Archive for November, 2011

What is a reverse mortgage?

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

The more financially unprepared you are for retirement, the more likely it is that there’s a reverse mortgage in your future.

Sadly, we seem to be poised for big growth in reverse mortgages.

“Seniors today are living longer, they’re spending more and they’ve saved less,” said Greg Bandler, senior vice-resident of sales and marketing at HomEquity Bank, the country’s sole provider of reverse mortgages (under the name Canadian Home Income Plan). “They also have so much of their net worth tied up in their home, a very illiquid asset. We’re all about helping them unlock that asset and provide some liquidity so they can have some cash flow and do the kind of things they want to do.”

The plight of the senior who didn’t save enough for retirement – get ready to hear more about it as people 65 and older become a bigger and bigger segment of the population. Where can cash-poor seniors find some money? Reverse mortgages are an easy option (I’ll look at some other possibilities in an upcoming column).

Here’s how a reverse mortgage works in three steps:

1. Borrow up to 50 per cent of the appraised value of your home.

2. Spend the money as you see fit.

3. Repay the principal, and interest that has been accumulating, whenever you sell your home.

It’s rare to hear financial advisers unreservedly criticize a product, but this does happen with reverse mortgages. “The reverse mortgage, to me, has always been the lender of last resort,” said Clay Gillespie, an adviser with Rogers Financial Group in Vancouver, who mainly has seniors as clients. “There are very few cases where I believe it makes sense to take out a reverse mortgage.”

The points against reverse mortgages include hefty set-up fees and higher than usual mortgage rates. But the biggest issue is the way interest compounds. You know how you get paid interest on interest when you invest in a term deposit? With a reverse mortgage, many people will end up paying interest on interest. That’s because unpaid interest on your loan gets added to the principal and generates a bigger interest bill moving forward.

If you keep a reverse mortgage going for many years, a worst-case result would be that you’re left with little or nothing after repaying the accumulated interest and principal and covering the costs associated with selling your home.

HomEquity Bank’s Mr. Bandler said reverse mortgage holders have on average retained 50 per cent of the value of their homes when they eventually sold. He also said that a rising real estate market can offset the effects of a reverse mortgage by boosting the value of the remaining equity in your home.

A sales presentation used by HomEquity Bank includes a slide showing that home prices rose at a national average annual rate of 5.91 per cent for the 15 years to Sept. 30. But the chances of prices rising at that rate in the years ahead are slim. More likely, prices will coast or fall in the near term.

Combine falling home prices and a reverse mortgage and you could see your home equity dissolving in a way that doesn’t leave much when you sell in the future. Don’t worry – you will never owe HomEquity Bank more than the fair market value of your home. If you sell for less than you owe, HomEquity Bank eats the difference.

HomEquity doesn’t leave this to chance, though. The younger you are when you apply for a reverse mortgage, the less equity you can take out. If you sign up at the minimum age of 55, Mr. Bandler said you would be capped at 20 to 25 per cent of the equity in your home. “We’re very conservative lenders,” he said. “That conservative approach is baked into our model.”

HomEquity Bank became a full-fledged bank in 2009, enabling it to offer lower interest rates on reverse mortgages. This helps explains why the volume of new reverse mortgages was up 87 per cent last year over 2009. “The CHIP Home Income Plan is being transformed from a niche product to a mainstream solution that will increasingly be included in Canadian seniors’ financial plans,” the parent company’s 2010 annual report says.

In a world where people are living longer, spending more and saving less, the reverse mortgage is probably a necessity. The less you prepare for retirement, the more likely you are to need one.

Some facts and figures on the Canadian Home Income Plan reverse mortgage:

Setting one up

Set-up costs: As much as $2,500 or so to cover appraisal, legal fees and administration/closing costs.

Interest rates: 4.75 per cent for a variable rate; 5.95 per cent for a five-year fixed term.

Options for receiving money: Take the money in a lump sum, gradually or a combination.

Interest payment options: Pay all, part or none of the interest that accrues ever year.

