Archive for March, 2014

What costs are associated with buying a home?

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Unlike a lot of first-time home buyers, in 2009 Jesse MacNevin decided to go for a house that was less than the amount he was approved for.

“I started doing the numbers and talked to a few real estate agents,” he says. “Then I went to my credit union for a pre-approval. I realized then that I needed to focus more on what I could actually afford versus how much they would give me.”

While he was given the green light to aim for a $350,000 home, he settled on a condo for just under $260,000 instead. “I didn’t want home ownership at the expense of everything else. I remember looking at my budget at the time and thinking the last thing I wanted was not to be able to travel. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was cheaper and fulfilled all my needs. In hindsight, it was a good move.”

MacNevin says having a good real estate agent and lawyer helped him determine what he could really afford, where there might be potential problems and the ins and outs of closing the deal. A mortgage broker was also important when it came to the signing process and making sure there was flexibility in his mortgage terms.

Not everyone entering the home buying market is so diligent.

When doing the mortgage math, it’s not enough to plug some numbers into an online estimator, says David Stafford, managing director, real estate secured lending, for Scotiabank in Toronto. “This is probably the largest single financial transaction that most people do in their lives, and it can get very complicated. Online estimators typically won’t give you the full picture.”

He says buyers need to look beyond the actual purchase price and factor in a percentage (typically 1.5 per cent of the purchase price) for closing expenses from the outset. “Land transfer taxes, legal fees, title insurance and other things are all part of the math.” They also need to consider ongoing expenses that will be over and above monthly mortgage payments, such as utilities, property taxes, insurance, maintenance and condo fees.

Sometimes there are additional surprises that come into play in the initial stages of home ownership, such as reimbursement fees if the former owner has prepaid their property taxes and moving costs, says Toronto-based Richard Desrocher, a general legal practitioner and former real estate broker.

The immediate financial aspects are only part of the process, which is why a home inspection is a good idea, he says. “You won’t know what’s going on behind the walls and on the roof. It’s pretty scary after you close a deal to have to deal with drain problems.”

There are also ways people can reduce their costs if they talk to the right people, Desrocher says. “A lot don’t realize that many financial institutions are willing to negotiate down from their published rates. A mortgage broker is much better informed about where the best deals are and can shop the market for you.”

Source: Denise Deveau, Postmedia News

Friday fun: Sleep with the fishes with this amazing aquarium bed!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Love this! We’re always on the lookout for great new design ideas. They don’t get much better than this …

Forget a waterbed, the Aquarium Headboard by Las Vegas-based Acrylic Tank Manufacturing is where it’s at. This customized aquarium can hold up to 650-gallons of water and is the perfect way to upgrade your existing bedroom.

The massive aquarium is completely custom made to give your bedroom a one of a kind aquatic look, and can probably double as a swimming pool if you feel like swimming with your pets. Price? US$11,500.

For further information, check out Acrylic Tank Manufacturing.

Source: and

Canadian property prices rise by 10.1%

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Property prices in Canada increased by 10.1% compared with a year earlier, taking the national average price for homes sold in February to $406,372, according to the latest figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association.

CREA says that the size of year on year average price gains continues to reflect the decline in sales activity in February of last year among some of Canada’s most active and expensive markets, which dropped the national average at that time. This phenomenon was particularly clear this month, with Greater Vancouver having posted the biggest year on year increase in activity by a large margin.

The MLS Home Price Index, regarded as providing a better gauge of price trends because it is not affected by changes in the mix of sales activity the way that average price is, rose 5.05% on a year on year basis in February, up from a 4.83% gain in January. Year on year price growth picked up among all property types tracked by the index.

Price increases were led by two storey single family homes with growth of 5.84% and one storey single family homes at 5.4%. This was closely followed by price increases for town house and terraced units up 4.05% and apartment units up 3.74%.

The biggest gains were recorded in Calgary where prices jumped 9.1% and Greater Toronto with growth of 7.28%. Greater Vancouver’s recorded a fourth consecutive year on year increase of 3.17% while prices in Victoria remained lower than year ago levels, down 1.01%, the smallest in more than three years.

