Archive for April, 2014

See which is the top US city for Canadian homebuyers

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Las Vegas, Detroit and Los Angeles are the top three city targets for Canadian home hunters, with Florida dominating the rest of the 2013 list of online searches on the website

The United States city in most demand from Canadian homebuyers is Las Vegas, Nevada, according to website data.

In 2013, Canadians carried out more online searches for the property in the international gambling city than anywhere else, states the newly-published research from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The second most popular destination was Detroit, Michigan, and third was Los Angeles, California, the City Search Index (CSI) shows.

The other cities ranked among the top 8, in order of preference, are Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando, in Florida, along with Chicago, Illinois, and Naples, Florida.

The figures largely mirror the NAR’s March 2013 2013 Profile of International Home Buying Activity report, which showed the top five destinations were Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Detroit, and Naples.

The index is based on a count of actual house searches by potential buyers throughout the year as measured by traffic on, NAR’s official property listing website.

* Air Canada has just introduced a new daily flights, starting today (Monday 28 April) from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Las Vegas. The Air Canada rouge branded flight is one of five new routes announced from Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Air Canada is also flying to Los Angeles, California, four times daily from 1 May, Anchorage, Alaska, daily from 16 May, San Francisco, California, four times daily from 1 July and Phoenix, Arizona, daily from 17 December.

Craig Richmond, President & CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority, says, “With Air Canada rouge now touching down in Vancouver, travellers will have more selection to our popular US destinations – including the addition of their service to Phoenix.”

Source: Adrian Bishop, Editor, OPP Connect

Canada-U.S. house price gap hits a record high

Monday, April 28th, 2014

For many years, the Canadian and U.S. housing markets tracked each other fairly closely, but that hasn’t been the case since the U.S. housing bubble burst in the middle years of the last decade.

According to an analysis from BMO chief economist Doug Porter, the difference between the two housing markets has never been greater, with average resale prices in Canada now 66 per cent higher than resale prices in the U.S.

The strength of Canadian home prices has surprised even optimistic observers. The latest data from the country’s real estate boards indicates resale prices (not including new builds) jumped six per cent in the past year, and the average price of an existing home in Canada has now pushed past $400,000.

That compares to an average price of around $250,000 in the U.S.

Comparisons like this are never as telling as they seem, because of differences in how average prices are measured, and because average prices say little about which way a housing market is headed.

And then of course there is the fluctuating exchange rate, but Porter notes that even after adjusting the numbers for exchange rate changes, Canada’s housing market is still about 50 per cent more expensive than the U.S.

“The main takeaway is that, contrary to all expectations, the Canadian housing market has just kept on rolling in 2014 even as the U.S. housing market has paused for breath (after a steep climb out of the dungeon),” Porter wrote in a client note last week.

But will it keep on rolling? The seemingly endless debate continues between those forecasting a Canadian housing bubble burst and those saying the market is healthy.

Yet with recent weakness in housing starts and building permits, some economists — such as BMO’s Sal Guatieri — have started to warn that a housing market correction could cause a recession.

Guatieri noted in a report earlier this month that Canada has become more reliant on real estate-related jobs than it has been in the past, making the economy more vulnerable to a correction.

But overall, the bank sees the odds of a serious housing market bust-out as being low.

All the same, a significant number of international investors have gone bearish on Canada’s housing market, predicting double-digit price collapses. Pimco, the trillion-dollar hedge fund run by billionaire Bill Gross, recently predicted a 30-per-cent collapse in house prices in Canada over the next few years, starting this year.

If Pimco’s prediction were right on the money, and nothing changed in the U.S. market, Canadian average resale prices would still be about a third higher in Canada than in the U.S. — even after the price crash.

Source: Daniel Tencer, Huffington Post Canada

Why is Vancouver’s real estate so expensive?

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Vancouver has been ranked the second most expensive housing market in the world in a report on international housing costs, second only to Hong Kong.

The annual Demographia survey looked at 360 housing markets and divided median housing prices against median gross household incomes. Houses in Hong Kong cost 15 times local median incomes, while houses in Vancouver cost 10 times median incomes.

All of Canada’s major metropolitan centers fared badly in the report, ranked as extremely unaffordable with Vancouver the most costly.

According to Tsur Somerville, director of the University of British Columbia Center for Urban Economics and Real Estate, the reason for Vancouver’s skyrocketing housing prices is simple — demand is larger than supply.

