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Real Estate News


April 18, 2018


The Bank of Canada decided to keep its benchmark interest rate right where it is on Wednesday, but warned of rate hikes to come as inflation heats up.

The target for the overnight rate stays at 1.25 per cent. The central bank's rate impacts rates that Canadians get from retail banks for savings accounts and debt such as mortgages and lines of credit


February 20, 2018

BC budget includes new real estate taxes and spending commitments

Housing was the dominant issue in today’s provincial budget.

The government released a 30-point housing strategy aimed at reducing housing demand, curbing tax fraud, building affordable housing, and increasing security for renters. 

New tax measures include increasing property taxes and property transfer taxes on residential properties valued above $3 million, expanding the foreign buyer tax, and implementing a housing speculation tax.

“We welcome the provincial government’s commitment to address money laundering concerns and increase the supply of affordable, social, and rental housing in our province,” Jill Oudil, Board president said. “We’re concerned, however, about the series of tax measures announced today. The budget introduces new taxes, hints at future taxes, and hikes existing taxes on housing. Taxes don’t make homes more affordable.”

Below is a summary of the key real estate measures announced today. There’s considerable information to go through. We’re analyzing each item to understand the implications to you and your clients and will report back with more information and analysis in future communications.

Affordable housing

  • The province is investing $6 billion in affordable housing to create 114,000 homes over the next 10 years.
  • The province will enhance local government capacity to build and retain affordable housing.
  • The province will require developers to collect and report comprehensive information about the assignment of pre-sale condo purchases.
  • The province intends to track beneficial ownership information.
  • The province will collect additional information to increase transparency and strengthen enforcement in real estate.

Tax measures

Speculation tax

  • The province will implement a new speculation tax on residential properties, targeting foreign and domestic homeowners who don’t pay income tax in BC. This includes those who leave homes vacant.
  • The tax will apply to the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Capital, and Nanaimo Regional districts and in the municipalities of Kelowna and West Kelowna.
  • In 2018, the tax rate will be $5 per $1,000 of assessed value. In 2019, the tax rate will rise to $20 per $1,000 of assessed value.
  • The province will administer the tax and will collect data to enforce it including, social insurance numbers, household information, and world-wide income information.

Foreign buyer tax

  • Effective Feb. 21, 2018, the foreign buyer tax will increase to 20 per cent from 15 per cent and will be extended to the Fraser Valley, Capital, Nanaimo, and Central Okanagan Regional Districts.
  • If the property is located in the Capital Regional District, Fraser Valley Regional District, Regional District of Central Okanagan, or Nanaimo Regional District, and the property transfer is registered on or after February 21, 2018, there are transitional rules available here.

Property Transfer Tax

Effective Feb. 21, 2018, the Property Transfer Tax on residential properties above $3 million will increase to five per cent from three per cent.

Provincial School Tax

Beginning in 2019, the provincial school tax will increase on most residential properties in excess of $3 million.

Database on pre-sale condo assignments

The province will require developers to collect and report comprehensive information about the assignment of pre-sale condo purchases. The information will be reported to a designated government office and shared with federal and provincial tax authorities to ensure taxes are paid.

Online accommodation PST and MRDT

Online accommodation platforms are enabled to collect and remit the Provincial Sales Tax and Municipal and Regional District Tax (Hotel Room Tax).

Property tax treatment for ALR land

As part of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) review, the province is examining residential land in the ALR to ensure land is used for farming.

Clarity of property ownership

Compelling access to MLS®

The province plans to enable tax administrators to compel access to information relevant to property transfers, such as information held in a MLS® database. (We’re asking government for clarification.)

Beneficial land ownership registry

The province will require additional information about beneficial ownership on the PTT form.

Administered by the LTSA, the information will be publicly available and shared with federal and provincial tax and law enforcement authorities. Legislation will be introduced to require BC corporations to hold accurate and up to date information on beneficial owners in their own record offices available to law enforcement, tax and other authorities.

Task force on money laundering and tax evasion

The province will work with the federal government to formalize a multi-agency working group on tax evasion, money laundering and housing.

Residential Tenancy Branch

Increased funding to the Residential Tenancy Branch to reduce wait time, improve service and deal with disputes more quickly, as well as strengthening the Residential Tenancy Act and the penalties for those who repeatedly break the law.






Jan 18, 2018 

Canada's biggest lenders have raised their prime lending rates on the same day the country's central bank moved its benchmark interest rate a quarter percentage point higher.

The Bank of Canada raised its key lending rate by a quarter point to 1.25 per cent Wednesday morning, the third time it has moved its benchmark rate from once-record lows last summer.

The bank rate has an impact what Canadians pay lenders for things like mortgages and personal loans. While the move means borrowers can expect to pay more, savers can expect to earn more, too, on savings accounts and guaranteed investment certificates.

That's exactly what happened later on Wednesday afternoon, when Canada's five biggest banks — Royal, TD, CIBC, BMO and Scotiabank — all hiked their own prime lending rates by a quarter percentage point, effective tomorrow.

As of Thursday, Jan. 18, all five now have the same prime lending rate of 3.45 per cent. Prior to the Bank of Canada's move, their rates were all 3.2 per cent.

The central bank was widely expected to raise its rate after data in recent months showed gross domestic product growing, the job market healthy and the cost of living ticking higher.

The bank's benchmark rate is now at its highest level since 2009.

In the MPR, the bank nudged up its expectations for how the economy will perform this year and next. The bank now expects Canada's economy to expand by 2.2 per cent this year and 1.6 per cent in 2019. Previously the bank was anticipating 2.1 and 1.5 per cent growth.






On March 15th, 2018 new rules for BC’s real estate licensees will come into effect. The Real Estate Council, as the regulator of licensed real estate, is committed to helping you understand how these rules will impact you.
The rules, announced in November by the Superintendent of Real Estate, will protect consumers by prohibiting limited dual agency in almost all cases, and by requiring new disclosures about commissions, services to expect from a licensee, and the risks of being an unrepresented party in a real estate transaction. These rules will significantly change the way that BC’s real estate licensees conduct business.



Nov 29, 2017

CMHC says 47% decrease in mortgage loan insurance business is the 'new normal'

Canada's national housing agency says the 47 per cent decline in the country's insured mortgage market year-over-year in the third quarter is the "new normal level."

