What do Vancouver Homebuyers Want?

In the hot, competitive Vancouver housing market, it helps to know what your target market is after- and to make sure that you are delivering on it.

Is there such a thing as a “dream house”? Homebuyers realize that perhaps some concessions need to be made in order to get what they want.   A recent survey sponsored by REW.ca suggests that there are certain elements that buyers in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland are willing to compromise on.

Topping the list as the most important factor- as well as one that they were least willing to compromise on was a “livability factor.”  The survey found that “Close” is the word that sums up what respondents want in a location, with 41% of home buyers and sellers selecting “close to amenities” and 33% saying “close to family/friends”. “Close to work/lessened commute time” came third, with acceptable commute times averaging 30 minutes.”

Many also indicated that the style of their home was an influencing factor, but many (44%) indicated that this was something that they would be willing to compromise on.

“What this tells us is that people in Vancouver Lower Mainland communities want a certain style of home but in reality they are willing to compromise on this for liveability factors such as living close to amenities with lower commute times,” says Ian Martin, General Manager, REW.ca.

When asked what factors, other than liveability, helped homebuyers select location, respondents said being close to amenities such as shops, grocery stores, medical facilities (41%); close to family/friends (33%); close to work/lessened commute time (22%); close to public transit (19%); safety/less crime (16%. 15% of respondents said that they favoured being close to parks and green space and/or water.

Assuming that price was no object, factors that influenced homebuyers on selecting homes themselves, included the size of the home, style and number of bedrooms


How Do Sellers Price Their Homes And How Much Should I Offer?

We’re often asked by our clients, “How much under the listing price should we offer?”  This is an excellent question.  The answer is difficult.  There are four basic ways that sellers price their homes.

1.  Ridiculously Overpriced!

These sellers have listened to a real estate consultant over-inflate the value of their home in an effort to obtain the listing.  There’s a natural tendency on the part of sellers to list with the real estate consultant who gives them the highest promise.  Some real estate agents give the seller a high “value” in an effort to obtain the listing.

These homes can be 10 to 20% overpriced.  These sellers may need a “dose of reality” for a few months before they begin to realize that their home is way overpriced as compared to others in the area.

The longer an overpriced home is for sale, the more likely we can get the seller to face reality and sell at a fair price.

2.  A Little Overpriced…

Perhaps 75% of all homes for sale are priced in this range.

These sellers fall into two categories:

  • Those who feel their home is worth every penny of their asking price.
  • Those who want to leave a little “negotiating” room.  These homes can be four to 10% overpriced.

 3.  Priced At Fair Market Value…

  • These sellers have carefully and realistically studied other homes for sale.  They’ve priced their homes very competitively.  These homes usually sell within four weeks at or very near the listed price.
  • In an active market, timing is everything.
  • In the good old days, you might have the luxury of viewing a home several times – even dragging your relatives to see it – before you actually made an offer.
  • “He/she who hesitates is lost” aptly explains buyers who dally when making a buying decision today.

 4.  Priced Below Fair Market Value…

These homes are priced below value.  Perhaps the seller wants a fast sale. Perhaps the real estate consultant recommended too low a price. These homes usually sell within seven to 10 days, at or above the listed price. There usually are competing offers in this situation, and you may need to make your first offer your best offer.



Condo Document Alert

The majority of all new housing starts involve strata properties. In a dozen municipalities, strata properties now make up more than half of all taxable properties.

In December 2011, the provincial government changed several important strata requirements. Whether a licensee markets strata properties or manages them, the licensee needs to know about these developments. The changes mainly concern depreciation reports and contributions to a strata corporation’s contingency reserve fund (CRF). Some changes are immediate, while others come into effect at different times over the next two years. This is a summary of the changes that most concern licensees.

Depreciation Reports

A strata corporation’s depreciation report estimates the life expectancy of major items and the ultimate cost of their repair or replacement. Effective December 13, 2011, every strata corporation must periodically obtain a depreciation report, unless otherwise exempted. A strata corporation whose strata plan contains less than five strata lots is excused from this requirement. So too, where a strata corporation by 3/4 vote waives the requirement for a depreciation report, the corporation may defer compliance with this requirement for up to 18 months.

With some exceptions, a strata corporation has two years (in most cases, until December 13, 2013) to obtain the mandatory depreciation report. After that, a strata corporation must update its depreciation report every three years, unless exempted. Only a qualified person may prepare the report, which must involve an onsite inspection. The report must project the anticipated costs of maintenance, repair and replacement of major building components over the next 30 years. The depreciation report must also contain certain information, including a financial forecast that offers at least three cash-flow funding models for the CRF.

Strata Records

Effective December 13, 2011, a strata corporation must keep among its records any depreciation report obtained by the strata corporation. The strata corporation must also keep any reports respecting the repair or maintenance of major items in the strata corporation, including engineers’ reports, risk management reports, sanitation reports and reports respecting any items for which information is mandatory in a depreciation report.

Effective March 1, 2012, whenever a strata corporation issues an Information Certificate (Form B), the corporation must attach to it, among other things, the corporation’s most recent depreciation report.