“Vancouver is a lovely place with limited land and people from all over the world want to live here,” he told Xinhua. “If you have an attractive area, naturally you’ll get people willing to pay a higher price to live there, willing to pay higher rents to live there and relative to their incomes, and you’re going to get an affordability challenge.”

Local realtors are predicting the days of purchasing a detached house for Cdn $600,000 (US $543,500) are now over in Vancouver. Earlier this month, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house on the east side of the city marked as the cheapest on the market was sold for Cdn $643,000 (US $582,500).

Somerville also pointed out that immigration to Vancouver, Canada’s Asian gateway, stands at about 30,000 people per year and the resulting demand for housing will likely keep prices high.

“But I think as long as we’re getting an inflow of about 30,000 to 35,000 people a year, coming to Vancouver as part of coming to Canada, that’s going to be able to support the house prices.”

His view was echoed by Ross McCredie, director and CEO of Canada’s Sotheby’s International Realty. Since the flare up of the international financial crisis in 2008, housing prices in Vancouver have remained high compared to other large cities around North America.

He attributes house price stability in this market to the steady inflow of immigrants and investors not common to many other major cities around the continent.

“But certainly the foreign buyers are also an important part of this market and if we didn’t have those foreign buyers our market would have been in significant trouble through 2008,” McCredie told Xinhua.

He noted Vancouver is one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in Canada with a good location and environment, which means that people will keep coming and will continue to buy-up the limited housing stock.

“Part of the problem with having a beautiful city, and a gateway, is that you have significant amount of demand from people who want to live here.”

Source: Fu Peng, Xinhua

Home prices in Vancouver continue their upward trend

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Prices for all housing types are still on the rise in Vancouver, according to the Royal LePage House Price Survey which was released last week.

The report said year-over-year price increases were seen across all housing types in the city in 2014’s first quarter. Detached bungalows saw the biggest jump, with a 4.8% increase to $1,062,318. Standard two-storey homes increased 2.9% to $1,148,473 and standard condos grew 0.3% to $482,000

“The Vancouver real estate market was steady but balanced when compared to the same period of last year,” said Bill Binnie, broker and owner of Royal LePage North Shore.

“There is a healthy dose of momentum in the market right now, in large part because of the year-over-year increase in unit sales.”

Inventories for detached homes in Vancouver have been low lately, said Chris Simmons, owner and broker of Royal LePage Vancouver West Side and City Centre, meaning properties that are put on the market don’t stay there for very long.

“Builders are focused on developing multi-unit properties like condos, so inventory in that category remains fairly good,” Simmons said.

“On the other hand, there is a perpetual shortage of single-family homes, which is driving up prices for this property type.”

Simmons said the first quarter is consistent with how the January-to-March period usually plays out.

“In terms of unit sales, January and the beginning of February were slow, but more and more life came into the market in the end of February and through March.”

Prices also rose across Canada as a whole, with the average two-story home costing 5.4% more than one year prior, at $428,943. Detached bungalows grew 4.4% to $380,765 and standard condos increased 2.5% to $252,174.

Source: Emma Crawford Hampel, Business in Vancouver

Easy steps to creating a beautiful patio – perfect for outdoor enjoyment

Friday, April 11th, 2014

The weather forecast for this weekend is sun, sun, sun (well, in Vancouver at any rate!). With the garden slowly waking up, our thoughts turn to creating beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy for the next few months (until the rains come again).

Here’s a great article that I found on by Kathy Woodard, Home Decor Stylist, who shares tips on designing a warm and welcoming outdoor patio space as inviting as any interior room.

Patios allow you to enjoy the outdoors in comfort, and outdoor living has never been more a part of our everyday living. Even if your budget is tight and your space small, you can carve out a little oasis to whisk you away from the hustle of daily life for you and your loved ones.

The first step in creating a stylish patio or outdoor room is to locate the right place for it. If you have a built-in covered porch or patio, you have a natural area. However, sometimes it’s nice to create a space farther away from buildings and the commotion of others, so feel free to look for unused spots under a tree in the garden or in a private side yard to create an unattached patio.

Once you have your chosen spot for your sanctuary, you need only follow a few easy steps to create a patio “room” that anyone would enjoy relaxing in after a long day.