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says in its latest financial report that it provided mortgage loan insurance to 67,915 units for the three-month period ended Sept. 30 compared to 127,991 units during the same period a year ago.

Steve Mennill, CMHC's senior vice-president of insurance, says decreased volumes have been steady throughout the year as a result of the new regulations announced by the federal government in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The mortgage rules require all home buyers with less than a 20 per cent down payment to undergo a stress test to ensure the borrower can still service their loan should interest rates rise, or their personal finances fall. This cut into the purchasing power of some first-time homebuyers.

Mennill says CMHC is confident that the volume of insured mortgages the country is seeing now is the new normal level.

CMHC also says that it has seen an improvement in the quality of its mortgage loan insurance portfolio.

The agency says its overall arrears rate was 0.30 per cent in the third quarter, which is down from 0.32 per cent a year ago.



Implementation of the New Stress Test for Uninsured Mortgages

 Last month the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) confirmed the implementation of a new minimum qualifying stress test for uninsured mortgagesGuideline B-20 now requires borrowers who have a down payment of 20% or more to qualify for a mortgage at a higher rate. Borrowers will have to be approved at either the five-year mortgage rate published by the Bank of Canada (currently 4.99%) OR the mortgage rate the federally-regulated financial institution offers plus 2%, whichever is higher.

The revised Guideline B-20 comes into effect on January 1, 2018. However, if a borrower has put down a deposit and received a mortgage eligibility assessment or pre-approval from a federally-regulated lender prior to January 1, 2018, the lender has the discretion to offer the loan based on the pre-existing guideline (including the prior qualification rate).

We encourage REALTORS® to remind their clients who have put down a deposit on a home but don't need a mortgage for some time or are uncertain about access to mortgage financing as a result of the revisions to Guideline B-20 to contact their federally-regulated lender directly.


The new mortgage rules for the uninsured mortgages

Canada's top banking regulator has published the final version of its new mortgage rules, which include a requirement to "stress test" borrowers with uninsured loans to ensure they could withstand higher interest rates.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions released new guidelines for the mortgage industry on Tuesday. The regulator floated a similar version of these rules earlier this summer in draft form, but Tuesday's release makes them official as of Jan. 1. 

Among the major new rules is a requirement to stress test uninsured borrowers. Previously, only insured borrowers had to undergo such a test.

By law, borrowers with a down payment of under 20 per cent of a home must purchase mortgage insurance. Borrowers pay an insurance premium, but the beneficiary is actually the lender, because the insurance protects the loan giver in the event the borrower defaults on the loan. 





Real Estate agents in B.C. will soon be banned from acting for both a buyer and a seller, also known as ‘Dual Agency’.

A set of draft rules by the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate aims to tighten the rules.

 “Some realtors can sort of referee themselves, but then you have a lot of people that can cross the line, and there are legal issues that come out about it.”

 “There’s a bit of a conflict of interest there, because how do you represent both parties completely neutral, I think that’s where we were seeing a lot of issues.”

There are still loopholes, one of which is called ‘double-ending.’

“If you want to walk in to an open house and you want to make an offer and you have no realtor, The listing realtor [could] still write it up for you.”

“The realtor is still going to get both commissions, but he has no legal obligation to that buyer, zero legal obligation. You can’t advise the buyer in any which direction.”

There is one exemption to the ban on dual agency, where the deal happens in a remote area with limited access to realtors.

The new rules would go into effect in the middle of January 2018, under the Real Estate Services Act.

August 6, 2017

The Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a point to one per cent on Wednesday.

It's the second time this year that the central bank has upped the rate, after hiking it for the first time in seven years in July.

The central bank's rate has an impact on lending rates that consumers and savers get from banks on mortgages, lines of credits, savings accounts and other financial vehicles.

The bank's rate — officially known as the target for the overnight rate — is now back to where it was at the start of 2015, when the central bank started slashing rates to stimulate a Canadian economy that had been waylaid by the oil price crash.


Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the bank is "responding to what is a very positive set of economic indicators."

"We've had the fastest growth over the last year that we've had in a decade. We've had more job growth than was expected. These are all very positive indicators ... and the Bank of Canada's saying that when that happens, they had the opportunity to slightly raise rates," Morneau said.

July 12, 2017

Bank of Canada raises interest rate for 1st time in 7 years to 0.75%

Economy is now expected to grow by 2.8% in 2017, up from April forecast of 2.6%


Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz will speak to reporters Wednesday morning to discuss the central bank's interest rate decision and its latest outlook for the Canadian economy.

The Bank of Canada has raised its key interest rate as expected to 0.75 per cent — the central bank's first move upward in the cost of borrowing in seven years.

The bank's target for the overnight rate — at which major financial institutions make one-day loans to each other — moved up by one-quarter of a percentage point from 0.50 per cent.

In a statement accompanying the rate decision, the central bank said the Canadian economy has been robust, fuelled by household spending.

"As a result, a significant amount of economic slack has been absorbed," the bank said, adding that the remaining slack is expected to be gone around the end of this year, which is earlier than the bank anticipated in its April  Monetary Policy Report.

The move means consumers will likely pay more for borrowing such as variable-rate mortgages and lines of credit.

The interest rate increase had been widely expected after senior Bank of Canada officials signalled in speeches and interviews over the past weeks that lower rates had done their job, and the Canadian economy was performing well


April 20, 2017

TORONTO -- Ontario plans to help cool a hot housing market by bringing in a 15-per-cent foreign buyer tax, expanding rent control, allowing Toronto to impose a tax on vacant homes and using surplus lands for affordable housing.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Thursday that a non-resident speculation tax will be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area -- from the Niagara region to Peterborough, Ont.-- who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations. Once legislation passes, the tax would be effective retroactively to April 21.

The tax is not about targeting immigrants, Wynne said, and a rebate would be available to people who subsequently get citizenship or permanent resident status, as well as foreign nationals working in Ontario and international students.

"The non-resident speculation tax has nothing to do with new Canadians and people who want to make Ontario their home," she said. "With this tax, we are targeting people who aren't looking for a place to raise a family -- they're looking only for a quick profit or a safe place to park their money."

The average price of detached houses in the Greater Toronto Area rose to $1.21 million last month, up 33.4 per cent from a year ago.

Skyrocketing demand and rising cost of housing is the "unwanted consequence" of a growing economy, but the province's new measures will make the process of finding a place to live a little easier, a little less frantic and a lot fairer, Wynne said.

