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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

New Westminster Housing Market Update May 2017

MARKET UPDATE BY NEW WESTMINSTER REALTOR JAMES GARBUTT

May is here and it’s time for another New Westminster housing market update.

It’s been a bit of a crazy year, it started off with a lot of snow, followed by a lot of rain, which delayed everything and affected the number of sales that have taken place. In fact, numbers are down considerably. The number of sales of detached homes in New Westminster to date is 62. At this time last year, that number was 186–that’s essentially a third of the number of sales compared to last year and about half the number of sales compared to 2015. Not surprising considering the weather and considering everything that’s happened lately, and, openly, there just hasn’t been a lot of product and a lot of overpriced listings have been sitting on the market.

The sales ratio is the sales-to-active listings ratio or the number of sales that take place in a given month divided by the number of active listings. The sales ratio for detached homes in New Westminster is 30% across the board. That means, that of ten listings, 3 of them sell in a given month. Anything north of 21% is considered a seller’s market, so the market still is strong. Isolating the ratio to focus mainly on a lower price point, say detached homes under $1.2 million, the sales ratio goes from 30% to 70%. That means the out of 10 listings, 7 of them are selling in a given month, and that is a very strong seller’s market. So there’s clear demand for the more affordable price points.

The average detached home sold this year is going for $1.125 million and the average high sales of the year is $2.3 million; but there were two sales north of $2.2 million, both in ‘Queens Park‘.

The REBGV has shown that prices for detached homes in New Westminster have gone up 8% from this time last year; but we’re finding that, for nice family layouts, in a good location, in good shape, in the more affordable price bracket, they’re up about 10%. The busy street homes, the ones that have the land value, are struggling a bit; they’re at par with April of last year or maybe even a little bit below.

Moving forward, I expect the market activity to increase quite a bit; I think sales are just starting to ramp up and that the summer is going to be a busy one. Talk about things such as coach homes for lots over 6000sqft has held back a lot of the inventory as owners wait to see what happens. But, the weather is getting better and the supply is low and the demand is high, so if you are a homeowner and you’re thinking of selling, now is the time to do so.

Full Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver Stat Package for April 2017

If you’re thinking of buying, selling or just curious about the value of a property, contact us today!

Contact Us Today

James Garbutt
Greater Vancouver Realtor

10 Great Questions to Ask a Realtor When Selling Your Home

A great Realtor can make the difference between a good or bad experience when you’re selling your home. But before you sign a listing contract, here are 10 great questions to ask a Realtor when selling your home.

1. How many properties have you sold? How many did you sell last year?

Most people instantly focus on years in the business, but your Realtor’s sales volume is just as important; one agent can sell as many homes in two years than others do in 10. A Realtor with a healthy volume of sales in the local market in the past year is likely more in tune with that market.

But don’t just focus on the numbers; you should also feel comfortable with your Realtor.

2. What types of properties have you sold lately?

This will help you determine your Realtor’s focus and performance, whether they’ve had success selling similar types of products, and in your area. Ask for proven results, such as the average number of days their listings are on the market, the ratio of their list prices to actual sale prices. What about listings that aren’t selling; a Realtor who openly discusses their failures demonstrates honesty.

3. Who is the buyer and where are they coming from?

Your Realtor’s knowledge and experience with the local market will help them market your home to potential buyers and highlight the features that will be important to them. It’s important for your Realtor to know their target market for your home, whether it’s young families, downsizers, locals or buyers from out of town.

4. What is your marketing strategy for my home?

This is where the rubber hits the road, and your Realtor will earn their commission. Your home is likely your largest investment; it needs to be marketed well from the beginning if you’re going to realize a good return on that investment. It’s important your home presents well and buyers are aware of it.

Top 10 questions to ask a Realtor when selling your home

Your Realtor should know how to present your home at its best, including professional photos.

 

In a hot market, just putting up a lawn sign might sell your home, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right strategy to get you the right price. Nice photos, a posting on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and Open Houses are a minimal expectation; but what else can your Realtor offer? Creative campaigns that include online marketing, an active presence on social media, print advertising and staging can gain extra exposure for your home.

5. What separates you from your competitors?

Here’s where you’re really asking “why should I hire you?” There’s no shortage of Realtors out there to sell your home, but what is your Realtor offering to separate them from that pack. Their marketing ability is important, but so are honesty and trust.

6. What is your recommended listing price for my home, and why?

You want an understanding of how your Realtor evaluates properties. It should be by more than guesswork, or intuition.

Their evaluation of your property should be supported by recent comparable sales in the area. A more detailed evaluation could include listings that didn’t sell, and current active listings that you’re competing against.

If your home is difficult to evaluate because there’s been no recent comparable sales against which to measure it, a creative Realtor will look at similar properties outside the neighbourhood, or in similar neighbourhoods. Or they could use a “replacement cost” approach where they calculate the land value plus the cost of rebuilding the actual home.

