or concrete, clean off the winter’s grime and check for debris and plant growth between the stones. Hosing it off will also give you a chance to check for settling that may allow water to pool or not drain properly.

Exterior spring maintenance includes cleaning the deck.

Inspect and clean the deck as part of your annual exterior spring maintenance.

 

Once the deck or patio is clean, bring out the patio furniture from storage and get it ready for the outdoor season. After all, those lazy sunny afternoons in the lounger are going to be your payoff for your exterior spring maintenance.

Check your driveway

6. Driveway. You know all those potholes in the streets that have been rattling your teeth? They’re caused by water penetrating the asphalt and expanding then contracting during freezes and thaws. We had no shortage of those this winter. So, as part of your exterior spring maintenance for your home, check your driveway for growing cracks and fissures. You’ll want to seal any cracks you find so they don’t get bigger and become a real problem.

7. The Yard. Rake the grass of fallen leaves and branches. Clean dead flowers and shrubs from the gardens. Trim back bushes and trees. Drain planters of any standing water, or they could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. And don’t forget to check all those outdoor garden tools like the lawnmower, so they’re ready to go when the serious gardening season hits full stride.

Try not to think of exterior spring maintenance as a chore. As the weather warms up and dries up, it’s a nice way to get outside, commune with your home, maybe even trade winter survival stories with your neighbours. Enjoy!

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

Creating Curb Appeal That Sells!

You may not be able to judge a book by it’s cover, but a big part of selling or buying a home is the first impression it makes when you first see it from the street. That’s curb appeal.

If a home makes a good first impression, potential buyers will be enticed to check out the inside, see how it fits their needs and lifestyle. A home with an attractive exterior could also be worth more.

But these days, curb appeal means a lot more than how a home looks to passersby on the sidewalk or in their car. It starts online.

Creating online curb appeal

For most home buyers, the first curb is their computer monitor or mobile device. They’re likely to check a listing online before they take the time to see it in person. That means it has to look good in photographs.

While a skilled photographer can avoid a property’s faults by their choice of angle, composition and lighting, if the reality doesn’t live up to buyers’ expectations from the photos, they may just drive on by. So the work you do to make your home look good in photos will also give it good curb appeal.

Giving your home great curb appeal

A house with great curb appeal will attract buyers.

Curb appeal isn’t just how your home looks to passersby, but also how it looks in photos that are posted online.

 

Creating great curb appeal starts with a good cleaning. That includes decluttering the yard of neglected toys, furniture and decorative implements that may have seen better days. Clean all the windows and consider renting a power washer to scrub grime from your home’s exterior. If needed, touch up trim like shutters, doors and railings with a coat of new paint. A little pop of colour can go a long way to making a home look fresh.

Once the yard is clean, make it neat by cutting and weeding the lawn, trimming trees and hedges and taming gardens. Plant fresh flowers.

Look up. A home’s great curb appeal can be ruined by a dilapidated roof. That’s a red flag to prospective buyers that expensive repairs or replacement could be in their future. So clean off fallen foliage and stray frisbees. Repair loose or missing shingles and eaves. If your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, consider getting an assessment by a roofing professional, then attending to their recommendations.

Turn the lights on. Replace exterior bulbs that have burned out. Repair or replace broken fixtures, maybe even add some new ones to brighten your home’s curb appeal at dusk or night. While potential buyers may never see your home at night, attention to small details sends a message that a home has been well cared-for.

Other ideas to improve your home’s curb appeal

  •  Replace outdated hardware on doors and windows.
  •  Replace your old mailbox, or give it a fresh coat of paint.
  •  Paint the front door. A pop of colour on your front door can completely transform your home’s curb appeal, make it more eye-catching.
  •  Refinish decks and porches.
  •  Repave, or at least reseal, the driveway.
A great looking patio will help a home's curb appeal

Creating curb appeal extends to every outdoor space at a home.

 

Curb appeal for strata homes

Of course, if you live in a strata condo or townhouse, much of your home’s curb appeal is out of your control. But paying close attention to detail at the outdoor areas you do control, like your patio or balcony can have a significant impact on your home’s appeal to potential buyers.

Curb appeal includes a great balcony or patio

Even if you live in a condo, you can create great curb appeal by making your balcony look great.