"When young people can't afford their own apartment or can't imagine ever owning their own home, we know we have a problem," she said. "And when the rising cost of housing is making more and more people insecure about their future, and about their quality of life in Ontario, we know we have to act."

The province will also expand rent control, which currently only applies to units built before November 1991, after tenants in newer units complained of dramatic spikes in rent. New rules would see all private rental units fall under annual rent increase guidelines. Those have averaged two per cent in the last 10 years and this year it is 1.5 per cent.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has been calling for a tax on vacant homes, and Wynne says Ontario will give Toronto and other interested municipalities the power to impose such a tax to encourage owners to sell or rent such spaces.

"My goal as Mayor is to ensure housing is affordable in Toronto for all age groups and for all income levels," Tory said in a statement Thursday. "I am pleased that the government will activate surplus provincial land like the West Don Lands to create new affordable housing, something I have been urging the Premier to do for some time. I'm also gratified that the provincial government will allow the City to move forward with a vacant homes tax, subject to the results of our examination, and other measures to curtail speculation and add new supply into the marketplace right away."

The provincial Liberal government's housing plan contains 16 measures in total. It also includes rebating a portion of development charges to encourage rental construction under a five-year, $125-million program.

Rules for real estate agents will also be reviewed, in particular practices such as double ending, where the agent represents both the buyer and the seller.

Ontario will also establish a program to identify provincially owned surplus lands for affordable and rental housing, with an eye to using a few specific sites such as the West Don Lands in Toronto for pilot projects.

New CMHC Mortgage Premiums

March 17, 2017

Premiums on mortgage insurance from Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. went up across the country on Friday.

CMHC says its average client will pay about $5 more per month.

Mortgage insurance is required for homebuyers making a down payment of less than 20 per cent. The price of that insurance is based on the price of the home, which varies across Canada as calculations by mortgage-comparison website Ratehub.ca show.

For example, a homebuyer in Halifax, where the average home price is $279,362, would pay $4.71 more per month under CMHC's new premiums.​ That's an increase of $1,413 over the life of a 25-year mortgage.

In Vancouver, however, where the average price of a home has ballooned to $995,583, the new mortgage insurance premiums would cost $16.35 more each month — or $4,904 over 25 years.

In both examples, Ratehub assumes buyers are making the minimum down payment required on a five-year, fixed-rate mortgage of 2.42 per cent amortized over 25 years. Mortgage insurance payments can also be made as a lump sum, rather than monthly payments.

Premium hikes follow new capital requirements

CMHC announced the premium increase in January, after the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) implemented new rules requiring mortgage insurers to have more capital on hand as a hedge against potential losses. CMHC is a crown corporation, but OSFI's new rules also apply to mortgage insurance companies, like Canada Guaranty and Genworth.

"We do not expect the higher premiums to have a significant impact on the ability of Canadians to buy a home," said CMHC senior vice-president Steven Mennill in January.

According to CMHC, the average insured mortgage was worth about $245,000 in the first nine months of 2016, with an average down payment of about eight per cent. The average gross debt service ratio (also known as the gross debt-to-income ratio, which measures the monthly cost of housing against monthly income) was 25.6 per cent.

CMHC recommends that monthly housing costs be no more than 32 per cent of average gross monthly income.

December 15, 2016

BC Introduces Innovative New Program to Help First-Time Homebuyers

Premier Christy ClarkIn a move to help BC citizens and residents buy their first home, the BC government announced today that it is launching a new program to augment down payments for first-time buyers. The B.C. Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership program contributes to the amount first-time homebuyers have already saved for their down payment, providing up to $37,500, or up to 5% of the purchase price, with a 25-year loan that is interest-free and payment-free for the first five years. Through the program, the Province is investing about $703 million over the next three years to help an estimated 42,000 B.C. households enter the market for the first time.

During the first five years, no monthly interest or principal payments are required as long as the home remains the homebuyer’s principal residence. After the first five years, homebuyers begin making monthly payments at current interest rates. Homebuyers will repay the loan over the remaining 20 years, but may make extra payments or repay it in full at any time without penalty. The loan must be repaid in full when the home is sold or transferred to another owner.

To be eligible, buyers must be preapproved for an insured high-ratio first mortgage (mortgage down payment is less than 20% of the home price). On completion of the sale, program funds will be advanced and the loan will be registered as a second mortgage on the property’s title.1?

Applications will be accepted starting January 16, 2017. This will be a three-year program with loans advanced from February 15, 2017 until March 31, 2020.

Eligible homebuyers

All individuals with a registered interest on title must reside in the home and:

·         Be a first-time homebuyer

·         Have been a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for at least five years

·         Have resided in BC for at least 12 months

·         Have a combined gross income of $150,000 or less

·         Have saved at least half of the minimum down payment they will require

·         Must be pre-approved for the first mortgage before applying

The first mortgage must be high-ratio insured from an NHA approved lender for more than 80% of the purchase price.

Eligible Properties

Any legal, self-contained, mortgageable residence located in BC

·         Must be used as a principal residence for the first 5 years

·         Rental properties and seasonal or recreational properties are not eligible

·         The purchase price cannot exceed $750,000

Home Partnership Loans

·         Up to 25-year term, registered as a second mortgage

·         No interest or principal payments for the first 5 years

·         Monthly principal and interest payments begin in year 6, amortized over remaining 20 years

·         Interest rate for years 6 to 10 set near first mortgage rate at time mortgage is registered

·         Interest rate reset to near first mortgage rate at years 10, 15, and 20

·         Homeowner may repay in full or part at any time without penalty.

The loan is due and payable in full upon

·         The home ceasing to be the primary resident in the first 5 years

·         Default on the first mortgage

·         Sale of home or change of ownership

·         Any other default on the Home Partnership second mortgage

Bottom Line: This is a bold and innovative step to help potential new buyers to meet the greatest hurdle of first-time homeownership—the down payment. The Federal Government's new mortgage regulations released in October hit first-time homebuyers hard, so this program will be welcome relief for B.C. residents. The B.C. government estimates that it will make more than 42,000 new loans over the three-year life of this program, amounting to $703 million in new funding available for qualified first-time homebuyers to come up with their down payments. This is particularly important for BC, which has the highest home prices in Canada.