Profile of users

Average age of applicants: 72

Average amount of home equity borrowed: 36%

Average length of time people stay in their homes after taking out a reverse mortgage: 12

Average amount of home equity left after a home is sold and the reverse mortgage paid off: 50%

Source: Rob Carrick, Globe and Mail

Canadian housing sales continue to show strength

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The Canadian housing market continues to defy those who have long predicted its collapse.

If anything, the market seemed to pick up steam in October as sales across the country ended up the best they have been since January.

Sales of existing homes rose 1.2% in October from the previous month, building on September’s 2.5% gain, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said.

The upward push caused CREA to revise its sales predictions slightly for 2011. It now says sales will rise 1.4% from a year ago, instead of 0.9%.

“The continuing strength of home sales activity in the face of ongoing financial volatility speaks volumes about the con-fidence of Canadians in our housing market,” said Gary Morse, president of CREA.

Even going into 2012, CREA doesn’t see much change in the market since interest rates are near record lows. CREA calls for a relatively minor 0.5% reduction in sales in 2012.

The industry has seen annual sales holding steady at about 450,000 for each of the past three years.

Prices have also shown a steady upward trajectory and are now forecast to attain an average of $362,700 in 2011, which would be a 7% increase from the year before.

Next year, prices are expected to remain flat – something most people in the real estate industry see as an accomplishment under the present economic environment.

“Home sales actvity over the past couple of months suggests buyers are confident that the Canadian economy will remain relatively unscathed by global economic risks, since every home purchase is a homebuyer’s vote of confi-dence in the future,” Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist, said Tuesday.

He said there is a strong feeling fiscal policy will be coordinated to give housing any support it should need in the event of an economic pullback.

So far, the industry seems to be getting the support it needs from low interest rates, which have kept buyers in the market. Variable rate mortgages tied to prime are still available as low as 2.7%, while a fiveyear fixed-rate closed mortgage is now being discounted to 3.19%.

CREA said a total of 397,561 homes have traded hands this year, a 1.8% rise from the first 10 months of 2010, but in line with the 10-year average.

Toronto continued to carry the national market in October: Sales were up 14.3% from a year ago. The actvity in Canada’s largest city helped boost overall sales activity, which rose 8.5% from a year earlier.

Prices across Canada continued to moderate. The 5.5% year-over-year increase was the smallest since January and the average price of a home sold in October was $362,899.

The consensus among economists is that the housing industry may not have much more to give in price or sales increases but nor is it set for a massive decline.

“The fact that prices are overvalued today does not necessarily mean they will crash tomorrow,” said Benjamin Tal, deputy economist with CIBC World Markets.

He said a “violent market meltdown” would need a catalyst, such as the subprime crisis, or a sharp increase in interest rates, such as those of 1991.

“We do believe the housing market in Canada will stagnate in the coming year or two,” said Mr. Tal.

A report from TD Economics indicates housing is a key component of the Canadian economy. It noted the construction industry accounts for 10% of gross domestic product.

Source: Garry Marr, Financial Post

BC home sales are stronger outside Metro Vancouver

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Residential sales picked up outside Metro Vancouver in October, according to a B.C. Real Estate Association report released yesterday.

“B.C. home sales rose three per cent in October compared to September on a seasonally adjusted basis,” BCREA chief economist Cameron Muir said in a statement.

“While consumer demand in Vancouver edged lower last month on a year-over-year basis, strong increases were recorded in the Fraser Valley, Kamloops, Kootenay, the North and on Vancouver Island.”

Muir said that total active residential listings in B.C. declined by 3,360 units in October from September, although active listings were up 6.9 per cent from October 2010.

“Market conditions remained slightly in favour of home buyers last month.”

Residential unit sales in the province rose 6.5 per cent to 5,865 units in October compared to the same month last year, while the average price was up 2.6 per cent to $535,695 last month compared to October 2010.

Year-to-date, B.C. residential sales dollar volume increased 16.8 per cent to $38 billion, compared to the same period last year, the BCREA said.

Residential unit sales increased 3.5 per cent to 66,922 units over the same period.

According to the report, the average Metro Vancouver price rose 8.5 per cent from October 2010 to October 2011 to $767,000.