 

According to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary, Realtors have been pitching a home’s exterior appearance as its curb appeal since about 1975. Investing in your home’s first impression doesn’t have to be expensive; it might just involve time and toil. But it will pay off.

More useful blogs if you’re selling your home

10 Great Questions to Ask a Realtor When Selling Your Home

10 Reasons to Hire a Realtor

How Realtors Price a Home

Best Time of Year to Sell a Home

Getting Ready for an Open House

Get Buyers to Fall in Love With Your Home

7 Tips to Help Your Home Look Great in Photos

What’s hot in Greater Vancouver real estate

What’s hot in Greater Vancouver real estate? And what’s not? We’re well into the new year, we’ve settled back into familiar routines. It’s time for a little market analysis and look ahead to the coming months.

Snow and ice. A media feeding frenzy. Changes to the mortgage rules. The foreign buyers’ tax. The usual post-Christmas lull. It’s all added up to a of uncertainty, and a “lukewarm start” in the Greater Vancouver real estate market.

Sure, sales are down 39.5 per cent from last January. And there’s 9.1 per cent more listings.

But the market is stronger than it may appear.

Condos and townhouses are what’s hot in Greater Vancouver real estate

In fact, condos and townhouses are hotter than ever! They’re still selling at peak prices. They’ve been virtually unaffected by the legislative changes, or skittish buyers. We’ve already had a few recent sales that were 5-10 per cent above last summer’s spike.

Quite simply, there’s more demand for condos and townhouses for sale than there is supply. It’s the first time I can recall condos being hotter than houses.

So, if you’re looking to purchase a condo, don’t expect to find a deal. You’re going to have to jump when the right one comes up because there’s no sign they’re going to slow down in the short term.

If you’re selling a condo, it’s a great time. The provincial government’s new loan program to help first-time homebuyers with their downpayment is already driving demand. Many of those buyers are shopping for condos.

Houses are what’s not hot in Greater Vancouver real estate

The market for detached houses, on the other hand, is still cool. Especially for houses worth more than $2 million. Currently, there’s 240 of those listed for sale in Burnaby, New Westminster and the Tri-Cities. But only seven have sold.

Then again, only seven such homes sold in all of 2010.

Also feeling the pain are land value listings as builders hold off, hoping to score a deal. Difficult properties such as those with weird layouts or ones located on busy streets are presenting challenges as well.

Overall, their prices are discounted 5-10 per cent, and sometimes even as much as 20 per cent, from where they were last summer.

That’s not great news for sellers. If you’re looking to sell a high-end detached home, it might be best to hold off a little longer if you’re able; I expect the market will rebound 5-10 per cent by the time the weather warms up.

For buyers, there may be some opportunities to score a deal that would have been unattainable last summer. You could do especially well if you’re willing to throw a little sweat equity into the mix by buying a home that needs some renovation.

Of course, what’s hot in Greater Vancouver real estate, and what’s not, is always evolving. The fact remains, this is a desirable place for people to live and invest in real estate, and the general trend for property values continues to increase over time. It’s all about where and when you want to jump into or out of the market. Spring is just around the corner; traditionally that’s a busy time of year whether you’re selling or buying.

Top 10 questions a buyer should ask a Realtor

Finding a Realtor may be the most important step in your search for a new home. There are questions a buyer should ask their Realtor to make sure they’re a good fit for the way you like to do things. Your Realtor should understand your needs and desires, keep your best interests first and foremost.

Think of it as a job interview; if you like what you hear, like their qualifications and feel like they’re a good match for your needs, they’re hired.

1. What is your experience?

One of the first questions a buyer should ask their Realtor is about their experience.  Not just in terms of years, but in real estate the number of sales is just as important.

You want to make sure your Realtor has a good base of knowledge and experience in the type of properties you’re looking for, and that they’re well in tune with the current market.

If the Realtor doesn’t have much experience it’s good to know if they have any related experience or knowledge.  A background in real estate investment or construction could be a valuable resource to tap as you evaluate possible properties.

2. What is your approach to the buying process?

Does your Realtor’s way of doing things align with your own philosophy and approach. Some buyers prefer to monitor listings themselves and then just inform their Realtor to set up a showing when they find one of interest. Other buyers prefer to sit back and entrust their Realtor to do all the leg work. Make sure each of you has a clear understanding of who’s watching the market.