Sales were largely unchanged with an increase of just 0.3% compared to January but the slight rise follows five straight monthly declines and means that transactions are 9.3% below the peak reached in August 2013.

The number of local housing markets where February sales were up ran roughly even with the number of markets where sales declined, with little change in activity among most of Canada’s large urban markets.

‘Sales in February rebounded in some of the smaller local markets where activity was impacted by harsh winter weather in January. The strength of sales activity during the crucial spring market period will be influenced by the availability of listings, which varies considerably from market to market,’ said CREA president Laura Leyser.

Sales activity this spring will be supported by the recent decline in the benchmark five year conventional mortgage rate, according to Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

‘That’s because buyers needing mortgage default insurance who opt for a term of less than five years must qualify for mortgage financing based on that rate, and not a discounted rate that their lender may be offering. The support will be of particular importance in some of Canada’s larger urban markets where home prices are higher than those in smaller markets,’ he added.

The number of newly listed homes was also little changed in February, having edged up 0.6% on a month on month basis. As with sales activity, there was a roughly even split between the number of local markets where new listings were up from the previous month and those where they were down.

The number of new listings nationally would have declined had it not been for a 7.8% increase in Greater Toronto, where new listings in January had dropped to the lowest level in more than three years. The rise in new listings in Greater Toronto was offset by monthly declines in new listings in Greater Vancouver and Edmonton.

With sales and new listings having both edged slightly higher in February, the national sales to new listings ratio was 52.1%, virtually unchanged from 52.3% in January. Since early 2010, the ratio has remained firmly entrenched within the range from 40 to 60% that marks balanced territory. Just under two thirds of all local markets posted a sales to new listings ratio in this range in February.

The number of months of inventory is another important measure of balance between housing supply and demand. It represents the number of months it would take to completely liquidate current inventories at the current rate of sales activity.

There were 6.4 months of inventory at the national level at the end of February 2014, down slightly from 6.5 months at the end of January. As with the sales to new listings ratio, the months of inventory measure continues to point to a well balanced housing market at the national level.

Source: Property Wire

How can superstition affect the sale of your home?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

You don’t have to believe in superstition for it to hex your house, if the results of a forthcoming Canadian study are any indication.

Reporting in the journal Economic Inquiry, researchers uncover enormous costs associated with “magical thinking” in real estate transactions in neighbourhoods with a high concentration of Chinese residents. The good news, however, is that they also identify payoffs — on average, around five figures — when superstitions run in a seller’s favour.

“We do find premiums and penalties associated with numbers that are thought to be lucky or unlucky in the Chinese culture,” said lead author Nicole Fortin, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics. “And these are really sizable transactions.”

Analyzing nearly 117,000 home sales between 2000 and 2005, researchers discovered that in areas whose share of Chinese residents exceeded the metro average, houses with address numbers ending in ‘4’ were sold at a 2.2-per-cent discount while those with numbers ending in ‘8’ were sold at a 2.5-per-cent premium. Four is associated with death in Chinese culture, and eight with prosperity.

Given the average house price of $400,000 during the study period, Fortin said superstition ultimately meant the difference between an $8,000 loss or a $10,000 gain in comparison to houses with addresses ending with any other digit.

“Real estate agents are very aware of this, and they exploit it,” Fortin said.

In one Vancouver ad, for example, she found eight of 20 homes aimed at buyers from mainland China ended in ‘8,’ as did the asking price of 11 of the homes. Similarly, a 2012 analysis by found that in Asian-majority neighbourhoods, the last non-zero digit of an asking price ended with ‘8’ in 20 per cent of listings — and 37 per cent of those priced at a million or higher — versus just four per cent for other areas.

Fortin cites important public policy repercussions, noting that some people will petition to change their addresses — often by subdividing or via another legal loophole — to make their properties “luckier.” One of her own neighbours, in fact, had the last number of his home altered from a four to a six.

“I wondered why he didn’t get an ‘8.’ He probably tried,” Fortin said. “But should municipalities allow people to change their address just because they don’t like the number?”

In Canada, where people of Chinese descent account for five per cent of the population, Fortin said the implication is that something as seemingly innocuous as a home address could affect whether a property flourishes or is left to deteriorate.