In addition, effective, January 1, 2014 the Information Certificate (Form B) will change. At that point, the Form B will require a strata corporation to disclose if there is any parking stall or storage locker allocated to the strata lot and if so, whether the parking stall or storage locker is a separate strata lot, part of a strata lot, or part of the common property.

Funding the CRF

In the past, the Strata Property Act imposed a CRF ceiling. In simple terms, once a strata corporation’s CRF exceeded the amount of the previous year’s operating budget, the law prohibited further CRF contributions, unless the eligible voters by 3/4 vote decided otherwise. Effective December 13, 2011, the CRF cap disappeared. Now, so long as the strata corporation has the statutory minimum amount in its CRF, the corporation may approve further contributions as part of the ordinary budget approval process after considering the depreciation report, if any.

This is only a summary of these important changes; the new requirements for depreciation reports, for example, are reasonably complex. A licensee can view the legislation at: www.housing.gov.bc.ca/strata/regs/OIC-SPA.pdf. Every listing licensee and buyer’s agent should immediately add to their list of requisite documents any depreciation report, as well as the related documents listed above. Every strata property manager may learn the specifics of these changes by attending those industry events where these developments will undoubtedly be discussed in detail.

Mike Mangan
B.A., LL.B.




Cambie Corridor Plans Puts Vancouverism To The Test

For all its charms – its seaside and mountain views, greenery and fresh air – Vancouver remains a decidedly suburban city. It’s traditionally been much more about CPR land transformed into residential enclaves than the right blend of high-density, mixed use and transit access that defines urbanism.

But with the high cost of housing and dwindling supply, a growing and aging population and an exodus of youth who can’t afford to live in the city, the game plan is changing.

While there have been other arbiters of civic sea change, the most exciting game changer in recent years has been the Canada Line that has spurred densification of the Cambie Corridor.

The unassuming north-south corridor, largely composed of single-family bungalows – now worth an average of $1.5-million – has always been a rather sleepy, suburban feeling enclave, where young families and empty nesters resided. But now both of those groups have changing housing needs that are being addressed by two groundbreaking developments – a mixed-use project on the site of the Oakridge Shopping Mall at 41st and Cambie and the new Marine Gateway project at the southern tip of the corridor.

The increase in density and new transit access have contributed to a dramatic rise in real estate prices, with some homes around the Oakridge area recently tripling in price. But while some long-term residents have expressed concern about rapid change in their neighbourhood, others are excited by the possibilities it will bring for more affordable housing and more urban amenities. The Cambie Corridor plan allows buildings up to 12 storeys in height, with allowances for greater height around the Oakridge Mall and at the southern end of Cambie Street near Marine Drive.

Patrick Condon, a planner and professor of landscape architecture at UBC and author of Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities, says that densification of the Cambie Corridor will help address the city’s “urgent housing needs.”

He contends that the city’s plan for the corridor, which aims to bring 15,000 more people to the area, is “the best of its kind in North America.”

“It’s the first corridor plan I’ve ever seen that focuses so much on what the buildings are going to look like rather than being just a zoning plan.”

Mr. Condon supports the largely mid-rise development plan that does not concentrate density exclusively around stations, saying “a more evenly distributed density is best as it supports a finer grain commercial activity and in many ways leads to a more sustainable city.”

Mr. Condon, who worked with students to produce a comprehensive masterplan of what Vancouver will look like by the year 2050, notes that in less than 40 years, 25 per cent of the population will be over age 65, a “ 250 per cent increase over what it is now.”

The plans for higher density housing along the Cambie Corridor, he contends, will benefit the “over-65s” who will be “increasingly mobility impaired and the ones who will be the largest group needing housing.”

He maintains that “it’s logical to put housing close to services and ways of getting around – unless you want the elderly to be imprisoned within their buildings or complexes – which is true in many parts of North America but hopefully not true here.”

At the same time, he says, the new housing will benefit young people and young families. “There were many young people at the public hearings,” he relates, “saying ‘yes, I need housing and I need it to be affordable and I need it to be in Vancouver – and if I can’t get it I will be forced to move to Maple Ridge – where I don’t want to go.’”

The alternative to high density mixed use housing developments he says, “is an older city where we will have fewer and fewer young people able to afford to live here – making it impossible for younger families to exist. How can someone take a job at less than $40,000 a year and pay more than half a million for a very simple place to live?” The equation is simple, he says, higher density housing means more affordable housing.

He thinks the Oakridge Mall area in particular is ideal as it “upgrades what is now an auto oriented shopping mall into an urban, attractive place.”

“I think the idea of barnacling on appendages to shopping centres is a logical and sensible strategy. Without losing the substantial commercial value that’s already in that location – it makes it a more mixed use complex that’s not entirely about driving the car to a parking lot but part of a transit accessible, complete neighbourhood.”

He also thinks that the new development could be “groundbreaking”

“In urban design circles, there’s been talk about changing shopping malls into urban places for decades.” The Oakridge development has all the potential, he says, “to become a demonstration of a successful strategy that could be applied throughout North America.”