Step One: Give Your Patio Room Floors, Walls and Ceilings

No, I’m not talking hiring a contractor here; there are easy ways to add the sense of boundaries and privacy without spending big bucks. Use inexpensive fabric panels or hanging planters to create a private wall on a porch, or trellising, evergreens in planters or hedging out in the garden. Trees, vine covered arbors, or the brilliant blue sky all make an excellent ceiling. Flooring can consist of grass, gravel, paving or decking. My favorite technique to dress up a plain concrete floor is to paint on a faux area rug. Clean the concrete first, paint and stencil your rug using masking tape and house paint, then seal with an exterior grade polyurethane.

Step Two: Add Furniture and Accessories

Even a simple chair tucked in a quiet corner can make your oasis special. Consider resin or aluminum furniture to keep costs down. Plastic or resin chairs can be spray painted with specialty paints to give them a more upscale look. Add a table for those glasses of lemonade! Don’t be afraid to bring traditional decorating items into your rooms. Pillows, throws and candles all make charming and useful additions, and add comfort to your space. If your room is open to the elements, you can either purchase weather resistant fabrics, or bring your fabric items indoors during bad weather. Remember you are in an outdoor room, so decorate with nature. Planters of flowers, garden signs, and even old tools, birdhouses and watering cans are at home in an outdoor room.

Step Three: Light Up the Night Sky

To make your special spot really magical, add lighting to create a nighttime glow. Strings of inexpensive white holiday lights can be wrapped around tree branches or decking, tiki torches and candles add a festive flair, and solar lights can accent the pathway or steps.

New report shows why Canadian real estate is such a sound investment

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

A report released today by Grosvenor’s research team suggests that Canadian cities are the best bet for long-term real estate investment, with Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary taking the first, second and third spots respectively. The research ranks 50 of the world’s top cities according to their resilience: a product of their environmental and social vulnerability and adaptive capacity, which covers community, infrastructure, resources, environmental and climatic factors.

“Toronto is no stranger to the importance of resiliency, having endured natural disasters such as the 1998 ice storm and even Hurricane Hazel, in 1954,” said Richard Barkham, Grosvenor’s Group Research Director. “The investment of city leaders in infrastructure and its commitment to upgrading it over the decades has put Toronto at the top of Grosvenor’s list of the world’s most resilient cities.”

“Canada, as a whole, is doing exceptionally well in developing resiliency. The top three most resilient cities in Grosvenor’s Resiliency index are Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. For investors in property and real estate, it makes Canada a very sound long-term investment.”

Key findings from the research are:

* The most resilient cities are in Canada, with Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary taking the top three spots respectively.

* American cities are relatively vulnerable, but their capacity to adapt makes them fairly resilient. The lowest ranked cities are also those with the highest population forecast figures.

* The middle group of cities, ranked 11 to 30, are fairly close to the top 10 in their scores so must be considered resilient. Most European cities fall into this group. London is ranked 18th.

* The weakest 20 cities are in emerging markets and are considerably weaker than the top 30. Eight of these are in the so called BRIC countries. So far, blistering economic growth has not fed through into the quality and long term resilience of these cities.

Source: Marketwired

If you own real estate in the US, be aware of the tax rules when it comes to selling

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Many, especially those who are retired snowbirds, also spend a good part of the year in the U.S. It is important to understand what the tax implications are when you own or sell your U.S. property.

One issue that needs to be addressed is whether your tax status changes for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code by virtue of your time spent in the U.S. More specifically, are you still considered to be a “non-resident alien” for U.S. tax purposes or have you become a “resident alien” for U.S. tax purposes because you stayed in the U.S. too long?

In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), if you spend less than 31 days in the U.S. during the current year, you are considered to be a non-resident alien.

On the other hand, you will be considered to be a U.S. resident for tax purposes if you meet the “substantial presence test.”

If you spend 183 days or more in the U.S. during the current year, you are considered a resident alien.

If you spend between 31 and 183 days in the U.S. during the current year, you will need to determine the number of days you spend in the U.S. during a three-year period (the current and two previous years) using what is often referred to as the 183-day test.

The 183-day test is calculated by adding the sum of (1) all of the days of physical presence in the United States in the current year, (2) one-third of the days of physical presence in the first preceding year, and (3) one-sixth of the days of physical presence in the second preceding year. If the total exceeds 182 days, then the substantial presence test has been met, and the individual will be treated as a U.S. resident.

If under this test you are considered a resident alien, you can still be treated as a non-resident alien if:

You spend less than 183 days in the U.S. in the current calendar year; you maintain your tax home in Canada during the year; and you have a closer connection to Canada than to the U.S.