Your Realtor’s pricing strategy for your home should align with your needs. If the market is hot and you have to sell quickly or you have specific requirements for the offer, such as a specific closing date, we typically recommend a lower price as it will generate more interest, more offers and cleaner offers that meet your terms. If the market is slow, or you have a unique property that could limit the pool of potential buyers, it may be best to price your home higher with room to negotiate; trying to set a price to spark a bidding war could be risky is these circumstances.

7. How do you, or your team, operate?

You want to know your Realtor is going to be there for you when you need them. It’s important to understand how communication will be handled, and who will be your primary contact. You want to know who will be showing your property and who is going to be handling the negotiations with buyers; you don’t want any surprises.

8. How much do you charge?

Commission fees are determined by your Realtor and they are negotiable. If a Realtor is hungry for a listing, they may reduce their fee. But top-performing Realtors typically don’t.

There are many different types of fee structures out there, from flat fee listing services to discount brokerages to full service brokerages. Whichever you choose, you should establish how much they charge, and how much of that goes to the buyer’s agent. Make sure the commission for the buyer’s agent is in line with the rates prevalent in your area.

9. What if I’m not happy with your service?

This question will help you determine a Realtor’s level of commitment to you and how strongly they believe in their ability to get you a good result.

If, for some reason, you’re unhappy with their service, you need to know if they’ll release you from the listing contract and how. There are two ways to terminate a listing: Cancellation vs. Unconditional Release. The former has restrictions that could affect your ability to move on; the latter releases you freely with no further obligation. Most listing contracts run for 3-4 months, but contracts for luxury properties can run up to 12 months.

10. What else do I need to know?

One of the questions to ask a Realtor when selling your home should be open-ended. That gives them a chance to highlight a unique service they might offer, like staging, or to speak to areas you might have overlooked. That extra little tidbit of information could be the tipping point to your decision.

Bonus…

Requesting references is one of the questions to ask a Realtor when selling your home that is sometimes overlooked. But keep in mind, if you are given references they’ll likely all be good. To get a more complete picture of your Realtor, do a little online research prior to your first meeting. See what properties they have recently sold, then ask for references from those clients specifically. If they have online and social media presence, see what people are saying about them, check their reviews and how they engage with others. See what they are doing to stay in front of buyers on a daily basis.

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

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. They should be a good listener who will offer advice and help find solutions.

More helpful blogs for sellers

10 Reasons to Hire a Realtor

Best Time of Year to Sell a Home

Get Buyers to Fall in Love With Your Home

7 Tips to Help Your Home Look Great in Photos

 

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.

 

Top 8 Questions to Ask When Buying In Older Condo Buildings

Some older condo buildings age better than others, depending on the quality of the original construction as well as the care and attention paid by the strata to maintenance and repairs.

So if you’re considering buying into older condo buildings, here are eight questions you should ask to avoid any expensive surprises once you’ve settled into your new home.

1. Has the plumbing been redone?

Galvanized steel plumbing was widely used before the 1970s; but it’s heavy and not very durable. Once the zinc coating inside starts to break down, the pipes are prone to rust. That can cause blockages or even breaks.

Copper plumbing is also popular in older condo buildings. It can last 50 years or more. But the lead-based solder that used to be used to join pipes and fixtures could eventually leach into your water.

Older condo buildings constructed from the late 1970s to the mid 90s could use polybutylene pipes. The plastic is cheap, light and easy to work with, but its lifespan is only 20 years.

It’s possible plumbing systems in older condo buildings have all three types of pipes, as repairs and replacements have been done over the years. If you see references to pin hole leaks in the minutes of strata council meetings, it’s a good sign the plumbing is nearing the end of its life and may be due for replacement.

2. How old is the roof?

Tar and gravel roofs last 15-20 years. An asphalt roof should last 20-25 years. If the answer to your question is close to those numbers, you may have to put room in your budget for your share of the cost of replacing that roof.

3. How old is the boiler?

A commercial gas-fired hot water boiler should last 10-15 years, but it could last longer if it’s been well-maintained.

4. Have the balconies been redone?

This likely isn’t a concern in older condo buildings constructed of concrete. But if the balcony is constructed of wood or vinyl, it could begin deteriorating after 15 years.

Older condo buildings can be a great buy because you usually get more space for your money.

The condition of balconies in older condo buildings shouldn’t be a worry if they’re concrete.

 

5. Are there any issues with the parkade membrane?

Water leaking into parkades can be a common problem in older condo buildings. It happens when cracks form in the structure because of settling, poor construction or maintenance, or just wear and tear.

Fixing a leaky parkade can be expensive.

6. Has the elevator been upgraded?

We’ve learned to take elevators for granted; we push the button, they take us to the floor where we want to go. But elevators wear out; all that up-and-down, opening and closing of the doors, pushing call buttons, takes a toll.

An elevator should last 20-25 years but could endure longer if they’ve been regularly maintained.

7. Has the building’s exterior been upgraded?

This question is often dependant on how older condo buildings were designed and built.

If the building is constructed of concrete, with large roof overhangs that prevent rainwater from hitting the exterior, the risk of a leaky building is minimal.