And be clear about your timeframe for your search; some buyers are very anxious and want to get their new home purchased quickly while others are more patient, willing to wait until they find the “perfect” place. If you’re the latter, you don’t want your Realtor pressuring you before you’re ready to buy.

3. What are your expectations from your clients?

You should know what your Realtor expects of you. Conversely, your Realtor should know what you expect of them.

Be open in all your communications with your Realtor; let them know when you’re anxious to buy, or when you might want to take a break from the search. Try to stay focussed so you, or your Realtor, aren’t expending a lot of wasted energy. Make sure your financing is in order, and you’re pre-approved for a mortgage so when the right home does come along, your Realtor can move quickly and confidently on your behalf.

Be realistic in your expectations; it may take some time to find the perfect house, or you may have to make some compromises if you need to move quickly.

4. Where do you primarily work?

A Realtor who is familiar with the community and its neighbourhoods will likely get you the best result.  If you’re looking in a specific area, that Realtor should know it well.

A knowledgable Realtor will be able to recommend neighbourhoods, and even streets, that are the best fit for your needs. They’ll be give you valuable information about schools in the neighbourhood, as well as daycares, parks and transit service.

5. What is your approach to evaluating a property?

A property evaluation, or Comparative Market Analysis, will compare a home you’re looking at to other similar homes in the area that are for sale or were sold recently. This will give you an idea of the local market conditions and what it will take to purchase the home you seek in the area you desire.

You should ascertain your Realtor’s approach to doing their evaluation; how detailed are the evaluations? A generic condo can be easy to evaluate, especially if there have been recent sales above or below. But evaluating a unique home can be quite difficult as there’s little to compare it with.

A skilled Realtor will be able to evaluate a property’s value with confidence and accuracy. They’ll look at similar properties outside the neighbourhood, as well as in similar neighbourhoods. Or they could use a replacement cost approach that calculates the value of the land and what it would cost to build a comparable home.

If a Realtor doesn’t provide you with any guidance and just wants to hear your offer, you may want to find another Realtor.

6. Are you part of a team, or do you work independently?

One of the questions a buyer should ask a Realtor is whether they work as part of a team.

One of the questions a buyer should ask a Realtor is whether they work as part of a team.

 

You want to know whether the Realtor you’re dealing with is going to be there for you when you need them or whether you’ll be tapping into a team of Realtors. Make sure you have a clear understanding of who is your primary contact and who is the backup if your Realtor isn’t available. If your Realtor doesn’t have a backup, establish a contingency for when they’re not available; the perfect property could come along at any time and you want to know you can jump on it.

7. How many clients are you currently working with?

This may give you an idea how much time and energy your Realtor will have available for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Keep in mind the references the Realtor provides will likely be their best and happiest clients so try to dig a little deeper by asking around the community or other people who’ve recently bought or sold a home. Search their name on Google and Facebook, check out their profile on LinkedIn.

8. What happens after I buy?

A great Realtor will be there for you if there are any issues before, during and, especially, after the purchase, such as the seller not fulfilling their end of the contract, or leaving the place in a shambles. They’ll also be available to help you settle in, perhaps recommend professionals and trades to help with any renovations or repairs you want to do. A Realtor who doesn’t abandon you once they’ve handed over the keys to your new home will likely be your Realtor for life.

9. What is your availability and how will you communicate?

Does your Realtor prefer phone contact, or email? How often will they update you? What hours are they available? And what happens if the right property comes along when the Realtor isn’t available?

Your Realtor will likely have the same questions for you.

The more you know about your Realtor’s way of operating, and vice-versa, the more likely you’ll have a good home buying experience.

10. What else do I need to know?

It’s always a good idea to ask an open-ended question to give the Realtor a chance to highlight a unique service they might offer, or speak to areas you might have overlooked. That extra little tidbit of information could be the tipping point to your decision.

Bonus question. Do you own a brewery?

If your Realtor owns a brewery, that’s a bonus!

 

This question might throw your Realtor. Unless of course they do happen to own a brewery, in which case you may end up with a particularly thirst-quenching welcome gift when you take possession of your new home!

Questions a buyer should ask their Realtor: It’s all about trust

There’s no general rule for forging a great relationship with your Realtor. It’s all about trust and personal preference.

But your Realtor should be responsive to your needs; they should be patient when you need to take a little time, and proactive when you’re anxious. Your Realtor should be a good listener who will offer advice and help find solutions. And, most importantly, your Realtor shouldn’t try to sell you into every property you view.