Prices in the Okanagan dropped 14.3 per cent to $367,000 in that period, and fell 6.1 per cent in Victoria to $476,000.

Total sales dropped one per cent in Metro Vancouver in October compared to October 2010 to 2,359.

Sales rose two per cent in the Okanagan to 403 and were up 3.1 per cent in Victoria to 461.

Source: Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun

Everything you need to know about Canada’s booming housing market

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

With sales of existing homes in Canada rising in October to the highest level since January, the Canadian Real Estate Association boosted its forecast for resale activity for 2011.

The industry group today released data on October sales activity as well as a revised forecast for the year.

National sales of existing homes increased 1.2% from the previous month, building on a gain of 2.5% in September. Price gains however cooled to 5.5%, the smallest gains since January.

A total of 397,561 resale units have traded hands so far this year, CREA said, up 1.8% from levels in the first 10 months of 2010.

Here’s what you need to know about the booming Canadian housing market:

Ontario leads the way

Third-quarter sales activity in the province was stronger than forecast, while the rest of the country came in broadly in line with expectations, the CREA said.

It was the strength of activity in Ontario that prompted the CREA to boost its annual forecast for 2011 to 1.4%, up from 0.9%.

The industry group now predicts national sales of 453,300 for the year, compared with 446,915 in 2010.

198,000 of 2011′s residential sales are expected to come from Ontario, with Quebec and British Columbia expected to have sales of 77,000 and 76,600, respectively.

Home prices are still up but showing signs of cooling down

CREA kept its national average home price forecast for the year little changed at $362,700. That’s an annual increase of 7.0% compared with $339,049 in 2010.

Prices are expected to remain flat next year, with the CREA forecasting $362,700 again for 2012.

The industry group pointed to moderating prices in Vancouver in the third quarter compared with the first half of the year, with sales of multi-million dollar properties in that city returning to “more normal levels.”

CREA said the national average price in October rose 5.5% from a year earlier to just under $362,899, the smallest increase since January.

The balance of supply and demand is tight but the market remains on solid footing

October’s monthly rise in sales resulted in a slightly tighter balance of supply and demand, but the national housing market remains “firmly rooted in balanced territory,” the CREA said.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio, a measure of market balance, stood at 53.4% in October, up from 52.8% in September.

Low interest rates continue to bolster the market

CREA also revised its forecast for 2012 upward slightly, predicting a smaller easing than previously expected of 0.5% to 451,200 units.

The uptick is largely due to expectations that Canada’s interest rates will stay low until well into 2012, CREA said.

But domestic and global economic headwinds could put pressure on the sector

“A number of factors will keep Canada’s housing market in check as interest rates remain low,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

He pointed to tightened mortgage regulations, high household debt and slower economic and job growth as possible headwinds.

However, Mr. Klump noted that persistent news of global economic uncertainty has put only minor dents in consumer confidence to date.

“How confidence evolves depends on how global turmoil plays out over the coming months,” he said.

Source: Christine Dobby, Financial Post

Recent real estate sales in Kitsilano, Coquitlam and Richmond

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Vancouver Sun November 12th, 2011

403 – 2475 York Ave., Vancouver

Type: 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment
Size: 1,087 sq. ft.
B.C. Assessment, 2011: $768,000
Listed for: $799,900
Sold for: $950,000
Sold on: Sept. 20
Days on market: 13
Listing agent: Spice Lucks at RE/MAX Real Estate Services
Buyers agent: Jane Donnelly at Macdonald Realty Kerrisdale

The big sell: The latest report from the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board depicts a more balanced housing market compared to October 2010: the number of properties listed has increased, but sales have declined. However, the benchmark price for the past 12 months has risen by 7.5 per cent on the back of sales such as this Kitsilano condo, which fetched $150,000 over the asking price. The reasons behind this particular price hike? A picture-perfect Kitsilano vantage point with an exposure that showcases ocean, city and mountain views from a top-floor, corner unit that has two private patios, including one that is 700 square feet. The interior has generously proportioned rooms — making it ideal for “up-sizers” or “downsizers” — as well as hardwood floors, a natural gas fireplace and in-suite laundry. The home comes with two parking spots, a storage locker and a prime location close to West Fourth Avenue and the beach.

