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You probably heard all the Fuss that the Competition Bureau was changing all the rules to the Real Estate Industry (CREA) and the public would be able to post there for sale by owner listings on the MLS® Multiple Listing Service Realtors use. October 25, 2010 (CREA) Canadian Real Estate Association signed and approved a new agreement with the Competition Bureau. It is critical to note that the agreement does not give public access to the MLS® or Realtor.ca web sites. The MLS® system remains a realtor to realtor service only. Commissions are negotiable as always before. Flat fee, or discount brokers have always been allowed, so not much really changed, it's business as usual.
A Vancouver real estate developer’s attempt to construct an all-rental housing unit has met with unprecedented backlash from both city officials and residents. Ian Gillespie and business partner Benjamin Yeung are contemplating next steps, now that their proposed project is in limbo.
Last year, Gillespie was approached by an official of the B.C. United Church Conference, and asked if he would consider purchasing a church building that had been abandoned after the combination of two congregations. Gillespie responded positively, and began plans to build a 22-storey building. The ground floor of the structure would contain a community centre for the gay/lesbian community, which comprises a large portion of the neighbourhood in which the church stood.
Gillespie’s decision to designate the building as 100-percent rental enraged residents, who contended that renters are lower-income transients. However, statistics show that 80 percent of the neighbourhood is composed of renters.
Construction of rental housing has slowed dramatically since peaking from the 1960s through the 1970s. When tax laws changed and incentives were offered for condominium construction, very few rental-only apartments have been built in Canada in nearly 30 years.
Gillespie and Yeung sought to add rental properties to their portfolio. As the builders of the Fairmont Pacific Rim, the Shangri-La and Woodward’s, they had been successful in these ventures. Interest rates were attractive, and Vancouver’s city government introduced a policy providing a stimulus for developers considering constructing rental homes.
Residents in the West End had already been upset by recent actions by many landlords: Long-term tenants were being evicted from their homes. The vacant apartments were renovated to some extent, and then rented to new tenants at considerably more expensive rates.
In hindsight, Gillespie admits that he and the city did not provide enough information to the public on the benefits of deliberately-built rental high-rises. He said that there might have been fewer complaints had efforts been made to describe the positive attributes of rentals. Raymond Louie, a city councillor, acknowledged that renters themselves may not be aware of the benefits of bringing new supply onto the market. With new inventory, renters would have more of a choice in housing, and landlords might have to reconsider the percentage of their rent increases.
Even though he is no longer captain of the Vancouver Canucks, Trevor Linden still displays the qualities that made him the leader of the hockey team. Linden, who retired not long ago as a forward for the team, is now a real estate developer.
Linden is participating in the construction of the 601 Herald, and was present at a soil turning for the development. At the ceremony, he joked that he and his crew ought to be digging into the real dirt, not a fake bit of it for the cameras. Linden, who played in the NHL for 20 years, is now 40 years old, and enjoys his new life. He said that being in real estate development represents a new part of his life. He noted his gratitude to developer Howard Airey, who helped him to get a start in the business.
The 601 Herald project has four storeys and 27 units. Located on the periphery of Chinatown, the building’s design is congruent with the surrounding architecture, which includes not only that of Chinatown but of the nearby landmark Hudson’s Bay building. Currently, 30 percent of the units in the 601 Herald building have already sold.
The Herald construction is the second project with which Linden has been involved with Airey Development Group. Linden provided an assist with Airey on a Point Grey condominium building while still playing for the Canucks. A third project, a Kitsilano townhome development, is in the works.
Airey described his admiration for Linden, noting that he continues to be a team player. Airey said that teamwork is essential in development, due to the many strategic decisions and small details involved in any project. He praised Linden’s motivational skills as well as his everyday work ethic.
Adventure travel has taken on an entirely different meaning for Chinese people. Some 30 people from China have put down $5,500 apiece to travel to Toronto and Vancouver with the purpose of buying real estate. Among the occupations of those making the trip in August are: Furniture maker, engineer, caterer and farmer. All of the 30 travelers expect to invest at least $500,000 in condominium units in the cities’ downtown areas.
Although this trip will not be the first investor-driven trip to Canada, it does represent one of the largest groups ever arranged. Ricky Zhang, with TransAsia Investment Partners, orchestrated the trip. His company’s mission is to assist Chinese residents in purchasing international properties. Zhang said that prior to December 2009, there was no existing agreement between China and Canada permitting large tourism groups in Canada. However, since an arrangement for such travel is now in hand, there is strong interest among would-be investors in China.
