Archive for December, 2013

Demand for laneway houses in Vancouver continues to grow

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

The city of Vancouver says demand for laneway houses continues to grow, with 348 permits to build the rental dwellings issued in 2013.

Vancouver requires that laneway houses be rentals, and cannot be run by the Strata Corporation, in a bid to create more affordable rental options in the city.

More than 1,000 laneway house permits have been issued in Vancouver since they became legal in 2009. That year there were just 18 permits handed out.

But by 2012 a record 350 permits had been issued, up from 192 in 2010 and 229 in 2011.

This year’s permits are coming from all over the city and are not concentrated in one or two neighbourhoods, said city councillor Geoff Meggs on Saturday.

“We’re seeing this as a family-based solution. Often we see the parents build them for their adult children. So it’s not a silver bullet for the affordable housing strategy but it is one piece in trying to confront the (housing) crisis.”

At this point, Meggs said there is no plan for a cap on the number of laneway houses that can be built in the city, but he noted that staff are watching to see if it gets too crowded.

He wants to see provincial and federal tax incentive programs that helped developers build rental housing be restored.

Michael Lyons, vice-president of marketing for Smallworks, a builder of laneway homes in Vancouver, says at least half his customers are building the small houses at the back of their lots for the next generation.

He says it’s tough for young people in Vancouver because many of them can’t afford to buy something in the neighbourhood where they grew up.

The cost to build a laneway home, according to Lyons, is usually between $250,000 and $270,000. That price includes preconstruction costs of $11,500, excavation and site work of $30,000 to $35,000 and another $175,000-$200,000 for the construction.

Laneway housing, also known as granny flats, coach or carriage houses and “fonzi suites,” are usually one-and-a-half or two stories high, and typically built above or next to detached garages in narrow lots or laneways.

The small homes were initially devised as mortgage helpers, or affordable suites for aging parents, young families and students, as part of Vancouver’s eco-density plan.

Source: Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun

British Columbia home prices forecast to increase over next 3 years

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

The median resale price of a home in British Columbia is expected to increase at an accelerating rate over the next three years, according to a new forecast by Central 1 Credit Union.

The median resale price is expected to end this year at $388,000, up about 1.5 per cent following a decline in 2012, Central 1 says.

And while the credit union’s economist Bryan Yu expects that rate of increase to continue through 2014, he predicts bigger increases in the following two years.

“We have revised the provincial pricing outlook higher and expect prices to rise about 1.5 per cent in 2014, 2.5 per cent in 2015 and three per cent in 2016, taking the median price to $415,000,” Yu said in a news release issued this morning.

Central 1’s forecast calls for total home sales to be under 70,000 for 2013, but that should rise about seven per cent to 72,500 in 2014, and hit 84,000 in 2016.

“Although growth is significant, the sales level remains low when adjusted for the population base,” Yu said.

Yu said the volume of home sales will depend on population and economic growth, both forecast to expand at a subdued pace through most of 2014 before accelerating later in the forecast period..

He added that low mortgage rates will continue to support housing demand, but rising rates will eat into affordability.

Source: Vancouver Sun

Canadian average home price rises almost 10% to $391,085

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

New data released yesterday from the organization that represents home sellers shows Canada’s housing market continues to hit new highs, with the average price increasing by almost 10 per cent in the last 12 months to $391,085.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said the strong gain was in part because this time a year ago, sales were down in some of the largest housing markets.

When prices in Toronto and Vancouver are stripped out of the equation, the average annual price gain was 4.3 per cent, CREA said.

Aside from prices, the realtor group says the number of homes sold was a little below the peak in September, but higher than the number this time last year and still close to the historical average.

A total of 434,678 homes have traded hands across the country this year, CREA says. That’s about 0.2 per cent higher than last year’s total.

“While there has been a lot of volatility in sales activity from month to month, sales for the year to date are on par with fairly steady levels posted for the same time period in each of the past five years,” CREA’s economist Gregory Klump said.

The average price rose 9.8 per cent compared to a year ago, but actually had dropped on a monthly basis. November’s average price was slightly lower than October’s, $391,820.

“Most housing markets are well balanced, including many large urban centres,” Klump said.

“Housing price gains are always stronger in places where supply is tight relative to demand, such as we’re seeing in Calgary and in parts of southern Ontario including the low-rise market in Toronto.”

Source: CBC News

What’s in store for BC’s housing market in 2014?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

B.C.’s housing market will remain strong in the coming year as residential real estate sales and average prices nationally have soared to a five-year high, according to a new report by Re/Max.

The Housing Market Outlook 2014, released Wednesday, said improved economic performance combined with historically low interest rates and rising consumer confidence should spark greater gains in 2014, with housing sales and values expected to further appreciate.

The report said the number of homes sold this year is expected to match or exceed 2012 levels in almost two-thirds of markets across the country, led by strong activity in B.C., including Vancouver and Kelowna.

Home buying in B.C. kicked into high-gear in June, led by the Lower Mainland, Kelowna and Victoria. Although there are several factors that are expected to contribute to rising housing values nationally, one of the most pressing is continued construction in Vancouver and Toronto, said Elton Ash, regional executive vice-president of Re/Max of Western Canada.

The availability of low-rise homes relative to the population is expected to contract, in favour of vertical growth, and its affordable price point is representative of the future.

“We’re definitely seeing a greater commitment to higher density at a municipal level,” Ash says. “In fact, the trend already underway in Vancouver and Toronto has gained serious momentum in smaller markets where cities are moving to infuse vibrancy into the urban core through mixeduse residential/commercial/retail development. The level of investment is substantial – dovetailing with revitalization efforts currently underway.”

Nationally, an estimated 466,000 homes will change hands in 2013, an increase of three per cent over sales recorded in 2012.