732 Sydney Ave., Coquitlam

Type: 5-bedroom, 4-bathroom, detached
Size: 3,796 sq. ft.
B.C. Assessment, 2011: $726,000
Listed for: $1.438 million
Sold for: $1.435 million
Sold on: Sept. 15
Days on market: 32
Listing agent: Marla Murati at Sutton Group — West Coast Realty
Buyers agent: Hedy Ting at RE/MAX City Realty

The big sell: This house in the Coquitlam neighbourhood of the Vancouver Golf Course was built in 1960 on a 10,000-square-foot lot. However, a complete redesign of the property was undertaken this year: the home was taken back to the studs and foundation, rebuilt and extended. This capitalized on the solid bones of the structure, but enabled modern high-end finishing to be carried out to current building codes. In this case, that saw a new roof, insulation, drywall, plumbing, heating, electrical and air conditioning installed. The interior has clean lines and contemporary touches with hardwood flooring throughout, sliding glass doors that open to a covered patio, and a kitchen with a grand island, solid wood cabinets, CaesarStone countertops and commercial grade stainless steel Thermador appliances. The bathrooms has floor-to-ceiling Italian marble and glass tiles. The garden is well-manicured, and there is an attached double garage.

9233 Ferndale Rd., Richmond

Type: 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment

Size: 1,046 sq. ft.

B.C. Assessment, 2011: $445,000

Listed for: $450,000

Sold for: $450,000

Sold on: Sept. 15

Days on market: 1

Listing agent: Harris First at Macdonald Realty Westmar

Buyers agent: Eric Kong at Royal Pacific Realty Corp.

The big sell: According to listing agent Harris First, this three-bedroom condo in Richmond’s Red 2 development sold within hours, with the buyer making an offer sight unseen. To ensure the best price for their home, the sellers had been diligent in preparing the property: The carpets had been shampooed, the bathroom vents and some of the kitchen appliances had been replaced. The interior had also been repainted and the sellers had vacated the property, thereby presenting a home in move-in condition with immediate possession. This penthouse unit has North Shore Mountain views, a south-facing master bedroom, cathedral ceilings in the living room and two parking stalls. Adding to the appeal is the fact that Red 2 allows rentals. Kwantlen Polytechnic University, shopping malls, restaurants and transit are within walking distance.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Should Vancouver address the issue of overseas buyers of our real estate?

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Should we be dampening the foreign demand for residential real estate in Vancouver? That’s a question that everyone in the city is asking – except people running for office.

“We need to make housing more affordable” is a sentence that will be spoken by every candidate. They will talk about increasing supply, expediting approvals, streamlining burdensome regulations, increasing density around transit hubs and other vital measures. These all matter.

But what if there’s an insatiable demand for Vancouver real-estate investment from outside our country? What if new supply is mostly scooped up by cash-flush buyers who have no intention of living here, or working here? The new places sit empty, or maybe they’re available for temporary rentals.

As a homeowner who loves the increasing value of my home, I appreciate how this offshore demand enriches so many of us – including, notably, the real-estate businesses that write the biggest cheques for municipal election campaigns.

But at some point we have to ask out loud: Is the harm from virtually unlimited offshore investment in real estate greater than its benefits? What is the price we pay for Vancouver being the thirdmost-unaffordable housing market in the world, where home ownership is out of reach for our next generation, skilled immigrants, teachers, nurses, police officers and health-care workers who are so vital for a livable city?

Vancouver’s chief planner, Brent Toderian, says suck it up and learn to enjoy renting.

But our cultural traditions – not to mention our financial security and historical wealth generation – are still built around home ownership. People want to own their own homes. If they can’t afford to own here, they move away. And that costs us.

It breaks up families and it hurts the local economy.

In 2007, the Vancouver Economic Development Commission asked business and community leaders to name the biggest barriers to job creation in Vancouver.

At the top of the list were high commercial and industrial land prices, and unaffordable housing that makes the city unattractive to workers and managers alike.

That’s job destruction, not job creation.