To wit, study co-author Andrew Hill emphasized that disbelief in such superstitions doesn’t inoculate against them.

“If everyone knows that these belief premiums and penalties are going to persist — even if they don’t believe in (the same thing) — it can have an effect,” said Hill, assistant professor of economics at the University of South Carolina. “As a property investor, it just makes no sense to have a house number that could lose you money.”

Importantly, however, Edmonton real estate agent Taylor Hack said emotion can overcome reason in almost any purchase of a principal residence, regardless of cultural background.

“We have to take that into consideration when working with anyone,” said Hack, of Remax River City. “Everybody has their own level of superstition. If some people were aware that a traumatic incident happened in the home, they’d have trouble with it.”

Source: Misty Harris, PostMedia

What is predicted for Canada’s housing market this year?

Monday, March 24th, 2014

The Conference Board isn’t buying the notion that Canada’s housing market will suddenly crumble, saying the most likely outlook is for a modest decline nationally and in some specific markets.

The Ottawa-based think-tank argues in a comprehensive new look at real estate in Canada that the conditions for a crash simply don’t exist, despite numerous reports that the market is overbuilt and overvalued.

Rather, the report argues that with the possible exception of Toronto, housing starts the past three years have been roughly in line with the 20-year average.

Even in Toronto, there is only a “borderline” case that it could be overbuilt.

“At this point in the housing cycle, there is a risk that Canadian housing prices in some market segments are due for a modest correction,” the report states.

“Nevertheless, we believe that continued population growth, additional employment gains and modest mortgage rate increases will limit potential price declines in 2014 and 2015.”

There is a case for more dramatic price adjustment further out if higher mortgage rates start crimping affordability, the Conference Board says, but even then it is likely to be a soft rather than a hard landing.

In recent years, some economists and international organizations such as the OECD, the IMF, Deutsche Bank and The Economist magazine have described Canada’s housing market in stark terms, characterizing it as among the priciest in the world based on historical averages and other metrics.

But the consensus of economists within Canada has tended to be more subdued. Last week, the Canadian Real Estate Association also predicted a slowdown as mortgage rates start edging up later in the year, but it still saw the market overall growing in 2014 and 2015.

The Conference Board says fears of a housing bubble about to burst in Canada are exaggerated.

It says some of the evidence cited by correction hawks, including comparing home prices as a multiple of rental costs, don’t take into account historically-low mortgage rates that keeps affordability steady. Citing Toronto, it notes that in 2013 mortgage payments consumed less than 20 per cent of average household income, the same as in 1993.

“Mortgage costs, not just house prices, are the principal deciding factor for potential homebuyers,” says Robin Wiebe, the think-tank’s senior economist.

Even when mortgage rates do start rising, the Conference Board believes it will happen gradually and over an extended period. For instance, it forecasts rates with only a gain of 200 basis points — two percentage points — by 2017 or 2018.

But at current low rates, the typical homeowner on a posted five-year rate will have paid down $42,104 principal on a $100,000 in mortgage debt, so affordability won’t be seriously impacted once it comes time to renew at a higher rate.

The Conference Board provides an outlook on six major cities:

— Vancouver: Moved back into balance last spring. Recent price gains will give way to slower advances in 2014.

— Calgary: A approaching sellers’ conditions, noting strong price gains last year.

— Edmonton: Balanced, with brisk resale and price growth activity last year.

— Toronto: Balanced with healthy price growth. A major correction is difficult to see given solid employment and population growth.

— Ottawa: Market cooling due to falling employment from the government sector, flatter sales and tempered prices.

— Montreal: Flirting with buyer’s market conditions with sales and average prices having dropped somewhat last year.

Source: Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press

Want a piece of history? Walt Disney’s US$90-million estate is up for sale!

Friday, March 21st, 2014

A mega-mansion built on the former estate of Walt Disney has hit the market for a mind-numbing US$90 million. The Carolwood Estate rests on four acres in Beverly Hills and includes the tunnel Walt Disney built for his steam engine train.

Built in 2001 and owned by investor Gabriel Brener, the residence is located in the affluent neighbourhood of Beverly Glen in Los Angeles. And even in an area where the median house price is around $1.4 million, this property stands out in a big way.