But if the building’s exterior is made of stucco or wood, and it’s exposed to the elements without protection from roof overhangs, you need to check if it has been rainscreened.

What Is Rainscreen?

8. Does the building have a depreciation report?

In 2013, the BC government mandated depreciation reports for every strata with more than four lots. The report is prepared by qualified architects or engineers who are able to assess and determine the short and long term health of the building and its upkeep schedule as well as anticipated costs. The report must be updated every three years.

Strata Documents You Should Read Before You Buy

Reading a depreciation report for older condo buildings can be intimidating; the maintenance schedules are usually pretty proactive and the dollar figures are high. But it’s how the building’s strata council reacts to that report that really matters; is it putting money aside early to deal with upcoming major expenses, does it address minor issues in a timely manner so they don’t snowball into bigger issues?

Older condo buildings can be a great value

Older condo buildings can offer tremendous value. You’re not paying for the flashy marketing campaigns of new developments. A lot of potential problems will have already been worked out. The strata has experience. And units were bigger in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, so you’ll likely get more space for your dollar.

More useful blogs if you’re shopping for a condo

Understanding Strata Fees

Strata Documents You Should Read Before You Buy

10 Tips For The First Time Home Buyer

What is Rainscreen?

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

10 Ways a Good Realtor Can Help

When you’re selling or buying a home, it can be tempting to go it alone. After all, it doesn’t cost anything to post your house, or search for one, on Craigslist. But there are plenty of good reasons to hire a Realtor.

1. One of the best reasons to hire a Realtor is to take the emotion out of such a large financial transaction. Owning a home isn’t just a monetary commitment, it’s also an emotional investment. You may have raised your family in your home, created cherished memories. Or you may be looking for a home to raise a family and all the hopes and dreams that come with that.

A Realtor brings an objective perspective to the process that can help you stay focussed on your goals. They’re able to use their experience and training to offer an honest evaluation of a home’s financial worth. They will analyze the local market, including recent sales of comparable homes in the area, to determine a correct price for your home. The correct price will attract buyers if you’re selling your home. It will help you decide if you’re getting good value when you’re buying a home.

2. A Realtor is essentially a marketer. Their product is your home. They know how to show it off at its best, from arranging professional photographs, to writing evocative descriptions to offering suggestions for improvements or renovations. They’ll hit the right emotional chords for prospective buyers.

One of the reasons to hire Realtor is their marketing ability

A Realtor will ensure your home looks its best for potential buyers.

 

3. A Realtor is able to list your home on the Multiple Listing Service. That’s a national database of properties for sale that is accessible to other Realtors who may be looking for the perfect home for their clients. Getting your home of the MLS increases its exposure to potential buyers.

Conversely, if you’re looking for a home, a Realtor’s access to the MLS can alert them to a listed property that fits your needs and budget.

4. Another of the great reasons to hire a Realtor is to gain access to their entire network of clients and other Realtors. A Realtor’s client base may already include a potential buyer for your home. Or someone who has a home for sale that you may be interested in.

5. Buying or selling a home is a complicated process that involves a lot of legal paperwork. A Realtor will help you navigate that process, including recommending lawyers and notaries who will ensure everything is on the up-and-up. They’ll ensure deadlines are met and documents are filed.

6. Buying or selling a home can be time consuming. A Realtor is able to invest that time on your behalf. That includes arranging showings, hosting open houses, creating a marketing campaign. A Realtor can gauge the seriousness of potential buyers, and the motivation of sellers, so you’re not wasting time and energy chasing every lead.

One of the best reasons to hire a Realtor is their skill and knowledge to show your home.

When you hire a realtor they will help prepare your home to show it at its best.

7. Realtors are skilled negotiators. Their knowledge of current market conditions is one of the important reasons to hire a Realtor. They will help ensure you get a fair price for your home, or pay a fair price for a home you’re buying. While they act on your instructions and must inform you of any offers they receive for your home, they can also offer guidance on how to proceed.

8. Realtors know the area. They know if a home is priced right for the market and whether that home might be a food fit for a client’s lifestyle needs and desires. They know about potential new developments in the area, or other factors that could impact your lifestyle or the value of your home. They can bring you up to speed on local bylaws, taxes and utility costs.

9. Realtors are accountable. They must abide by a strict code of professional ethics and follow procedures set out by the Real Estate Services Act. Violations can be investigated and disciplined by their local Real Estate Board.

10. Realtors are current. Their education is ongoing. As a condition of membership in their local Real Estate Board in B.C., they must complete courses every two years that keep them up-to-date with new information, legal requirements and trends in the industry.

More useful blogs if you’re planning to buy or sell a home

Top 8 Questions to Ask If You’re Buying a Condo in an Older Building

Creating Curb Appeal

Top 10 Questions a Buyer Should Ask Their Realtor

Strata Documents You Should Read Before You Buy

How Realtors Price a Home

Best Time of Year to Buy a Home

Best Time of Year to Sell a Home

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

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.