People say we can’t restrict foreign investors in real estate because that would scare off other foreign investment. Do offshore real-estate investors follow up with commercial investments? Are the majority of foreign buyers only here for a “secure” investment or do they intend on making a commitment to this community? We should know the answers, but we don’t.

Lots of other jurisdictions have restrictions on who can own real estate – Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Switzerland, Austria, Japan, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, China and Australia among them.

We wouldn’t think of allowing unlimited foreign access to our schools and universities, because we’ve determined that local students should take priority.

This is a conversation that has to come out into the open.

It’s the biggest issue in our city today and no one is addressing it.

Source: Peter Ladner, former city councillor and author of The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, published by

Prices for new homes in Metro Vancouver remain constant

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Metro Vancouver new home prices remained flat in September, while edging up slightly year-over-year, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

The federal agency said prices of new homes in Metro Vancouver remained the same compared to August, but rose 0.1 per cent from September 2010 to September 2011.

In Victoria, new home prices were also flat in September compared to August, but dropped 1.6 per cent year-over-year.

Nationally, new home prices edged up 0.2 per cent from August to September and 2.3 per cent from September 2010 to September 2011.

Nationally, the price increase followed a 0.1-per-cent gain in August and was the sixth straight monthly increase in the new housing index.

Economists had expected prices to rise by between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent in September.

The Toronto and Oshawa, Ont. region — accounting for 27 per cent of the index — recorded a gain of 0.3 per cent from August to September. The smaller Winnipeg region had the largest percentage increase at 1.4, and Halifax gained 0.7 per cent.

“In Winnipeg, price increases were primarily the result of higher material and labour costs as well as higher land values,” Statistics Canada said. “Builders in Halifax cited higher material and labour costs as the main reason for their price increases.”

Prices were higher in eight of the 21 metropolitan regions surveyed, while five declined and eight were flat.

Among the regions posting declines, the biggest drop from August to September was in the New Brunswick area encompassing Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton, where the index declined 0.3 per cent. The Edmonton area was also down 0.3 per cent.

“Some builders in Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton cited slower market conditions as the primary reason for their price decreases, while a few builders in Edmonton moved to new development areas with lower priced lots,” the agency said.

On a year-over-year basis, prices were up 2.3 per cent in September, in line with 12-month increases in July and August.

The biggest 12-month gains in September were in Winnipeg, up 5.5 per cent, and the Toronto and Oshawa region, up 5.4 per cent.

On Tuesday, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported housing starts were down 1.1 per cent to an annualized rate of 207,600 units. That compared to 208,800 the month before, revised up from the previously reported 205,900.

Meanwhile, data last week showed construction intention weakened in September, as the value of building permits declined for the third straight month.

StatsCan said permit values fell 4.9 per cent to $5.6 billion during the month.

Source: Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun

Condo popularity is overtaking single family homes

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The condominium sector continues to be the power behind the national housing market which is now seeing a steady decline in single family home construction, according to new data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

October statistics reveal a tale of two markets — a condo sector where new construction of urban multiples was up 1.7% from a month earlier and a single family home picture where starts dropped 9% from a month earlier.

Take a longer-term look and single-family home construction is now at its lowest level in two years and off more than 29% since the end of 2009. Multiple-unit starts, which are mostly made up of condominium construction, have climbed 70% during the same period and the sector is at its highest level October 2008.

Overall, new home construction was 207,600 in October on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis. That’s down from 208,800 in September but starts are in line with the 2002-2008 housing boom when they checked in at more than 200,000 a year.

Robert Kavcic, economist with BMO Capital Markets, sounded some alarm bells for the condominium market which he maintains is seeing unoccupied units — also classified as unsold — at their highest number since 1992 which is the earliest year data was available.

“On the supply side, there’s a clear divide between singles and condos, with the latter looking more vulnerable if a correction does come,” Mr. Kavcic said in a note. “Suffice it to say that while starts are again running slightly ahead of the estimated rate of household formation (about 175,000 a year), the supply situation is looking a lot tighter for single detached homes than for condos.”