Zhang noted that the real estate market in China might be poised for a downturn. Thus, investors are looking for diversification and solid yields on rental properties. The price to travel to Canada was deliberately set at a high rate to discourage those who are not serious about investing. Travelers will enjoy first-class lodging and meals.
Another reason for the strong interest in international investing is that China does not want its citizens to purchase local realty, fearing that excessive buying on speculation might inflate the market. As a result, house prices in China exhibited a 16-percent decline in June.
One hundred years following the opening of the short-lived Bank of Vancouver, the first five-dollar bill issued by the bank is projected to be auctioned for up to $100,000. The bill has a serial number of 000001, which makes it especially valuable, considering that there are only nine bills of any denomination that have ever been found from the bank. The Bank of Vancouver opened its doors in 1910 and closed in 1914.
The note seems not to have ever been in circulation. Charles Moore, who owns Moore Numismatic Auctions, said that the bill is not perfect, but is in excellent condition. His company will auction the item in Toronto June 24. Moore said the bill had been folded a few times and looks as though someone had kept it in a wallet.
Of the nine Bank of Vancouver bills that are in existence, three reside in Ottawa’s National Currency Collection. The remaining notes are in private collections. It is believed that the 000001 note was once in the possession of a Bank of Vancouver director. Moore said that when the director died during the 1950s, the note was bequeathed to a relative in Calgary. In turn, the relative sold the note to a Calgary-based currency dealer.
Moore had been collecting number-one bills, and purchased the Bank of Vancouver note during the 1980s from that dealer in Calgary. He paid $8,000 for the bill, but later traded it to a collector in British Columbia. The bill ultimately landed in the hands of the daughter of the collector, who had since died. The daughter contacted Moore to have him appraise the note, and she was shocked when Moore assessed its value at a sum between $40,000 and $50,000.
The Bank of Vancouver was a business venture fated to launch at the wrong time. It opened in July 1910, when industry and real estate in Vancouver were in the middle of a vast expansion. However, the boom did not last long, and by 1912, the bank started to falter. It ultimately closed in December 1914.
Moore expects an exciting day of bidding for the note, commenting that he has been contacted by a number of well-known collectors.
They say to write well, write what you know. Sure, embellishments will happen; it is the nature of the craft. Ryan Knighton, a 37 year old Capilano University English professor, took what he knew and added a comic spin to it. The feat is all the more impressive when you realize that what he “knows” is how it feels to go blind.
Knighton’s writing is impressive enough to be noticed by Rick Mercer and Robert Redford, who he met at the Sundance Film Festival while attending a writing lab. The book “Cockeyed” is being converted to a screenplay by the author for a film directed by Jody Foster.
Despite all this fame, Knighton’s best friend is his two and a half year old daughter who delights in being her father’s eyes on sojourns around his Commercial Drive neighbourhood. His second book, “C’Mon Papa” is another comedic memoir on how a blind man handles becoming a father. Tess, his little girl, seems oblivious to daddy’s fame. All she is concerned with, for the moment, is keeping a firm grasp on his elbow so her “stray” papa makes his way home from their outings to the store.
Economists expected a national 0.7 per cent increase in March building permits, but were instead surprised with a 12.2 per cent rise over February and a 38.9 per cent rise over March 2009, totalling $6.3 billion.
Alberta building permits rose in March by 40 per cent over March 2009’s figure with Calgary’s permits rising 44.7 per cent, a product of planned industrial and institutional buildings. Alberta’s permits value held at $1 billion, but despite these numbers, Edmonton faced one of the sharpest decreases in permits. Issued permits dropped 34.4 per cent in March from February and 12.6 per cent over last year.
Provincial residential permits dropped 12.4 per cent in March from February, but non-residential permits rose by 27.3 per cent.
Multi-family unit demand in British Columbia and Ontario were primarily responsible for the national 13.9 per cent residential construction rise, a $4.2 billion increase, but both multifamily and industrial permits rose all across Canada.
Non-residential permits rose by 9.1 per cent to $2.1 billion, due primarily to the increase of industrial and institutional areas.
B.C. and Ontario showed the largest overall gains, with Ontario gains rising by 14.4 per cent to $2.4 billion and B.C. rising 33.4 per cent to $881 million.
Quebec building permits fell in March by 1.8 per cent to $1.3 billion.