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

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.

Keller Williams Elite is our new home

We’ve got a new home! Garbutt + Dumas is now part of the Keller Williams Elite real estate team.

Keller Williams is a global network of realtors and real estate professionals who believe in working together to help each other and our clients achieve success in business and life. In fact, Keller Williams is the world’s largest real estate franchise, with more than 110,000 realtors operating in 700 offices in Canada, the U.S., Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa and Dubai.

That’s a lot of expertise and talent to draw upon.

The team at Keller Williams Elite is just that, a team. They understand the team model. Their support systems and commitment to training and innovation will make us more effective, able to provide an even better experience for our clients.

We’re pretty excited about the move. But that’s not all that’s new for us in this new year.

To celebrate our move to Keller Williams Elite, we’ve got a new look.

If you follow our social media channels (and, really, you should), you may have noticed our new signs being posted in front of our newest listings. As the market gets busier, you’ll also be seeing more of our signs around Metro Vancouver.

We like to think our new signs are bold and distinctive to catch the eye of passersby. But they’re still classy enough you’ll be pleased to place one on your lawn.

Garbutt + Dumas is now part of the Keller Williams Elite real estate team.

Denny posts our new sign at our first new listing of the year.

 

Finally, if you pay attention to the address bar at the top of your browser window, you may have noticed we’ve also got a new URL.

Our new site may not look that much different from the old one, but we’re building it to make it more functional and informative, even if you’re not currently in the market to buy a new home or sell your current one.

Our listings will continue to feature some of the best properties in Greater Vancouver. And now you’ll be able to easily search for properties in specific communities and neighbourhoods, as well as learn a little about what it’s like to live there. Each community page features an interactive map of its neighbourhoods where you can get familiar with amenities like parks, recreation and shopping, as well as its schools and transit information.

We also want to keep you up-to-date on everything real estate in Greater Vancouver. Our blog features timely updates on market news, issues and policies, as well as useful tips and information that will help you understand and navigate the process of buying or selling a home, or just make your life a little easier if you’re content right where you are.

After a record year in 2016, and with the support of Keller Williams Elite, our growing team at Garbutt + Dumas is poised for an even bigger 2017. But our priority will always be to provide our clients with the best service and a great experience.

Homeowner grant gets higher threshold

The BC government is raising the threshold for owners to be able to claim the homeowner grant to $1.6 million from $1.2 million.

The change means many homeowners whose recent property assessment increased the value of their home above the old threshold will still be eligible for the $570 basic homeowner grant to offset municipal property taxes on their principal residence.

“The threshold increase to $1.6 million helps ensure virtually everyone who received the grant last year will also receive it in 2017,” said Finance Minister Michael de Jong.

The threshold for the homeowner grant is going up to $1.6 million.

A higher threshold for homeowners to be eligible for a homeowner grant will help offset increases in their assessed property values.

 

The 33 per cent increase in the threshold was necessitated by 30-50 per cent jumps in assessed property values for detached single-family homes in some areas that put many homes above the previous $1.2 million threshold. In Metro Vancouver, the new threshold will keep 83 per cent of homes below the threshold and across the province 91 per cent of homes will remain eligible for the full grant.

When a home is valued above the threshold, the grant is reduced by $5 for every $1,000 of its assessed value in excess of the threshold. That means a home’s assessed value will now have to be more than $1,714,000 for its owner to completely lose their eligibility for any grant at all.

“We are doing our part to help keep housing costs affordable for families,” said de Jong.

When homeowners claim the grant to reduce their property taxes, the provincial government reimburses municipalities for the difference. The program will cost the province $821 million in 2017-18, up from $809 million last year.

  • To be eligible for the grant, a homeowner must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, living in BC, and the home must be their principal residence.
  • The basic grant is $570. For home owners in northern or rural areas, the grant is $770.
  • Homeowners who are over 65, disabled or are the surviving spouse of a veteran can receive an additional grant to reduce their property taxes by up to $845, or $1045 for residents in northern or rural areas.

Low income homeowners, or those on a fixed income who are still struggling to pay their property taxes can also apply for a deferral of all or part of their obligation. That’s a kind of low-interest loan against the equity of your home; the province pays your property tax on your behalf and you repay the loan, plus interest, at any time.