Brian Johnston, the president of Monarch Construction, said the condominium market has been driven by affordability issues which includes the cost of land for single family homes.

“House prices have been going up faster than inflation for the past 10 years,” he says, noting people must travel further and further into the suburbs to buy homes that compare in price to urban condominiums. “People are saying it’s just not worth it. I’d rather sacrifice to reduce my commute times.”

Mr. Johnston also said in Toronto, which is considered the largest condominium market in North America, the provincial government has made it policy to have more intensification and discouraged low rise construction.

Despite the pace of construction, he doesn’t see condominium sales slowing anytime soon with one caveat. “I don’t see any increase in unsold condominiums. We are at like 98% sold by the time we get to occupancy,” Mr. Johnston says . “The only issue in my mind is the day interest rates start to go up, then we may have a problem. If that happens, the economics start to fall apart.”

Urbanation Inc., which tracks the Toronto condominium market, said the number of unoccupied units may be up but cautioned against comparisons with 1992 because the overall market is so much larger.

“There are 29 buildings in the category of occupying now, there are 5,627 units and 5,194 have been sold or 92%,” says Ben Myers, vice-president of Urbanation. “I mean how many projects were there in 1992? You have to expect the numbers to be skewed.”

While urban single new home construction may have seen better days, a strong market for existing homes could ultimately lead to a rebound.

In Toronto, single family detached sales have been rising since May compared to a year earlier, said Gregory Klump, chief economist with the Canadian Real Estate Association “You have to have a tight market in the resale market before new home construction picks up,” he said. “You have to have a shortage of supply and then they start building.”

Kirsten Cornelson, an economist with Royal Bank of Canada, said the volatility of the multiple-unit sector leads her to put more faith in urban singles for an overall understanding of the market.

That said, she doesn’t seem worried about the market. “We think multiples will fall back to a more normal pace,” said Ms. Cornelson. “We don’t see any reason to be alarmed. We think the Canadian housing market is in for a pretty steady period. The strength over the last couple of months is not sustainable but we don’t expect any sort of collapse.”

Source: Christine Dobby & Garry Marr, Financial Post

Recent real estate sales in West Vancouver, Surrey and White Rock

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Vancouver Sun November 5th, 2011

1263 Fulton Avenue, West Vancouver

Type: 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom detached
Size: 3,827 sq. ft.
B.C. Assessment, 2011: $1.755 million
Listed for: $2.95 million
Sold for: $2.65 million
Sold on: Sept. 15
Days on market: 59
Listing agent: Paul Rickman at RE/MAX Masters Realty
Buyers agent: Eric Christiansen at Angell Hasman & Associates Realty

The big sell: According to listing agent Paul Rickman, the appeal of this Ambleside home was multi-faceted. First was the fact that the home is made of concrete; that’s relatively unique, and despite the additional cost, it offers a longevity and strength not always found with a wood-framed house. Other attractions highlight the extensive use of West Coast materials, including cedar in the vaulted ceilings and soffits, the custom millwork, and the floor-to-ceiling windows and expansive skylights that allow natural light into the home. And the view? Vistas of the water, Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver are showcased from the upper floor, where the kitchen, reception rooms and two offices are located. Double-entry doors open to the ground level, where a spacious foyer leads to the bedrooms, each with its own patio and access to the garden and hot tub.

115 — 13468 King George Blvd., Surrey

Type: 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment
Size: 591 sq. ft.
B.C. Assessment, 2011: $N/A
Listed for: $174,900
Sold for: $174,900
Sold on: Aug. 22
Days on market: 15
Listing agent: Michael Sikich at The Agency Real Estate Marketing, TRG Downtown Realty
Buyers agent: Stanley Ng at Sutton Centre Realty

The big sell: The Brookland is a new condo development in Surrey that is set to complete toward the end of November. The four-level project will feature 91 one- and two-bedroom homes ranging from 441 to 914 square feet. This ground-floor unit has fully optimized the space available and includes a master bedroom with a walk-in closet and an ensuite bathroom that can be accessed from the main living space. As well, the home has a kitchen with double sinks, stainless-steel appliances, polished granite countertops, natural maple shaker-style cabinetry, a breakfast bar, in-suite washer and dryer facilities, and a balcony off the living room. The complex, which has a fully equipped fitness centre and lounge area housed in a separate building, is within proximity to Central City Mall, SFU’s campus, the Gateway SkyTrain station, numerous parks and the Surrey Arts Centre.