New Canadian Mortgage Rules Effective Oct 17th, 2016


The Minister of Finance announced today new Canadian mortgage rules effective Oct 17th,2016.  The new rules will impact high ratio buyers with less than 20% down payment.  Other rule changes are expected to follow.  Stay tuned for details as they unfold.


Currently a home buyer with less than 20% (high ratio) requires mortgage insurance through CMHC or one of the private insurers.  The financing rules for this purchase differ from those buying a home with 20% or more down payment.  However, both types of buyers have one rule in common – to access short term fixed rates (1-4 years) or a variable rate mortgage they must qualify at the benchmark rate (currently 4.64%).  They don’t pay that rate but it is a metric used to qualify for access to the variable or short term rate products.

Effective October 17th all high ratio buyers will have to qualify at the benchmark rate for all terms.

For example a home buyer currently qualified to purchase with 10% down for a mortgage of $527,000 after October 17th would qualify for a $420,000 mortgage. This equates to a 20% drop in buying power.  (All things being equal in terms of property taxes, income, debts, etc).

Buyers in this situation would have the option to make up the shortfall with more money down or add another person to the mortgage to help qualify or purchase a lower priced property.  For detached homes with a suite the use of rental income could help the buyer make up some or all of that difference in qualifying.

Any buyers with an accepted offer in place will have till October 16th to have a firm financing approval in place. Buyers who secure an accepted offer who do not have a firm agreement from their lender (and the respective mortgage insurer) in place by October 16th will be subject to the rule change October 17th.

This is crucial timing so talk with your realtor and mortgage broker in detail if you are ready to make an offer or have an accepted offer with no current financing in place.

There are no specific deadlines in place by the Minister of Finance regarding pre-sale purchases set to close in 2017.  So discuss a strategy with your mortgage broker and realtor if you are a buyer in this situation.

The announcement also indicated a change later this year to mortgages for conventional borrowers with financing that is bulk-insured. This represents a number of banks and other lenders who choose this as a strategy for their portfolio.  This could effect all borrowers (those buying or refinancing). We will gain more details on this specific outcome within our industry channels and provide an update as soon as possible.


Feds close housing tax loophole

Ottawa took a step towards closing a tax loophole that impacts all Canadians earlier this morning, when Finance Minister Bill Morneau clearly told the world: You need to live here, in Canada, in order to benefit from our tax exemptions.  

Why Vancouver’s real estate market is so crazy »

Impact felt by all at tax time

Up until now, anyone who sold their principal residence in Canada did not have to report that sale to the Canada Revenue Agency, or the profit earned on that sale. The reason was that the CRA provides a tax exemption on property that is used as your primary home. 

As of today, however, the federal government will now require all Canadians tax-filers to report the sale of each and every property sold in the country. As with all assets, taxes are owed, however, if the property is a principal residence it’s still exempt.

“The CRA will audit tax forms,” says Morneau, “to verify that the beneficial owner lives here in Canada and is living in the home in order to claim and receive the Principal Residence tax Exemption (PRE).”

This move by the Trudeau Liberals is an effort to tackle the apparent abuse by non-residents that buy homes in Canada and then later claim the PRE on the sale of those properties.

“Tax filers will have to prove the principal residence exemption on their tax return,” says Morneau. “This exemption is for people who legitimately own a house and live in Canada and we feel this is an appropriate way to manage this risk. It ensures that everyone is playing by the rules.”

8 ways to fix Vancouver’s real estate madness »

How this will impact Canadian homeowners

This announcement is one way the federal government hopes to help cool the hot real estate markets of Vancouver and Toronto without harming other regional markets.

“We recognize that there are different housing markets in different parts of the country and multiple factors that impact these markets,” says Morneau. “We believe these measures ensures tax fairness.”

B.C. may see the biggest impact of this new federal regulation change. By the last count, foreign investment accounted for nearly 6% of the approximately 48,000 residential real estate transactions in British Columbia between June 10 and Aug. 31, 2016. These transactions made up about 8.8% of the $31 billion in residential property that changed hands, according to the latest real estate transaction datareleased by the provincial government.

More tax loopholes require more plugs

However other tax loopholes remain—available for use by anyone with the money to do so.

For instance, wealthy foreign property buyers can continue to avoid paying taxes on property bought and sold in Canada using a type of trust known as a bare or basic trust.

Under this type of legal arrangement, a property can become the asset under a bare trust set up by one person, who then names a beneficiary, say, a family member, who has the legal right to the capital and/or assets held within this trust. In many cases, this can be a residential home within Canada. The beneficiary then becomes the rightful owner of all income or profits generated from the asset, including the appreciation of property values. While income generated from a bare trust’s assets can be taken in the form of interest, dividends or rent, there are no tax implications for the person who sets up the bare trust.

One way foreign buyers have used bare trusts to avoid paying Canadian tax is to create a company that owns the bare trust, where the property is held as an asset. The ownership of the company can then be sold and resold, but the company will continue to own the property and no change of ownership on that property is recorded—which avoids triggering tax.





Death to the single family home for a more livable Vancouver says UBC professor

A UBC sociology professor says single family homes are overrated and harmful to health of the city

By Anna Dimoff, CBC News Posted: Aug 14, 2016 7:00 AM PT Last Updated: Aug 14, 2016 7:00 AM PT

A neighbourhood full of single family homes near Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver.

A neighbourhood full of single family homes near Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The coveted single family home is becoming less attainable for the average home buyer in Vancouver, but a UBC sociology professor says such homes are overrated and harmful to the health of the city.

Nathan Lauster is making the case that single family homes are bad for the environment, urban vitality and people's health in his forthcoming book, The Death and Life of the Single-Family House: Lessons from Vancouver on Building a Livable City.

Lauster says the negative impact on the environment comes from the large amount of land that is taken up to house a single family, which is not energy efficient and encourages residents to drive rather than walk, bike or take public transit to get around.

"It's bad for our health, in terms of not allowing us to walk to places that are interesting near by," Lauster told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"And in many respects it's bad for democracy, in terms of actually encouraging us to get out and see people who are different from ourselves, which is something we should be encouraging in a multicultural society like Canada."

The rapid expansion of Vancouver in the late 19th Century posed the challenge of restricting where industrial developments could build so that they didn't pop up directly next to residential areas, Lauster said.

"So a new solution presented itself with the rising profession of planning across North America and that was zoning legislation," he said.