Everything you need to know about the Homeowner Grant

Municipal bylaws are rules to live by

The wintry weather we’ve all endured for the past month has focused attention on municipal bylaws about clearing snow and ice from sidewalks.

The unusual pattern of snowfall, followed by a slight thaw, followed by an extended cold snap, caught many people out. Homeowners, property managers and even city crews that didn’t clear the first snowfall right away suddenly found themselves confronted with a thick moonscape of ice, frozen slush and crusted snow on sidewalks, parking lots and even roads. That made getting around tough for cars, treacherous for pedestrians.

Municipal bylaws exist so members of community can co-exist.

Weeks of snow and cold weather can make it tough to get around. Municipal bylaws regulate when property owners have to shovel their sidewalks.

 

Municipal bylaws are a set of rules and regulations that set standards for safety, maintenance, appearance, liveability and sustainability in a community. They’re implemented so residents, businesses and visitors can enjoy the community and coexist harmoniously. One of the those rules, common to many cities, mandates when property owners must clear snow from sidewalks or foot paths bordering their property.

In New Westminster, bylaw 6.28.2 says “the owner or occupier of real property shall: remove snow and ice from any Sidewalk, transit landing and foot path bordering that person’s real property and from the roof and other part of a structure adjacent to or abutting on any portion of the Street, not later than 10:00 a.m. of the day after the snow or ice was deposited thereon.” The sidewalks must be cleared their full length and width, right down to the bare concrete; it’s not good enough to create just a shovel-wide foot path. And if you’ve got an awning that hangs over a sidewalk, it should be cleared as well.

In Burnaby, businesses have to remove accumulated snow by 10 a.m. of any day they’re open to the public and residents must clear their sidewalks “as soon as possible.”

But regulations about clearing snow are only the tip of the municipal bylaws iceberg.

Municipal bylaws affect daily life

Municipal bylaws can affect many aspects of your life, from where you can park your car, to how loud and late you can play your stereo, to how well you must care for your property and the kind of renovation work you can do on it. They can govern when and how you dispose of your garbage, how you care for your pets, and even what kind of pets you can keep.

Municipal bylaws are passed by elected councils. They’re often created to address specific issues in communities, sometimes in response to concerns and complaints from community members.

For instance, the value New Westminster residents have placed on preserving the city’s heritage homes and buildings led to the creation of a “Community Heritage Register” of those properties in 1997. It’s accompanied by a whole series of municipal bylaws that regulate how protected heritage properties must be maintained. They also set procedures owners of those properties must follow if they want to do any renovations, restorations or even just paint the exterior.

The growing concern about the loss of trees and the possible impact on climate change as well as the appearance of neighbourhoods has led many communities to pass municipal bylaws that regulate the removal of trees. Those bylaws stipulate what size and kind of trees can be removed, as well as procedures to remove those trees so other trees aren’t affected and replant new trees.

When you become a homeowner in a community, it pays to familiarize yourself with its municipal bylaws. Or rather, you won’t pay if you know the rules because then a bylaw enforcement officer won’t show up at your door with a ticket for a violation.

Where to find municipal bylaws

Busy year for Vancouver real estate

Slight price increases for detached houses, townhouses and condo apartments in New Westminster capped a busy year for Vancouver real estate.

The benchmark price for a single family detached home in New West reached $1,035,600 in December. That’s a .9 per cent increase over November and 18.7 per cent higher than December, 2015. Townhouses were up 4.6 per cent over the month prior, 20 per cent more than a year ago; and the benchmark price for condos increased .2 per cent to $380,700, 22.6 per cent more than the end of last year. Overall, the benchmark price for a typical property in New West increased .6 per cent over November, 21.2 per cent more than a year ago.

Slight price increases New Westminster in December finished a busy year for Vancouver real estate

The benchmark price for condos in New Westminster increased .2 per cent in December over the previous month.

 

The benchmark price for residential properties in South Burnaby also increased one per cent in December over November to $858,300. That’s mostly due to a 2.7 per cent bump in the price of condos in the area while townhouses and detached homes dipped slightly.

A busy year for Vancouver real estate was capped by a slight increase in the price of condos in South Burnaby

The benchmark price for condos in South Burnaby went up 2.7 per cent in December over November to end a busy year for Vancouver real estate.