15552 Columbia Avenue, White Rock

Type: 5-bedroom, 4-bathroom, detached
Size: 4,610 sq. ft.
B.C. Assessment, 2011: $1.023 million
Listed for: $1.299 million
Sold for: $1.27 million
Sold on: Aug. 25
Days on market: 86
Listing agent: Kelly Wood at Hugh & McKinnon Realty
Buyers agent: Jeanette Leith at HomeLife Benchmark Realty

The big sell: This four-level residence sounds like it would be more at home in a California setting, thanks to 180-degree ocean views and an East Beach address in the South Surrey/White Rock neighbourhood. The contemporary-style home was built into the hillside in 1991 and features large decks on every floor to capitalize on the views. The upper two levels combine to create a spacious 2,610 square feet that accommodate the bedrooms and open-concept reception rooms. Below, there is a 1,300-square-foot, two-bedroom suite with 10-foot-high ceilings, a five-car garage, a workshop and a cold storage room. The property has a high-efficiency natural gas hot water boiler with in-floor heating on all levels, two gas fireplaces, and an HRV air-circulation system. The lively shops and restaurants of White Rock’s Marine Drive are just down the road.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Why Canadian homes have doubled in value since 2000

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

From 2000 to 2010, the average value of a Canadian home doubled, rising to $339,030 from $163,951. The money involved is huge, with the value of residential building permits issued across Canada in the past decade pegged at $340-billion. But even that huge figure is eclipsed by the cash pushed into home renovations in the same time period — estimated to be $450-billion.


Regina topped the list of surging housing prices. The average price of a home rose 173%, climbing to more than $258,000 from $94,518 in 10 years. Much of the increase comes from new construction, with building permit values exceeding $1.6-billion, triple the amount in the preceding decade, according to the report. And it is not abating. The first half of this year saw $172-million in building permit value being issued. The rise has hit renters hard, with the city’s tenants shelling out rents approaching those in much bigger cities. Edmonton saw the second highest price appreciation (165%), followed by Saskatoon (163%) and Winnipeg (158%).


Winnipeg is seen as having the biggest potential for future growth, as it leads the nation with having the largest stock of older homes. More than half of the city’s owned housing was built before 1970. The report points to increasing building permit values in recent years, the city’s 25-year strategic plan and the rejuvenation from the return of the NHL as boosting future new construction and renovation — and expected rising prices.


In Vancouver, small bungalows on large lots have been snapped up only to be torn down. A trend to maximize a home’s footprint means large, custom-built homes are going up in their place, providing more square footage of living space but considerably less lawn and garden. The change, the report says, is transforming what were once working-class subdivisions into trendy enclaves of large, upper-end homes, the report says. At the same time, one in every two homes sold in Greater Vancouver are condos, with an average condo price of $457,887.


Toronto’s skyline has been transformed by high-rise condo development in recent years, flooding the downtown with high density housing. There was a 212% increase in the number of units sold between 2000 and 2010. The condo craze ranges from modest pads for young, first-home buyers to the most expensive sale in the city, the $28-million penthouse of the Four Seasons Residences. “Toronto has become the largest condominium market in North America,” said Michael Polzler, executive vice-president of RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada. With so much condo development, it has increased demand for single-family detached homes in core neighbourhoods, led by Leaside, where house price rose by 111%.


Hamilton is an “ongoing project in renewal,” says the report, making the area an “underestimated up-and-comer.” The total value of residential building permits nearly doubled in the decade, exceeding $6.5-billion. The attraction to Hamilton has been fuelled by plenty of large, solidly built detached homes that are increasingly unattainable in Toronto, less than an hour away. The city has also been pushing the redevelopment of its brownfields for residential and mixed use projects and condos have been enthusiastically embraced, representing 24% of housing sales.

Source: Adrian Humphreys, National Post

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