First of all, it sits on the 3.7-acre estate that was the site of Walt Disney’s last home, which was dismantled in part because of an asbestos problem. The home built in its place is a whopping 35,000 square feet, with eight bedrooms and 17 bathrooms.

According to the listing, the mansion features a wine cellar, a custom movie room, three bars, a library, a gym and two safe rooms. On the home’s carefully manicured grounds, you’ll find a pool with a pool house, a tennis court, and a putting green.

Jay Harris and Mauricio Umansky of The Agency have the listing.

Source: Harris Effron, AOL Real Estate

Which are the world’s most expensive housing markets?

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Economists continue to watch Canada’s housing market. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average house price climbed to $388,553 in January, which is 9.5 per cent higher than it was last year. But how do Canadian cities compare to the rest of the world when it comes to the affordability of housing?

The rankings below are based on a city’s ‘Median Multiple,’ which looks at the median cost of a house compared to the city’s median household income in the third quarter of 2013.

10. London, U.K.

Median multiple: 7.3

International investment in London’s housing market has driven housing prices up and made it less affordable for moderate and low-income households. London’s median multiple puts its housing market into severely unaffordable territory; the median price of a home is 326,000 pounds ($546,310), while median household income is 44,800 pounds ($75,076), as of 2013. The good news is that the city’s median multiple dropped from 7.8 in 2012. London has the most unaffordable real estate market in the United Kingdom. The U.K. has a median multiple of 4.9, which is a slight improvement from last year’s 5.1 rating.

London’s overheated housing market has contributed to rising home prices in the U.K., which is expected to jump by seven per cent this year, according to Reuters.

9. Los Angeles, Calif.

Median multiple: 7.7

Los Angeles’ housing market, along with other cities in California, is causing concern; the median multiple has risen at more than three times the national rate since 2009. In December 2013, Los Angeles’ house prices increased a whopping 20.3 per cent from the year before. A recent study by RealtyTrac found that it would be cheaper to rent rather than buy a three-bedroom property in Los Angeles. According to the Demographia study, Los Angeles’ real estate is considered to be severely unaffordable and the city has made land use regulation more restrictive. The City of Angels is the fourth most unaffordable housing market in the U.S. with a median house price of $448,900 and a median household income of $58,300 in 2013.

8. San Diego, Calif.

Median multiple: 7.9

San Diego is another California city where foreign investment is driving up the city’s real estate prices. The median house price in the latter part of 2013 was $485,000, while the city’s median household income was $61,500. In just one year, from December 2012 to the same month in 2013, the value of San Diego homes increased by 18 per cent. While home supply remains at an historic low, Michael Lea, a real estate professor at San Diego State, expects that house appreciation will slow down to single digit increases in the next few months.

7. Auckland, New Zealand

Median multiple: 8.0

Houses in Auckland were less affordable in 2013 than the year before (its median multiple increased to eight from 2012’s 6.7 score). The city has been ranked severely unaffordable for all 10 years of the Demographia housing survey. The median house price in Auckland is $561,700 AUD ($506,990), with residents earning a median household income of $70,600 AUD ($63,724). Auckland saw a dip in home prices in January, but it’s predicted that the city’s housing market will be active during the first quarter of 2014. High housing prices in the city are also raising prices in the suburbs.

6. Melbourne, Australia

Median multiple: 8.4

Melbourne’s housing affordability has deteriorated — its median multiple increased by 0.9 points from last year. Housing in Melbourne, along with other major markets in Australia, has been severely unaffordable since the Demographia housing survey’s inception. In 2013, Melbourne’s median house price was $595,500 AUD ($537,498), while its median household income was $70,800 AUD ($63,904). Melbourne’s house prices rose by 3.2 per cent in January with the median price of a residential property reaching $553,000 AUD ($493,829), according to the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s expected that there will be a slowdown in Melbourne’s house prices due to higher levels of housing supply and deteriorating affordability.