"These [neighbourhoods] don't tend to go away, and that's in part because [they] were put in place through these bylaws and they're very difficult to really gather the political will to overturn … and write new bylaws."

Cultural expectations keep single family homes alive

"It came in with the idea that we should, in particular, separate off the single family houses, which [was where] the middle class assumed everyone should be living," he said.

Those cultural priorities have the most impact over the preservation of these neighbourhoods, according to Lauster, but many residents can't meet those expectations in today's market.

"We really have this idea that if you want to consider yourself a success in life, you should be living in a single family house," Lauster said.

"So you have a lot of people feeling really bad that they can't afford that for their children, or for their families, they feel like they're failing at the job of being a good person or a good parent."

Development projects along the Cambie Corridor are an example of the direction the city is moving in terms of densification and the replacement of these old neighbourhoods, he said.

"I think Vancouver has been moving that way for a while and it's moved that way, if you look at history, faster and further than most other cities in North America. The Cambie Corridor, the densification of arterials in that sense, is part of that broader process," Lauster said.

Although the process up until this point has been slow, the increase in recent years is a move in the right direction, in the professor's opinion, for the livability and vitality of Vancouver







Aug 03, 2016

Home sales move off of record-breaking pace in July

Metro Vancouver* homes sales resembled more typical levels in July. 

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in the region totalled 3,226 in July 2016, a decrease of 18.9 per cent from the 3,978 sales recorded in July 2015 and a decrease of 26.7 per cent compared to June 2016 when 4,400 homes sold. 

This is the first time since January that home sales in the region have registered below 4,000 in a month.

“After several months of record-breaking sales activity, home buyer demand returned to more historically normal levels in July,” Dan Morrison, REBGV president said. 

Last month’s sales were 6.5 per cent above the 10-year sales average for the month.

“Home sale activity showed some moderating signs in late June and this carried into July,” Morrison said. “We’ll wait and watch over the next few months to see if this marks the return of more normal market trends.” 

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 5,241 in July 2016. This represents a 2.5 per cent increase compared to the 5,112 units listed in July 2015 and a 10.8 per cent decrease compared to June 2016 when 5,875 properties were listed.

The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 8,351, a 27.4 per cent decline compared to July 2015 (11,505) and a 6.9 per cent increase compared to June 2016 (7,812).

The sales-to-active listings ratio for July 2016 is 38.6 per cent. Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark, while home prices experience upward pressure when it reaches the 20 to 22 per cent range in a particular community for a sustained period of time.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $930,400. This represents a 32.6 per cent increase compared to July 2015.

Sales of detached properties in July 2016 reached 1,077, a decrease of 30.9 per cent from the 1,559 detached sales recorded in July 2015. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 38 per cent from July 2015 to $1,578,300.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,602 in July 2016, a decrease of 7.3 per cent compared to the 1,729 sales in July 2015.The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 27.4 per cent from July 2015 to $510,600.

Attached property sales in July 2016 totalled 547, a decrease of 20.7 per cent compared to the 690 sales in July 2015. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 29.4 per cent from July 2015 to $669,000.







Province to tax foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver homes

July 25,2016


The B.C. government introduced legislation Monday that would add a 15 per cent property transfer tax on foreign nationals buying real estate in Metro Vancouver.

The new rules would take effect Aug. 2 and apply to purchases of homes in Metro Vancouver, excluding the treaty lands of the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Provincial Finance Minister Mike de Jong unveiled the tax as part of legislation aimed at addressing low vacancy rates and high real estate prices in southern B.C.

"For example, the additional tax on the purchase of a home selling for $2 million to a foreign national will amount to an additional $300,000," de Jong told members of the legislature.

Tax money to fund housing

All B.C. residents currently pay a one per cent tax on the first $200,000 of their purchase, two per cent on the remaining value up to $2 million and three per cent on any portion above that.

"The amendments include anti-avoidance rules designed to capture transactions that are structured specifically to avoid the additional tax," de Jong said.

The revenue from the additional tax would be used to fund housing, rental and support programs, the minister said.

De Jong said recent government housing data indicate foreign nationals spent more than $1 billion on B.C. property between June 10 and July 14, with 86 per cent on purchases in the Lower Mainland area.



July 7, 2016

Government data shows foreign buyers make up five per cent of Metro Vancouver market

Foreign nationals make up 5.1 per cent of home buyers in Metro Vancouver, according to the first set of real estate transaction data released by the provincial government today.

This confirms data you’ve provided us for several years through our monthly member market poll

“We wrote the Minister of Finance earlier this year asking him to again track the residency of home buyers in BC and we applaud the government for taking action on this issue,” Dan Morrison, Board president said. “The housing affordability challenge we face is of critical importance to all of us in the region and it’s important that this debate be based on facts. We look forward to the province releasing larger data sets in the future to further inform this conversation.” 

The government will continue to release this data each month. The current set covers transactions between June 10 and June 29, 2016.

The data is collected when owners register their property at the Land Title Office and the Property Transfer Tax is paid. Individuals must disclose if they’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or if their citizenship if not Canadian. Corporations must disclose their directors’ citizenship.

The report is available here.

Additional findings include:

10,148 residential real estate transactions in BC, totalling more than $7.6 billion.

337 transactions (3.3 per cent) involved foreign nationals, worth $390 million (5.1 per cent).

In Metro Vancouver, there were 5,118 transactions worth nearly $5.4 billion, of which 260 involved foreign nationals (5.1 per cent), worth $351 million (6.5 per cent)

In the City of Vancouver, there were 1,139 transactions, totalling more than $1.6 billion. 47 of these involved foreign nationals (4.1 per cent), worth $64 million (3.9 per cent).








Sales volumes are starting to slacken in two of Canada's hottest real estate markets.

And that could be bad news for anyone hoping to jump in and buy a home.

Home sales in Vancouver have not grown in two months — the city saw 4,769 transactions in May, a decline of 0.3 per cent from the previous month, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).


Monthly home sales had also dropped by 7.6 per cent in April — from an all-time record of 5,173 in March.





It's 'tax freedom day': now start working for yourself

Fraser Institute says June 7 is the day, but it varies, depending on where you live

The average Canadian family had to work until June 6 of this year before earning any money for themselves after taxes are paid, according to the Fraser Institute.

The average Canadian family had to work until June 6 of this year before earning any money for themselves after taxes are paid, according to the Fraser Institute.