The significance of the distinction between resident aliens and non-resident aliens is that:

1. Resident aliens are taxed in the U.S. on income from all sources worldwide, while non-resident aliens are generally taxed in the U.S. on income only from U.S. sources.

2. Resident aliens have to file a U.S. tax return to report worldwide income if their annual gross income exceeds certain U.S. dollar amounts.

Canadian residents who at any time during the year own foreign investment property (called specified foreign property) costing more than $100,000 are required to file the Form 1135 Foreign Income Verification Statement.

Specified foreign property includes real estate situated outside Canada, but does not include personal-use property, that is, any property used mainly for personal use and enjoyment.

Therefore, if you own a condominium in Florida that costs over $100,000, but which is utilized purely for personal use and enjoyment, you would not need to report the condominium on a Form T1135.

However, if the condominium is utilized for personal use for four months of the year and is rented out for 8 months of the year for profit, the property is considered to be an income-earning investment property not held primarily for personal use and enjoyment.

As a result, you are required to report the property on a Form 1135.

When a non-resident alien sells their U.S. real estate, the resulting gain or loss is required to be reported to the IRS by filing Form 1040NR.

The purchaser is required to withhold 10 per cent of the gross sale price if the sale price exceeds US$300,000. Withholding is not required where the purchaser acquires the property for use as a residence and the sale price is US$300,000 or less.

The tax normally required to be withheld on a disposition can be reduced or eliminated if you obtain a withholding certificate from the IRS. The IRS will issue the withholding certificate if the amount required to be withheld would be more than the maximum tax liability.

Therefore, if you expect the tax liability on the sale of your U.S. property to be less than 10 per cent of the gross sale price, you should request the withholding certificate and file it before the closing date of the sale. The certificate, if granted, will specify the amount of tax to be withheld instead of the full 10 per cent.

On the Canadian side, a taxable capital gain may also result from the sale of the U.S. property.
A foreign tax credit is generally available with respect to related U.S. tax paid to eliminate double taxation.

It may also be possible to claim the principal residence exemption for all or part of the gain on the sale. However, careful consideration should be made here, because if there is no Canadian tax payable, the U.S. tax paid will not receive a tax credit in Canada.

Remember also that the gain or loss arising from foreign currency fluctuations between the time the property was purchased and its sale will be factored into the computation of the Canadian gain or loss.

Source: Murray Becotte, chartered accountant and CFP working as an investment advisor with TD Waterhouse in Thunder Bay, ON

What will happen to property prices in Canada in 2014 and 2015?

Friday, April 4th, 2014

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has updated its forecast for home sales and prices, saying it expects transactions and values to increase during the spring months and into 2015.

The national average home price is forecast to rise by 3.8% to $397,000 in 2014, with similar sized gains in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Modest changes in average prices are forecast for all other provinces this year.

The national average price is forecast to rise a further 1.1% in 2015 to $401,400. Alberta is forecast to post the biggest rise in average price in 2015 at 2.5%, followed closely by Manitoba at 2%. Prices in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador are forecast to grow by about 1% in 2015, with other provinces managing gains of close to 0.5%.

National resale housing activity started 2014 at lower levels compared to previous years and CREA explained that this partly reflected stronger levels of activity recorded last summer and autumn when buyers with pre-approved mortgage financing advanced home purchases before their lower pre-approved rates expired.

It also likely reflects the deferral of some activity due to what has been an exceptionally tough winter in many parts of the country. Taking this into consideration, and with mortgage rates having edged lower, home sales are expected to trend higher and be further supported over the second half of 2014 by a widely anticipated pick up in Canadian economic growth.

‘I expect fixed mortgage rates will edge marginally higher in the second half of 2014 as evidence confirms an anticipated pick up in economic growth,’ said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

‘Marginally higher mortgage rates are likely to counterbalance the lift provided by stronger economic and continuing job growth, and restrain the momentum for sales activity,’ he added.

He explained that, on balance, the combination of these two opposing factors is expected to most benefit housing markets where sales are currently weak but prices remain more affordable. Sales in relatively less affordable housing markets are likely to be more sensitive to higher fixed mortgage rates, whether from the standpoint of higher monthly mortgage payments or qualification for mortgage financing based on the posted five year rate.