 

Those increases came even though there were fewer listings and sales. They also bucked a slight downward trend across Metro Vancouver where the benchmark price for all properties dipped 1.2 per cent from November.

In North Burnaby the overall benchmark price dipped .5 per cent in December and it was down .4 per cent in East Burnaby.

A general cooling of the real estate market in the last half of 2016 wasn’t enough to keep the year from being the third-highest selling on record, said Dan Morrison, the president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. Only 2015 and 2005 recorded more property sales.

“The supply of homes for sale couldn’t keep up with home buyer demand for much of 2016,” said Morrison. “This allowed home sellers to raise their asking price.”

In fact, the benchmark price for all homes in Metro Vancouver reached $897,600 at the end of 2016, 17.8 per cent higher than December, 2015. The benchmark price for a typical single family detached home increased 18.6 per cent over the year to $1,483,500 while townhouses went up 20.4 per cent in 2016 to $661,800 and condos increased 17.3 per cent to $510,300.

Too soon to tell if 2017 will be another busy year for Vancouver real estate

Morrison said while government interventions to temper the frenzy in the local real estate market in the first six months of 2016 may have contributed to lower sales volumes and prices in the last half of the year, it’s still too soon to tell if their impact will continue to be felt into the new year.

“The long-term effects of these actions won’t be fully understood for some time,” said Morrison of the provincial foreign-buyers’ tax that was implemented in August to discourage off-shore speculators and new rules to make it tougher to qualify for a mortgage that were introduced by the federal government in the fall.

Another new measure introduced by the provincial government, a loan program to help first-time homebuyers with their down payment, begins accepting applications on Jan. 17.

Morrison said the market was under the microscope as sales and prices peaked in the late spring.

“Escalating prices caused by low supply and strong home buyer demand brought more attention to the market then ever before,” said Morrison. “As prices rose in the first half of the year, public debate waged about what was fuelling demand and what should be done to stop it. It was an eventful year for real estate in Metro Vancouver.”

All the stats from a busy year in Vancouver real estate

Wrapping-up our record year

Assessment notices hitting mailboxes

Property assessment notices for 2017 are in the mail, and some homeowners might be excused if they go a little bug-eyed in the next few days. In some parts of Greater Vancouver, assessed values have jumped 30-50 per cent for a detached single-family home, and 15-30 per cent for strata properties.

In New Westminster, assessments increased by an average of 28.48 per cent. In Burnaby the average increase over 2016 was 30.72 per cent. Assessments in Coquitlam increased by an average of 32.91 per cent; in Port Moody it was 31.49 per cent and in Port Coquitlam it was 33.86 per cent. Residential assessments in Surrey increased by an average of 36.26 per cent.

Assessment notices are in the mail and show some eye-popping increases.

Property assessments in New Westminster are up more than 28 per cent.

 

The most expensive residential property in Greater Vancouver is at 3085 Point Grey Rd. in Vancouver, with an assessed value of $75,821,000. All of the top 100 most expensive properties receiving assessment notices in the region are located in either Vancouver or West Vancouver.

Across the province, 2,017,364 properties were assessed for a total value of $1.68 trillion, a 25 per cent increase in value over 2016.

Assessment notices part of formula to set property taxes

Property assessments are set on July 1 by BC Assessment. Assessment notices are then sent to homeowners early the following January.

The agency estimates the market value of every residential, commercial and industrial property in the province based upon an analysis of current sales in the immediate area of each property, as well as its size, age, quality, condition, location and view. That information is then used by municipalities as a component for calculating property taxes, although a 30 per cent increase in assessed value doesn’t typically mean a corresponding increase in property tax. In fact, if the increase in the assessed value for a property is in line with the average increase of other properties in the community, your property tax will likely go up only by the rate set by the municipality to meet its budget.

But a property’s assessed value isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of what that property might currently sell for on the open market. Some properties sell for more than their assessed value, while others can sell for less. A month after BC Assessment set its values for this year, the BC government introduced its foreign buyers’ tax on residential property transactions in Greater Vancouver that accelerated the usual summer slowdown of prices. Subsequent initiatives by the provincial and federal governments to help address the affordability of housing further impacted sales and prices.

Homeowners who can’t wait for their property assessment notice to arrive in the mail, can check their assessment online. They can also compare their assessment to others in their neighbourhood, as well as get information on how to correct or appeal incorrect assessments.