Canadians feeling taxed to the max can at least take comfort in this being tax freedom day.

The Fraser Institute picked June 7 this year as the day the average Canadian family has worked long enough to pay its total tax bill.

It's a hypothetical day, meaning if you had to pay all your taxes up front to different levels of government, you would now be in the clear to keep the rest of your earnings until a new year begins.

In 2016, the average Canadian family (with two or more people) earning $105,236, will pay $45,167 in total taxes. That's 42.9 per cent of its annual income.

On the calendar, those numbers represent more than five months of income — from Jan. 1 to June 6. Therefore, it's only  on June 7 when families start working for themselves, not the government.

The Vancouver-based think-tank calculates the tax burden to include income taxes, payroll taxes, taxes on health and property, as well as what is levied on sales and fuel.

Earlier than 2015

While tax freedom day comes two days earlier than in 2015, "it's not because of any major tax reductions," the institute says. It notes that 2016 is a leap year, which helped the day arrive sooner.

·         Today is 'tax freedom day' 2015, Fraser Institute says

And because the day is calculated based on federal and provincial tax revenue forecasts, overly conservative revenue estimates by governments moved the date earlier up the calendar.

When governments provide actual revenue estimates at the end of the year, tax freedom day calculations are revised.

Before all Canadians mark the day, however, the Fraser Institute says they need to remember there are different tax freedom days, depending on where you live.

Albertans would have seen their tax burden lifted by May 17, while taxpayers in Newfoundland and Labrador won't have their day of tax freedom until June 14.

Provincial tax freedom days (earliest to latest)


May 17


June 1

Prince Edward Island

June 1

British Columbia

June 5


June 5


June 7

Nova Scotia

June 9

New Brunswick 

June 11


June 13

Newfoundland and Labrador

June 14

More than three decades ago, in 1981, tax freedom day fell on May 30. In 2000, it was June 25.











Central bank cut rate twice in 2015 in an attempt to boost the economy

January 20, 2016

The Bank of Canada today maintained its benchmark interest rate at 0.5 per cent.

The bank's rate is officially called the "target for the overnight rate." Technically, it only governs the rate that retail banks charge each other for short-term loans, but has a strong impact on the rates that Canadians get from their lending institutions when they save or borrow money.

The central bank cut its rate twice last year in an attempt to stimulate the economy.







December 02, 2015

Housing demand remains strong despite diminishing supply

Home sales reached near record levels in November even as home listings began the traditional year-end decline.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Metro Vancouver reached 3,524 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in November 2015. This represents a 40.1 per cent increase compared to the 2,516 sales recorded in November 2014, and a 3.3 per cent decrease compared to the 3,646 sales in October 2015.

Last month’s sales were 46.2 per cent above the 10-year sales average for the month and rank as the second highest November on record for residential property sales.

November is typically one of the quietest months of the year in our housing market, but not this year,” Darcy McLeod, REBGV president said. “The ratio of sales to home’s available for sale reached 44 per cent in November, which is the highest it’s been in our market in nine years.”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 3,392 in November. This represents a 12.5 per cent increase compared to the 3,016 new listings reported in November 2014.

The total number of properties listed for sale on the real estate board’s MLS® is 8,096, a 35 per cent decline compared to November 2014 and a 15.4 per cent decline compared to October 2015.

“Demand remains strong and there are housing options at different price points throughout the region,” McLeod said. “It’s important to work with your REALTOR® to understand your options before you embark on your home buying journey.” 

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $752,500. This represents a 17.8 per cent increase compared to November 2014.

The sales-to-active-listings ratio in November was 43.5 per cent. Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio declines below the 12 per cent mark, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it reaches 20 per cent, or higher, in a particular community for a sustained period of time. 

Sales of detached properties in November 2015 reached 1,335, an increase of 31.9 per cent from the 1,012 detached sales recorded in November 2014, and a 44.2 per cent increase from the 926 units sold in November 2013. The benchmark price for a detached property in Metro Vancouver increased 22.6 per cent from November 2014 to $1,226,300. 

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,553 in November 2015, an increase of 47.6 per cent compared to the 1,052 sales in November 2014, and an increase of 60.3 per cent compared to the 969 sales in November 2013. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 14 per cent from November 2014 to $435,000. 

Attached property sales in November 2015 totalled 636, an increase of 40.7 per cent compared to the 452 sales in November 2014, and a 49.3 per cent increase from the 426 attached properties sold in November 2013. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 11.3 per cent between November 2014 and 2015 to $536,600.

*Editor’s Note:  Areas covered by Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver include: Whistler, Sunshine Coast, Squamish, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and South Delta.





Here’s the cheapest day of the year to buy a house

Jan 20, 2015

Thinking about buying a house? Is there a perfect day to pull the trigger? How about next Tuesday?

A Toronto real estate company says its analysis of five years of data from the region says the best day to buy a home is Jan. 20.

“The savings amounts to a lot for the buyer calculates the discount at about $20,000 on a Toronto home compared to the second cheapest month, July.

Of course, it also happens to be the worst point of the year to sell a home a firm looked at five years of transactions and found January was the cheapest month for average price going back to 2010. Conversely, May is the most expensive month..



Jan 03, 2015

Metro Vancouver homeowners have grown accustomed to healthy increases on their annual B.C. Assessment notices, which are now landing in mailboxes.

What’s new this year is that condo values are also rising in the region, after a few flat years that saw condo construction outpace homebuyer demand.

“Condominiums, that’s apartments and townhouses, up until 2014 had been relatively flat over three years,” said Cameron Muir, chief economist of the B.C. Real Estate Association.

Over 2014, however, Muir said condo sale prices have risen in step with inflation. Condo prices in Vancouver and its nearer suburbs were up about two per cent as of July, when B.C. Assessment sets its values for the next year’s assessment roll.

Single-family home values were up a more substantial 6.5 per cent, Muir said, but some of the condo valuations were a departure from the previous year.

“We’re probably looking, in Vancouver, at sales (increases) of 16 to 17 per cent in 2014,” Muir said, “so, there’s much stronger demand, and we’re also seeing inventory levels steadily decline.”

B.C. Assessment doesn’t produce average assessment values for property types in Lower Mainland markets but does highlight representative examples.

In Vancouver, a typical east-side two-bedroom apartment increased 4.7 per cent to $381,000, from $364,000 a year earlier.