Ivanhoe Cambridge, which owns the 28.3-acre parcel that comprises Oakridge shopping centre, secured city council approval in 2007 for a policy plan that forsees 1.8-million square feet of new density. The site already contains 50,000 square feet of residential, and plans are afoot to add 1.2-million square feet of housing.

According to Gordon Wylie, senior director of development at Ivanhoe Cambridge, 50 per cent of the housing will be town homes and midrise development, and 50 per cent will be high rise – with the policy currently allowing for nine towers on site.

As well as the planned 350,000 square feet of new retail and 200,000 square feet of new office space, Mr. Wylie says ample community space – in addition to the existing library, school and seniors centre – will be added to the site.

“Our vision is to create a complete and sustainable community,” he says, adding that the scale and mass of the unique site that remains Vancouver’s “single largest parcel of privately owned land next to a transit hub that can be redeveloped,” could even allow for exploration of district energy supply.

But Mr. Condon is sympathetic to some area residents concerned about rapid change in their neighbourhood.

“Usually residents don’t oppose density per se – they oppose things in their neighbourhood that are unlike their neighbourhood. Sensitive architects understand this.”

For Andrew Grant, president of PCI developments who received unanimous approval from the Urban Design Panel last month, for ambitious plans to build the new Marine Gateway community at Cambie’s southern tip, the key was “maintaining the character of the neighbourhood.”

In this case, Marpole’s “urban village” vibe was accentuated throughout the design of the project built to LEED Gold standards that will incorporate two high rises on top of a three-storey podium, 415 market condos, 46 rental housing units, a separate 240,000-square-foot office building, and a 220,000-square-foot cinema – all perched on top of a Canada Line station.

“From the start,” explains Mr. Grant, “the concept was a high street that ran down the centre of the site. All of our uses will access that – including transit, the office component, the cinema and the housing units. They’ll all come through the centre of the site and maximize concentration of foot traffic through that area – which will be people friendly and conducive to interaction. It will help integrate use and break down scale. Maintaining that neighbourhood feel – through the high street but also through details like architectural finishes – has been an essential part of our design.”

“There’s no doubt,” says Mr. Grant, “that the Canada Line will change the shape of the city. Vancouver is under tremendous pressure for additional housing to meet the demand – and our prices are being pushed up accordingly.”

Since many people can longer afford to own both a car and a home, “people have become less reliant on automobiles – so locating housing and retail and work spaces close to each other and to transit hubs makes sense.”

In many ways, densification of the Cambie Corridor will be a true test of Vancouverism’s – the much lauded high density, car free phenomenon so celebrated in the city’s downtown – mettle. Whether it can be successfully managed in the city’s southern corridors will make the difference between Vancouver remaining suburbia by the sea – or becoming a truly urban model.


Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, an earlier online version of this story incorrectly described the Marpole urban village project, which is being built to LEED Gold environmental construction standards. This version has been corrected.


The Globe and Mail


Building Your Homeownership Budget

Making the transition from renter to homeowner is likely one of the biggest decisions you’ll make throughout your lifetime. It can also be a stressful experience if you don’t plan ahead by building a budget and saving prior to embarking upon homeownership.

Budgeting is a core ingredient that helps alleviate the stress associated with money issues that can sometimes arise if you purchase a home without knowing all of the associated costs – including down payment, closing expenses, ongoing maintenance, taxes and utilities.

The trouble is, many first-time homeowners fail to carefully think about their finances, plan a budget or set savings aside. And in this society of instant gratification, money problems can quickly escalate.

The key is to create a realistic budget based on your goals. Track your spending and make your dollars go further by sticking to your budget once it’s in place. Budgeting offers a step-by-step formula for figuring out how to best save your hard-earned money to invest in homeownership.

Following are three top tips to help you prepare for the purchase of your first home:

1. Set up a savings account. You can deposit a predetermined amount into this account eachpay period that you won’t touch unless it’s absolutely necessary. This will enable you to put money aside for a down payment and cover closing costs, as well as address ongoing homeownership expenses such as maintenance, taxes and utilities.

2. Save up for big-ticket items. As you accumulate money in your savings account, you will be able to also save for specific purchases to help furnish your home – avoiding the buy now, pay later mentality, which can have a negative impact on your credit when you’re seeking mortgage financing.

3. Surround yourself with a team of professionals. When you’re getting ready to make your first home purchase, enlist my services as a licensed Mortgage Professional and find a trusted Real Estate Agent. Experts are invaluable as you set out on the road to homeownership because we help first-time buyers through the home purchase and financing processes every day. Experts can answer all of your questions and set your mind at ease. I have access to multiple lenders, and can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage so you know exactly what you can afford to spend on a home before you head out house hunting, while a real estate agent will be able to match your needs with a house you can afford. Both parties will negotiate on your behalf to ensure you get the best bang for your buck. And, best of all, these services are typically free. Experts will also be able to refer you to other reputable professionals you may need for your home purchase, including a real estate lawyer and home appraiser.

Courtesy of:

Maureen Young

Accredited Mortgage and Lease Professional
Dominion Lending Downtown Financial
Phone: 604-805-5888
Fax: 604-904-8608