5. San Jose, Calif.

Median multiple: 8.7

Yet another Californian city where housing affordability has deteriorated from the year before, San Jose’s median multiple was 7.9 in 2012. In the latter half of 2013, the median house price for a property in San Jose was $805,000, with residents in the city earning a median household income of $92,400. San Jose is among 11 California cities that have been deemed unaffordable. San Jose’s housing market will continue to perform well in 2014, according to the Urban Land Institute’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2014 survey. It’s expected that increased jobs and wages in this area will contribute to higher demand for property.

4. Sydney, Australia

Median multiple: 9.0

Sydney is home to the most unaffordable housing market in Australia and affordability continues to worsen. The median multiple rose from 8.3 last year to this year’s 9.0. The median price of a home in 2013 was $722,700 AUD ($652,309) with households earning a median income of $80,500 AUD ($72,659). Sydney has been deemed severely unaffordable for the last decade. While an American economist has predicted that Australia’s housing market will see a 50 per cent drop in values, Canada’s recent decision to axe the Immigrant Investor Program could drive more foreign investors to the Land Down Under, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Foreign investors are one of the reasons cited for the rapid rise in housing prices.

3. San Francisco, Calif.

Median multiple: 9.2

San Francisco is considered to be the most unaffordable city in the United States, where an average school teacher is unable to afford property in the city, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. In 2013, the median household price for a home was $705,000 and the median household income was $76,300. Affordability has worsened since last year’s survey when the median multiple was 7.8. Within the last 10 years, 75,000 new people have made San Francisco their home, but only 17,000 new residential units were built, according to The New York Times. Over the next 25 years, 150,000 more people are expected to move into the city. With a large influx of well-paid Silicon Valley workers, the costs of real estate and rent have risen to new heights. And prices are unlikely to drop soon; San Francisco has been voted the top housing market expected to perform well in 2014, according to the Urban Land Institute’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2014 survey.

2. Vancouver, B.C.

Median multiple: 10.3

Vancouver’s affordability has worsened over the last year; the city’s median multiple is now in the double digit range, rising from 9.5 last year. This is the sixth year that Vancouver’s housing market has placed within the top three unaffordable housing markets in the world. In 2013, the median price of a house was C$670,300 and the median household income was C$65,000. In February, Vancouver broke a real estate record with the average cost of a detached house climbing to C$1,361,023, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. But some Vancouver real estate agents are expecting housing values to drop with the federal government’s recent decision to scrap the Immigrant Investor Program.

1. Hong Kong

Median multiple: 14.9

Hong Kong has the most unaffordable housing market in the world. Residents of the island buy the smallest houses for the least affordable prices; in 2013, the median price of a home was $4,024,000 HKD ($518,496) and residents earning a median household income of $270,000 HKD ($34,790). This is the fourth year that Hong Kong has claimed the top spot — housing affordability has worsened from last year’s 13.5 median multiple score. Since 2008, the price of real estate in Hong Kong has increased by 120 per cent, according to Reuters. But government policy to double a levy on properties worth more than $2 million HKD may successfully cool the market with prices dropping by 4.5 per cent since last March’s peak price, according to the South China Morning Post. It’s expected that developers will need to undergo steep competition to attract homebuyers this year, which could result in cheaper prices for property shoppers.

Source: Josephine Lim, MSN Money

B.C. home sales expected to see largest year-over-year increase

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Canadian home sales are expected to rebound this spring, with B.C. forecast to see the largest year-over-year increase and contribute the most to national sales activity.

The province is expected to see an 8.3 per cent increase in sales activity, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, compared with a plus or minus three per cent increase in activity across the other provinces in 2014.

The national average home price is expected to rise by 3.8 per cent to $397,000 this year, with similar sized gains in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.

National resale housing activity has started slowly this year, partly because of stronger levels of activity recorded last summer and fall when buyers with pre-approved mortgage financing advanced home purchases before their lower pre-approved rates expired.

Home sales are expected to trend higher heading into the spring and be boosted over the second half of the year with a “widely anticipated pick-up in Canadian economic growth.” Sales are forecast to reach 463,700 units in 2014, up 1.3 per cent from a year earlier.

In 2015, national activity is forecast to edge up a further 1.2 per cent to 469,400 units. Affordability is expected to restrain activity in Canada’s most expensive markets, with annual sales forecast to decline marginally in B.C.

