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

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.
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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

The winter that won't quit

We thought we were done with winter.
We thought it was safe to start thinking about crocuses…
The mounds of snow and ice from a series of snowstorms in December had finally melted away when winter returned.
It’s been an exceptional season in these parts. We’re usually lucky to get away with one or two snowfalls through the season. And they’re quickly washed away by relentless rain.
But this year the cold and snow have stuck around. That’s made it tough for people to get around, navigating sidewalks that haven’t been shovelled, searching for parking in lots shrunken by sky-high piles of ploughed snow and ice.
It’s also created challenges for real estate. Photos of new listings can date pretty quickly when they’re shot through snowdrifts. We’ve got to remember to pack shovels to clear walkways when we’re hosting open houses.

There's been a lot of extra work in this winter that won't quit
Shovelling a path through the snow to an open house is all in a realtor’s day’s work this winter.

 
On the upside, sleds that were purchased years ago are finally out of storage, we’ve actually been able to skate on outdoor, natural ice (for a few days at least), the skiing has been fabulous and our familiar surroundings have taken on a whole new beauty.
So cozy up to the fireplace, snuggle into your favourite blanket and enjoy this stroll through our latest blast of winter. We’ve endured the cold so you don’t have to!

Metro Vancouver real estate has "lukewarm start"

Metro Vancouver real estate hasn’t exactly started the new year like a house on fire.
“From a real estate perspective, it’s a lukewarm start to the year compared to 2016,” said Dan Morrison, the president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).
That’s creating some opportunities for buyers who had decided to step aside from last spring’s market madness.
In fact, prices for detached homes have declined about seven per cent since July, said Morrison. “Conditions with the market vary depending on property type. The townhome and condominium markets are more active than the detached market at the moment.”
That’s been our experience. Townhomes and condos are selling quickly. Some are commanding offers greater than their listed price. Detached houses are staying on the market longer.
True to form, sellers are waking from their usual December doldrums. New listings of detached homes, townhomes and condos increased 215.5 per cent over the end of 2016. There were 4,140 new listings in January, but only 1,312 in December.
Overall, there are 7,238 homes currently listed for sale in Metro Vancouver, 9.1 per cent more than a year ago.
Sales of detached homes in January were down 57.6 per cent from a year ago. Condo sales dipped 24.7 per cent and townhouse sales went down 32.4 per cent.
That’s helped nudge the ratio of sales to active listings to 21 per cent, the lowest since January, 2015. Analysts say housing prices start to feel downward pressure when the ratio goes below 12 per cent for a sustained period.

House prices down in Metro Vancouver real estate market

The benchmark price for a typical detached home in Metro Vancouver has gone down 6.6 per cent over the last six months to $1,474,800. It’s also dipped slightly for townhomes to $666,500. That’s .4 per cent less than it was six months ago, but it is .7 per cent more than it was in December.
For condo apartments in Metro Vancouver, the benchmark price has increased .3 per cent over the past six months to $512,300. In New Westminster, the benchmark price for a condo is up 5 per cent over the last six months to $387,700. For condos in North Burnaby it’s gone up 6.3 per cent to $490,800.
REBGV stats for Metro Vancouver real estate market in January

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.

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