Sales are forecast to reach 463,700 units in 2014, an increase of 1.3% from 2013. This would place sales in line with their 10 year average, and hold national activity to within fairly short reach of the 450,000 mark for the seventh year in a row.

British Columbia is forecast to post the largest year-on-year increase in activity at 8.3% and make the biggest contribution to the increase in national sales activity. The increase in 2014 sales activity reflects slow sales for the province in early 2013 and a replay of that weakness is not expected this year.

Annual changes in activity in other provinces are forecast to range between plus and minus 3% in 2014 with the exception of a slightly larger decline in Nova Scotia.

In 2015, national activity is forecast to edge up a further 1.2% to 469,400 units. Affordability is expected to restrain activity in Canada’s most expensive markets, with annual sales forecast to decline marginally in British Columbia, and hold just below 200,000 units in Ontario for the fourth consecutive year. Alberta is the notable exception, where it is anticipated that strong economic and job growth combined with supportive demographic trends will result in strengthening annual sales activity.

CREA also said that average prices have remained firm and continue to reflect a rise in the share of national sales among some of Canada’s most active and expensive markets compared to last year. Also, prices have been heating up in some markets, particularly in Calgary and Toronto where single family properties are in short supply.

Source: PropertyWire

Canada’s first-time home buyers are exploring new ways to purchase

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Maybe it’s the sky-rocketing home prices in key markets, but Canadians are saying sayonara to the traditional way of buying a home and are either going in alone or doubling up with friends or relatives.

A quarter of Canadians who’ve bought a home in the last two years made the significant financial move on their own, while four in ten Canadians believe purchasing a home with friends and family is a great way to access the housing market, according to a survey by TD.

Households comprising of single Canadians make up 27.6 per cent of all homes, according to Statistics Canada. And it looks like young, single women are dominating the solo route in Canadian cities. Women, especially those in their 20s, represent one-third of all condo sales in Montreal and Toronto, according to the Globe and Mail newspaper. Single women are more likely than men to be solo first-time home buyers thanks to changes in income levels and demographic shift, according to RBC’s 19th annual Homeownership Poll.

“Women are being more cautious than men, weighing cost, affordability and job security before buying a home,” Marcia Moffat, head of home equity financing for RBC, said in a recent release.

But there are those who are less comfortable making the investment without a safety net or financial support. Toronto resident Mike McCann went the non-traditional route, purchasing a property with multiple buyers because of the security it offered.

“For larger properties I would work within a partnership for financial reasons,” McCann says.

If you are buying alone or with a partner, many of the guiding principles that exist for traditional, nuclear families still apply. For instance, you need to know how much you are comfortable spending and what your budget will look like once home-associated costs are accounted for.

“Once homebuyers set their budget and down payment, they can take their prospective monthly mortgage payment for a test-drive and ‘pay’ into a TFSA or savings account,” says Michelle Snow, associate vice president, retail products at TD in a release.

“This two-fold solution allows the homebuyer to see how comfortable the monthly mortgage payment is before locking in, and save for a larger down payment at the same time. For co-purchasers, it opens the line of communication to talk about how these monthly payments will work after the purchase.”

Communication will be key in any alternative purchasing plan, especially when it comes to the purchase price, which is a motivating factor for pooling capital and seeking alternative home buying strategies in the first place.

“I think it is predominantly due to an increase in property prices and tighter lending requirements,” Snow says of the influx of co-purchasers.

For example, 96 per cent of Ontario-based home buyers consider the price of the home the most important factor when purchasing property, according to research from the Real Estate Council of Ontario. The national average purchase price for a single-family home in Canada now sits at $406, 372, which is a 10 per cent increase from the same month year-over-year (February), according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

From an ownership standpoint, buying a home by yourself or with a group isn’t necessarily better than what has been traditionally observed in the Canadian housing market says Chris Allen a Toronto-based realtor.

Then again “If you have the capital then absolutely go ahead and put it in your name and finance the property yourself or with your friends and family,” says Allen. “The trend with ‘team buying’ is a good thing if you’ve done your due diligence with your friend, you don’t want to get into a business relationship without nailing down all of the facts.”

Consider this before you buy a home with your group of besties: If you are buying a home there should be some legally-binding agreement that protects home buyers from one of the other members leaving the arrangement, cautions certified financial planner Margaret Richards.

“[Traditionally] if you are married there is family law to protect you,” says Richards.

Source: Haaruun Dhubat, Yahoo! Canada Finance

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