Source: Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

Top Spring Break ideas in beautiful British Columbia

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Sure, you could decide to spend spring break doing your annual domestic deep-clean. But explain that to your kids, who just heard their friends are heading out on exciting spring break escapes in regions across the province. Here are just a few excursions the whole family can enjoy:

1. Surf the coast

If you thought surfing was a uniquely southern sport, think again. The sport is booming on beach breaks in and around Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The apex is located just south of Tofino, but Ucluelet — known as Ukee by locals — is gaining a reputation as a jumping off point on the shoulder of the wave.

Lessons: Surf schools abound, with lessons starting around $75 per person per session, including board and wetsuit. Alternatively, rent a long board and suit from $15 each per day. Among the many suppliers are Live to Surf, the granddaddy of the area’s surf shops, or Canadian pro Sepp Bruhwiler’s Westside Surf.

2. Carve it up

Spring is upon us, but the snow hasn’t gone anywhere in the higher reaches. Warmer temperatures lend themselves to sun-soaked resort patios and sunburnt faces — both of which may come as a welcome change after winter. With resorts across the province, this is one activity that can be done in nearly everyone’s backyard.

Day lift passes: Consider Sun Peaks near Kamloops (adults from $79), Revelstoke ($80), Big White near Kelowna ($79), Mount Washington near Victoria ($75), or Whistler/Blackcomb near Vancouver ($115).

Lessons and equipment: Many resorts have learning sessions starting from under $60 and equipment rentals from $40. Some mountains offer package deals.

3. Swim Harrison Hot Springs

If you need to rejuvenate those sore muscles and that bone-tired soul, head to the indoor and outdoor mineral pools at Harrison Hot Springs Resort. The kids will have too much fun to interrupt your relaxation, and if you’re not a parent, don’t fret — some pools are adults only.

Admission: Access to the resort’s five pools is only for guests, with two-night spring break family packages starting from $449, and bed and breakfast from $139. If you stay elsewhere in the area there is a public hot pool in the centre of town that costs $9 per swim for adults, or about $13 for the day.

4. Flip a coin in the capital

Victoria’s mild year-round climate makes it an obvious choice for a spring getaway for the family. Wind permitting, try taking the helm of a sailboat as you brave the Strait of Juan de Fuca or round the Discovery and Chatham islands. On a calm day, opt instead for a motorized harbour tour, then one of the city’s indoor activities like the Royal BC Museum and its current exhibition on wildlife photography.

Prices: Charter a boat for a half day for $400, or for $675, take it for the day at Blackfish Sailing Adventures. Harbour tours are $22 for adults, and museum admission is $16 for adults, or $25.80 including a screening at the Imax.

5. Go for a ride

March is not always known for its blue skies, so to up your chances of fair weather, head to the Sunshine Coast and pedal some of the area’s dozens of scenic bike routes. There’s no guarantee you’ll end up with a tan, but you’ll have a great time whatever the weather, and whatever your style of riding or skill level. Should it happen to rain, there is plenty to do and explore indoors.

Costs: Ferry fees from Horseshoe Bay to the Sunshine Coast are $50 per vehicle and $15 per passenger. If you’re renting bikes or want a tour, try Off the Edge Adventure Sports, where rides start at $40 per day and guided trips from $130 per person.

7. Get back into hibernation

Tired of above-ground activities? Try spelunking. Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, located just west of Parksville on Vancouver Island, is home to an explorable network of caves packed with crystal formations and fossils. The caves can be a wet at times, but caving is the kind of activity that demands getting out of your comfort zone.

Costs: Self-guided caves are open daily, and helmets with lights can be rented for $8.50 from Horne Lake Caves & Outdoor Centre. They also offer three-hour spelunking tours for $69 for adults, with all equipment included.

8. Make your footprint

Snowshoeing is a relatively inexpensive way to see some pristine backcountry all across the province. If you simply can’t get away for spring break, take a few hours and head to your local hills. For something further flung, try Fernie in the East Kootenay region.

Costs: Rent a pair of snowshoes for around $22 a day, or head out on a tour.