On Vancouver’s west side, values for a typical two-bedroom apartment rose 7.5 per cent (to $616,000), in line with the growth in value of a detached home on a 33-foot lot (up 7.5 per cent to $1.575 million).

In its real estate assessments a year ago, B.C. Assessment had highlighted decreasing condominium values in the range of four to five per cent — the second consecutive year that condo prices declined or offered minimal increases.

“Changes within a plus or minus five per cent range, that’s what we categorize as stable,” said Dharmesh Sisodraker, B.C. Assessment’s deputy assessor for the Vancouver Sea to Sky region, which takes in Vancouver and the North Shore all the way to Whistler.

Assessments, which are used by municipalities to set property taxes, tend to lag the overall market by the time they are released.

In east Vancouver, a typical detached house on a 33-foot lot saw an increase of 11.3 per cent, to $993,000.

In Vancouver Heights, typical detached home prices rose five per cent to $955,000.

“(Condominium) prices are still under pressure versus detached homes, mostly because there is so much (condominium) product on the market,” explained Ray Harris, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, and the increases in condo prices are “sporadic.”

In Metro Vancouver, demand for new condos has been in high-growth areas linked to rapid transit, such as the Marine Gateway development at Cambie and Marine in Vancouver or the Metrotown and Brentwood town centres in Burnaby.

“If a complex is in demand and there are not a lot of units in the market, you can get more of a lift,” Harris said.

Suburbs such as Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody — communities either on SkyTrain, or where SkyTrain is being built — are among those that have seen modest increases in the range of two to three per cent.

However, the gains weren’t shared equally and some spots still showed decreasing assessment values. B.C. Assessment cited an example at Simon Fraser University’s UniverCity development, where the assessed value of a two-bedroom highrise unit declined 2.5 per cent from 2014.

“There are a few pockets where values decreased slightly,” said Zina Weston, a deputy assessor for B.C. Assessment in its North Fraser region, which takes in the eastern suburbs closest to Vancouver.

“If there is a lot of building that comes on in a short period of time in a finite area, there might be some (downward) pressure on pricing,” Weston said.

Harris added that condo owners trying to re-sell are having a tougher time because developers are selling new units at lower prices than they would be if the market were stronger.

Condo values also declined in Fraser Valley suburbs from Langley to Chilliwack, where single-family home prices are in the reach of more buyers.

Dan Scarrow, a vice-president at Macdonald Realty in Vancouver, added that some municipalities are more encouraging to condo developers and “as a result of that, maybe some areas tend to get overbuilt.”

“Then, in some municipalities, say Vancouver, it is more difficult to get a project off the ground, but demand is actually quite high,” Scarrow added.

Markets that rely on recreational property sales — such as Whistler, the Okanagan and Kootenays, where sales collapsed and values declined following the 2008 recession — also took part in some of the rebound in 2015 assessments.

B.C. Assessment cited examples in Kelowna where assessments were up from four to seven per cent. In Whistler, a typical home in the White Gold area increased in value 7.4 per cent, to $1.06 million.






Rising condo prices start with land


The future price of condominiums, even in suburban Metro Vancouver markets, can be expected to increase because of escalating prices being paid for land, according to a LandShare survey compiled by Colliers International in Vancouver.

The study found that land values have driven up the price-per-buildable square foot of new condo projects downtown, in Vancouver neighbourhoods and into the suburbs.

In downtown Vancouver, the average high-rise apartment condominium being built or planned will carry a cost of from $190 to $250 per square foot due to land values.

This means that these costs must be recovered before any construction; finishing or marketing costs are factored. For example, a 1,000-square-foot downtown condominium would have a land component value of from $90,000 to $250,000.

In the Chinatown area, the same type of new condo building would have a land component equal to $90 to $175 per square foot.

On the West Side of Vancouver, developers of high-rise concrete condos must factor in an average land value of from $175 to $250 per square foot.

In East Vancouver, where Cressy Developments recently paid nearly $10 million for a 19,820 square foot lot – $167 per buildable square foot – on Joyce Avenue, the average land component of new high-rise condo apartment is now from $100 to $170 per square foot.

In Richmond, the land value component of a new high-rise concrete apartment is from $65 to $100 per square foot, while it averages around $90 in most of Burnaby. Recent land sales show these prices may also increase, however. Intergulf Development Group, for example, paid $20.7 million this year for a 49,397-square foot lot on Nelson Avenue, or about $123 per buildable square foot.

New Westminster is among the most affordable markets, with a land component equal to from $30 to $75 per square foot for a high-rise condo site.

In central Surrey, where Tien Sher Investment Group plans a further 1,200 new high-rise condominiums, the buildable-per-square foot value, based on land prices, is from $18 to $25 per square foot.






Site C dam approved by B.C. government

B.C. has approved the $9 billion Site C dam — a massive hydroelectric project that would flood a large area of the Peace River Valley in northeastern B.C.

In making the announcement, Premier Christy Clark said the Site C Clean Energy Project will provide B.C. residents with a reliable source of power for the next 100 years for the least cost to the taxpayer.

“Affordable, reliable, clean electricity is the backbone of British Columbia’s economy,” said Clark. “Site C will support our quality of life for decades to come and will enable continued investment and a growing economy.”

Energy Minister Bill Bennett said B.C.’s electricity rates are the third lowest in North America and the fourth lowest for commercial and industrial users.

But he said B.C.’s population is expected to increase by more than a million people and the province's electricity demand to grow by 40 per cent over the next 20 years


An artist's rendering shows how the Peace River's Site C dam would appear after completion. (BC Hydro)

Even though Site C itself will only generate eight per cent of B.C.’s total electricity needs, Bennett said it is a vital part of the overall electricity plan.

He said no one knows what the cost of coal or natural gas will be over the next 20 years, and hydroelectric power has the advantage of being relatively clean.





The controversial issue of foreign ownership of condominiums in Canada finally has some hard data to go by.Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the highest percentage of foreign investment in condos across the country is in Toronto, at 2.4 per cent.


In some select city areas, notably in Vancouver and Toronto, the rates are higher, according to the statistics released Tuesday.

Vancouver’s Burrard Peninsula, for instance, has a rate of 5.8 per cent while Toronto’s core is at 4.3 per cent, according to the numbers unveiled for the first time by CMHC, in its latest report on rental apartment vacancy rates.