Canadian home sales are expected to climb two per cent to 475,000 units by the end of next year. The average price of a Canadian home is forecast to appreciate four per cent to $380,000 in 2013, up from $363,740 in 2012.

Values are expected to continue to escalate in 2014, rising three per cent to $390,000 by year end, the report said.

Source: Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun

See what Vancouver property tax increases are proposed for 2014

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Vancouver city council is proposing increases in property taxes and utility fees for 2014 below the rate of inflation.

The proposed increases, 1.9 per cent for property taxes and one per cent for utilities such as water, sewer and garbage collection, come just before Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver administration seeks re-election.

The proposal, which is expected to be ratified next Tuesday, would boost the city’s overall operating budget to nearly $1.2 billion, an increase of $29.6 million. Of that, more than $5 million would go toward new priorities, including more money for social inclusion, culture and recreation, Greenest City initiatives, safety and emergency planning and digital services. The rest involves inflation and program adjustments.

The details are contained in a massive 220-page operating and capital plan document the city unleashed on the public after some people, including opposition Coun. George Affleck, complained about the city not being transparent with its budget process.

The new increases, if approved, would see property taxes for a residential property worth $1 million go up by $36, and utility fees another $29.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, the chair of the city’s finance and services committee, said the proposed increase is a bargain compared to proposed tax increases in other Metro Vancouver municipalities. Surrey will raise its property tax rates by 2.9 per cent in 2014.

Last year Vancouver was the city with the second-smallest tax increase in Metro, 1.36 per cent, behind West Vancouver.

Louie credited the Vancouver Services Review Program, which has identified $53 million in unnecessary programs and expenditures, for allowing the city to keep tax increases low.

Source: Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun

Top tips on decorating your home for the holiday season

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Red and green may be the trademark colours of the holiday season, but if you want to wow your guests, try experimenting with alternative colour combos. British design icon and television personality Debbie Travis has named berry pink the colour of the season.

“This was a hot colour this year for clothes and we know home always follows fashion,” she says.

This deep, cheerful pink with a hint of purple is a refreshing twist on the traditional cherry red of the holiday season. Travis chose the colour because it adds a touch of sophistication and fun and goes well with modern decor, complementing dark wood and metals such as silver and gold, which have risen in home decor popularity in the last couple of years.

“I think it’s a really happy colour for the holidays and it’s got that little bit of an edge to it,” she says.

Travis has teamed up with Canadian Tire, offering an exclusive line of berry pink holiday decor. She offers her top tips for holiday decorating with the hue.

1. Break decor rules

“The whole point of the holidays is that it’s the one time of the year to throw all those decorating rules out the window and have some fun (with colour and combinations),” says Travis. While berry pink may not be a colour you would choose for your living room walls, she says we should forget trying to match holiday decor with our everyday themes. Ignore the idea that you need to use traditional colours if you have traditional living room furniture or contemporary ones if you have a modern living space.

2. Switch it up

Change your holiday decor each year to create interest in your home, she says, since we tend to have the same people over at Christmas. While you don’t have to throw away all of your decorations and start anew each year, simply adding a new colour of the season and pairing it with holiday staples such as gold, silver and white can create a whole new look that will keep friends and family guessing what your home will look like.

3. Choose a main colour

Select one colour as your main thread, then add complementary winter colours such as white or silver. Although Travis says it’s impossible to go overboard with colour during the holiday season, toning it down with a contemporary metal such as gold, silver or a neutral brown tone can make the colour really pop in your space.

4. Experiment

Take a twist on the traditional red and green colour combination and try something unique, like pairing berry pink with peppermint or lime green to give your decor a more contemporary look.

5. Get organized

Before hanging decorations, Travis spreads everything out on the floor to see how ornaments look next to each other. Try incorporating a variety of textures, patterns and materials to create interest such as mixing ribbons in quilted and knitted textures with feathers and ornaments.

6. All the rest

Decorating is not just about the tree. It’s important to create a unified look by adding touches of holiday colours throughout all areas of the home where guests will be, says Travis. Hand towels in the powder room, ribbons on the backs of chairs, table decorations and a wreathe on the front door or in the window above the kitchen sink — all incorporating your chosen holiday colour — help to create a cohesiveness to your holiday look.

Source: Lisa Evans, In Homes

Bank of Canada leaves interest rates unchanged

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Good news for homeowners and buyers as the Bank of Canada has just announced that it will hold its key interest rate steady but sounded a touch more dovish in its outlook, saying the risks of undesirably weak inflation appeared greater than they did six weeks ago.

The central bank stunned markets in October by abandoning 18 months of signaling that rate hikes were on the horizon. But it made clear at the time it was just as likely to raise rates as to lower them as it was caught between excessive household debt on one hand and below-target inflation on the other.

The bank’s statement today showed it was now increasingly concerned about possible disinflation after the inflation rate dropped to 0.7 percent in October. It added, however, that the balance of risks remained within the range of possible scenarios it identified in October.

“The risks associated with elevated household imbalances have not materially changed, while the downside risks to inflation appear to be greater,” it said.

“Weighing these considerations, the bank judges that the substantial monetary policy stimulus currently in place remains appropriate …,” it said.

The Canadian dollar briefly weakened after the statement to C$1.0689 to the U.S. dollar, compared with C$1.0663 an hour earlier.

The bank has kept its overnight rate target at 1 percent since September 2010, following three successive hikes that year as Canada pulled out of a relatively mild recession.

None of 32 analysts polled by Reuters last week had expected any rate move on Wednesday, but many market players were nonetheless bracing for the possibility that the bank would somehow introduce more dovish language without signaling actual rate cuts.

The median forecast in that poll was for the bank to start raising rates in the second quarter of 2015.

Source: Reuters

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