It appears that Canadian real estate investors, as well as their counterparts abroad are getting ready to jump back into the market. According to the 2010 Global Investor Sentiment Survey, it was getting easier to obtain financing and many investors will be taking advantage of that opportunity. Most of the Canadian investment money will be kept at home.
It is expected that the third quarter of this year will be when most of the activity takes place. The feeling is that of cautious optimism across the country. The majority of Canadian investors don’t believe that the market has hit bottom yet. Still, 65 percent of those investors plan to purchase real estate within the next twelve months. Global investors share the same thoughts and the same intention to buy, at least 64 percent of them do.
The survey sought the opinions of over 240 major players in real estate investments and that included 26 major Canadian firms with a vested interest in going Canadian. Toronto came out in the lead for places most likely to be invested in, followed by Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary. Less than 20 percent of Canadian investors polled planned on investing outside of Canada. One reason is loyalty; another is that currently Canada has a more stable market than in the United States and other countries.
The rush is on to get that dream home. As banks start raising interest rates those looking to get in on the market are causing a housing boom of sorts. Prices are increasing, bidding wars are happening and there is a sense of urgency among buyers and sellers alike.
Buyers are also trying to get in on the market before April 19th when new mortgage laws make it tougher to get a mortgage. Those who have less than a 20 percent down payment will have to qualify on the posted five year mortgage rate. First time home buyers who don’t have equity from a prior purchase may be priced out of the real estate market. And they know it.
The other factor for residents in Ontario and British Columbia is the anticipation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HRT), which is expected to take effect in July. This new method of taxation, combining provincial and federal taxes into one lump sum, can add thousands to the purchase price of a home.
House prices across Canada are definitely not created equal. Vancouver, the most expensive real estate market in the country, shows an average home price of $584,435, a 20 percent increase from the same time period in 2009. An average price for a home in Montreal is $245,000. Nationwide, the average home price is $328,440, showing an increase of 18 percent from last year.
Saturday March 27th from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm was Earth Hour. B.C. Hydro, British Columbia’s power company has participated in this annual event for the last three years. The World Wildlife Fund is host for this symbolic gesture that encourages people around the world to be more conscious of the fight against climate change and in at least this small way, participate in it.
In British Columbia, enough lights were turned off to decrease the provincial electrical usage by 1.04 percent. Some communities far exceeded that figure. Burn Lake, a small community of 2,100 people cut their power consumption by 7 percent. In the lower mainland the most electricity conserved was in Bowen Island which saved 3.9 percent, followed by the district of North Vancouver at 2.7 percent.
Langley City saved 2.6 percent, the township of Langley 2.3 percent, Richmond, near Vancouver International Airport saved 2.4 percent and Delta reduced its use by 1.4 percent. On Vancouver Island Nanaimo cut their power use by 1.5 percent and the capital Victoria by 1.4 percent.
It is estimated that if the people of British Columbia practiced one hour of conservation every night there would be enough electricity left over to power an additional 2,200 homes for a year. Something worth considering.
Mother Nature has dumped a whole lot of snow on the Metro Vancouver area this past week. One can only wonder if she is laughing just a bit. She held back through most of the 2010 Olympic Games and now that spring is around the corner, back she comes with the white stuff. But Mother Nature was kind enough to be in time for spring break so that ski resorts can see some revenue over that busy vacation period.
Whistler got a heavy dusting of snow but the Canadian para-alpine ski team could not take advantage of the new powder because it was followed by dense fog on the mountain. Whistler is the site of the 2010 Para-Olympics Games. In Vancouver itself, areas such as Burnaby and Coquitlam woke up to several centimetres of the white stuff blanketing streets, yards and driveways. So far it is the biggest snowstorm of 2010.
This was not a gentle storm. It was accompanied by strong winds reaching 70 kilometres per hour on British Columbia’s south coast. On the northern part of Vancouver Island and on Haida Guai, winds got up to 100 kilometres per hour. Wind warnings were issued for all parts of the North Coast as well as the Strait of Georgia.
January and February were unseasonably warm in Vancouver and the area in general thanks to El Nino. But March seems to be making up for it. Normally a mild month with only five days with temperatures hitting the zero mark and only one day with a hint of snow, this “freak winter” seems to be full of even more surprises. I don’t know about you, but I think Mother Nature is having one big belly laugh about now.