8. Rediscover our coastal heritage

Haida Gwaii is far from most B.C. cities, but getting there is a key part of this serious adventure and there’s plenty to do when you arrive. Catch a ferry along the Inside Passage before BC Ferries cuts this legendary route, then cross the Hecate Strait. Once the multi-day journey is through, stretch your legs and explore Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site or visit the Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay Llnagaay. Your family will surely remember this trip.

Fares: Ferry fees for a one-way trip from Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert, then on to Skidegate are around $175 per person and flights between Masset and Vancouver start around $250.

Source: Matt Robinson, Vancouver Sun

Vancouver’s house prices and Chinese immigration – an expert’s view

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

I recently came across this interesting article written by Ian Young who blogs for the South China Morning Post about immigration, property prices and Vancouver.

No one in Vancouver better understands the impact that rich immigrants have had on the city’s property prices than Professor David Ley.

Ley, holder of the Canadian Research Chair in Geography, literally wrote the book on the subject. Millionaire Migrants, published in 2010, is the definitive account of latter-day East Asian migration to Vancouver, describing how wealthy newcomers and their migratory patterns moulded the city.

It’s no surprise that he has been closely watching the fallout from the Canadian government’s surprise decision last month to terminate the 28-year-old Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP), which has brought tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires to Vancouver.

Oxford-educated Ley has particularly noted attempts to downplay the impact of the scheme and its closure on Vancouver’s sky-high property prices, which he said represented deliberate “suppression”.

“There are interest groups who are in denial and the moment that you or I make a suggestion [about the impact of rich immigrants on property prices] we are immediately racist and this is how the discussion has been closed down,” the University of British Columbia academic said.

“We are very polite in Canada and if anyone raises the red flag of racism then everyone shuts up. To my mind that is an irrelevance. The issue is investors, wherever they are coming from, creating an issue of affordability in the market.”

Ley’s previous research revealed the exceptional correlation between international immigration to Vancouver and the city’s property prices. He charted this from 1977 to 2002, with the results presented in eye-popping clarity on page 153 of Millionaire Migrants. A graph (above) of the two factors shows them moving in near lockstep.

Ley calculated the correlation at +0.94; that’s about as close to a statistical sure thing as you can get.

By contrast, “made in Canada variables” – interest rates, employment, domestic Canadian migration and rental vacancy rates – proved rather hopeless as price predictors. Interest rates, routinely touted as the most significant factor in Vancouver’s property boom, had a negative correlation, of -0.12.

During this period, prices peaked in 1995, then fell when migration from Hong Kong all but ceased. The drops that followed were concentrated in areas favoured by rich Hongkongers, such as wealthy Shaughnessy. “The overall prices dropped, although it was concentrated. In Shaughnessy, prices went down by 25 per cent … that’s a big drop,” Ley said. “But it was not as great across the market as a whole.”

Now for the big question: is the current Vancouver market similarly tied to mainland Chinese migration? And is the cessation of the IIP analagous to the way that Hong Kong migration under the scheme halted in the mid-1990s?

Sadly, Ley isn’t sure. “There are a number of similarities. It’s not perfectly the same,” he said. He notes that the Asian financial crisis coincided with the Hong Kong handover, exacerbating the sell-off in Vancouver as immigrants repatriated their funds to the SAR.

“The combination of the exodus [back to Hong Kong] plus the repatriation of funds led to significant sales and declines in the high-price property markets here,” he said.

Nevertheless, Ley takes issue with some observers who have sought to disregard the impact of the IIP on Vancouver prices. These critics point out that arrivals in British Columbia under the scheme (recently averaging 4,600 individuals, or 1,340 households, per year) are dwarfed by greater Vancouver’s 25,000-30,000 annual residential sales.

“The problem with that argument,” said Ley, “is that if that estimate of a couple of thousand does not include secondary migration from other parts of Canada then that is an underestimate.

“The other point: are people coming in buying only one property? Undoubtedly, it has been that property is the primary form of class mobility and property is a very easy investment to manage. I would question that these folk are only buying one property.”

Ley said the investor migration scheme also fuelled Vancouver’s market in indirect ways – namely, by helping word get out among China’s rich that the city’s real estate market was a convenient, friendly and profitable place to invest. If such word-of-mouth turns in the other direction, will prices do the same? That remains to be seen.

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