Will the Dunsmuir Viaduct be allowed to stand, providing bicyclists a safe corridor to make the journey from East Vancouver into the city? Or will it, like its sister the Georgia Viaduct, be sacrificed in the interest of property development? It seems that Councillor Geoff Meggs who once supported building the $300,000 bicycle lane is now supporting the viaducts’ demolition.
Is this mass confusion or political wrangling? The city has just moved the barriers, as planned after the Olympics, to create the secure 2.5 metre path into the city. Other bike lanes exist in the city but none of the other routes provide protection from cars. They are designated by painted lines and bicycle graphics only.
Tearing down the viaducts, part of an outdated transportation system circa 1915, may make the city of Vancouver easy on the eyes, but would take away a vital route that helps commuters get into and out of the downtown core. Commute times would increase and that $300,000 bike lane would disappear.
City council will have the first opportunity to vote on the proposal this coming April. No one is really sure how the vote will go, but the tempting carrot of millions of dollars of real estate possibilities will be hard to ignore. We will just have to wait and see, for now.
Coquitlam residents do not trust the city council, and they are weary of the council's initiative to changed the land designations. The residents have continued to voice their concern over the council's attempt to change the land designation for certain areas from 'Conservation/Recreation' to 'General Urban.' The new land designations are particularly aimed at the Westwood Plateau Golf Course, but Mayor Richard Stewart claims that residents should not worry about the city's intent, because the council does not intend on allow development on the local golf course.
Residents say that the council members and politicians say different things at different times, and this reason is why they are skeptical about the council's decisions and actions in regards to the land designations. No matter what council members tell residents, the locals say that there is no reason to change the land designation unless the city has ulterior motives.
The bottom line is that residents are upset about the actions because if the Coquitlam council did not intend to develop the land, there would be no reason to change the current designations. Not only do residents not want to see development of these conservation areas, they are extremely upset that the council is trying to lie about why its members want to change the laws .
Residents do not want the 'green spaces,' designated for conservation of natural habitat, to be threatened by political agendas.
A group conducted a rally to protest homelessness during the opening of an information centre designed to address efforts to combat the situation. Students from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University gathered as Rich Coleman, B.C. housing minister, officiated at the opening with Gregor Robertson, Vancouver mayor.
Coleman said that the province is responsible for subsidizing more than 7,000 units of housing per year, and is also providing an additional 1,280 apartments in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The new office opened in the Woodward’s site, which is being renovated to include mixed-use housing, commercial areas and another SFU campus.
A spokesperson for the Carnegie Community Action Project claims the Woodward’s renovation and neighbourhood gentrification is forcing more needy people from their homes. Wendy Pedersen said that her organization wants to make sure the Olympics audiences are fully aware of the plight of the homeless in the neighbourhood. Another member of CCAP gave press kits to journalists who covered the information centre’s opening.
It is believed that some 700 homeless people live in the Downtown Eastside, an area that housed the Woodward’s department store before its closure and demolition. The neighbourhood is located ten blocks away from the Olympics press centre, and also a few blocks away from the BC Place Stadium, site of the Olympics’ opening ceremonies and closing events.
Other groups working for the cause of B.C. fish farms are also hoping to get publicity during the Olympics. Working under the auspices of the Pure Salmon Campaign, the groups wrote a letter to Norway’s H.R.H. King Harald V, requesting that he ask fish farms owned by Norwegians to improve their practices. The royal is scheduled to attend the Olympics. The PSC has attempted to communicate with the King previously, and did not receive a response. In response to the recent letter, a representative for Ottawa’s Royal Norwegian Embassy replied that the King would not meet with the protesters.
2009 will be forever remembered as a horrible financial year that was marked with personal debt that soared to unreasonable levels and home foreclosures across the globe. In fact, trouble regarding real estate was the number one reason that people sough legal advice in 2009.
Over 358,000 Pre-Paid Legal members sought legal advice from lawyers during the year regarding issues such as foreclosures, short sales, lord and tenant issues, and commercial real estate transactions.
The U.S. saw an unprecedented number of foreclosures, up to over 2.8 million properties. These figures increased 20% from 2008, according to the real estate data company, Irvine.
Although the number of foreclosures in Canada was not as severe, the activity prompted the government to take action against mortgage brokers and lenders by limiting mortgage lengths to thirty-five years and tightening regulations regarding the down payment that is due.
The Pre-Paid Legal plan is an insurance-like plan that members use to access affordable legal services regarding real estate issues they may encounter. Some lawyers actually claim that these figures only represent a small amount of the overall need for legal services regarding real estate problems.
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