The percentage of foreign condo ownership for Vancouver is 2.3 per cent, while it stands at 1.5 per cent for Montreal and 0.2 per cent for Calgary. The report covers the period up to the end of October.

Critics say that condos have become a handy place to park money, particularly for wealthy investors from China, and that the units end up staying empty or only briefly occupied.

One study last year said that nearly one-quarter of condos in some Vancouver areas were empty or occupied by non-residents.

The possibility that such a large number of foreign owners will flood the market in a huge selloff if the market turns bad has been raised by some observers.

Others say the use of condos as holding units for offshore investors ends up driving up the cost of housing.

“CMHC recognizes that there is demand to fill information gaps with respect to Canada’s housing markets,” CMHC said in a news release.

“To address this need CMHC has, for the first time, asked property managers to provide information on the total number of condominium apartment units owned by people whose permanent residence is outside of Canada as part of its survey.”

CMHC also said in its fall rental market survey that the average rental apartment vacancy rate for Canada increased slightly to 2.8 per cent from 2.7 per cent in October of 2013.

The lowest vacancy rates were in Vancouver and Kelowna (1.0 per cent), Guelph, Ont. (1.2 per cent), Calgary (1.4 per cent) and Victoria (1.5 per cent).






"The predictions are for a million more people in the lower mainland in 25 years,"

That spike in demand could move Vancouver closer to the wildly expensive housing markets in the world's largest cities like London, New York and Paris.

Real estate experts recently combed through housing markets in the world's largest cities to see what kind of home is available on a $500,000 budget.

They found that $479,000 in Toronto could buy an 807 square-foot condo with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a balcony.

But the best apartment they found for that price was only 322 square feet in Paris.

And in London, $525,000 was enough for a 100 square-foot studio flat on the ground floor of a building in a decent neighbourhood.










Towers approved for Lower Capilano

DNV council votes 5-2 for Larco highrises at CapWest Club site

Towers are going up in Lower Capilano.

In their last action before standing for reelection, District of North Vancouver council voted 5-2 to bring Larco's 451-unit development to the former CapWest Athletic Club site, located west of Capilano Road between Fullerton Avenue and Curling Road.

The phased development includes 18-and 12-storey towers, a new community centre, four low-rise buildings and 20 townhouse units to be built by a numbered company owned by Larco.

Bringing the project to an area described as a "blight" and a "garbage dump" constitutes a longawaited turning point for the neighbourhood, according to Coun. Alan Nixon.

"The community of Lower Cap will see the light at the end of a long tunnel," he said, describing his relief at approving the project with two weeks left in his 12-year tenure on council.

The revised agreement will penalize Larco if the company fails to build the community centre within eight years.

The community centre's shell must be built by Nov. 17, 2022. If Larco misses that deadline the district can buy back the land for $1. Larco is also on the hook for an $8.5 million letter of credit that has to be in the bank before anyone moves into the phased development and a $2.5 million community amenity contribution.

Couns. Lisa Muri and Doug MacKay-Dunn opposed the project.

Muri previously talked about "playing hardball" with Larco to get the developer to agree to an $8.5-million letter of credit. "I remain concerned. I remain disappointed in how we've gotten here," she said, explaining that she's never been through a public negotiation like this one.

With the neighbourhood set to absorb growth, the community centre might not meet the neighbourhood's needs, according to Muri. "It probably will not be sufficient given the density that is coming to that area," she said.

Concentrating growth in town centres such as Lower Capilano is an expedient way of handling the inevitable, according to Coun. Robin Hicks. "I'd like North Van to remain a sleepy little village forever but we all know that cannot happen," he said. "Everybody wants to deposit their spare cash here. .. so we've got to accommodate growth."

Coun. Mike Little, who is also at the end of his stint on council, expressed worries about concrete and glass dominating the site's plaza. The "neighbourhood living room" concept needs to be preserved, according to Little.

"It has to be a warm space and some of the drawings that I saw at the later stages still looked fairly bleak," he said.

The district also faces "significant hurdles" in managing traffic around the site during a lengthy construction period, according to Little.

After having explored a Lower Capilano community centre for 18 years, the community finally has certainty, according to Coun. Roger Bassam. "It would've been nice to have it a little quicker, but we now have a timeline, we know when this will be delivered," he said.

Development on the 4.4-acre site is scheduled for four phases over approximately 10 years, with construction beginning at the site's south end, close to Curling Road.

The project includes a 45-unit, four-storey seniors building as well as a six storey, 74-unit market rental building.

Larco's development also includes a 125,000-squarefoot underground storage business.

The project is set for adoption Nov. 17.




Population growth takes off


In the Lower Mainland, our population is forecast to grow by 30,000 new residents each year or 1.2 million residents by 2041 for a total population of 3.4 million, according to Metro Vancouver’s Metro 2040 Residential Growth Projections report. 

Where will new residents find homes?
Metro Vancouver estimates new residents will require 574,000 additional housing units to be built from now until 2041.

Newly developing and planned urban areas have capacity for about 250,000 residents, or about 20% of the region’s total projected growth to 2040, according to Metro Vancouver.

The vast majority – 80% – of Metro growth will occur through strategic infill and intensification of established urban areas. This will include secondary suites and accessory units with single detached housing, ground oriented duplex/multi-unit structures, row housing and apartment developments.

Metro 2040 targets about 68% of future residential growth within designated Urban Centres and along transit corridors – in areas like Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, the Tri-Cities and Surrey.

The province

From 2011 to 2013, an average of 51,000 BC residents left our province for greener pastures each year.  The lure of high-paying jobs made Alberta a key destination.

This all changed in the first quarter of 2014, according to BC Real Estate Association.

“The flow of interprovincial migration seems to be reversing course and population is trending higher,” said Cameron Muir, chief economist.

Muir forecasts growth in the BC economy will pick up speed for this year and next, helping our labour market compete with Alberta and convincing BC residents to stay home. It will also be a magnet pulling other Canadians westward. 

“As population growth in BC accelerates, housing demand is expected to follow,” said Muir.


Graph source: BC Real Estate Association



Building permits take a downturn in Metro Vancouver

Posted on October 7th, 2014

Laneway house builder

In Metro Vancouver in August, the total dollar value of building permits declined 17% to $497.8 million from $598.2 million in August 2013.

Non-residential Permits
Non-residential permits declined 48% to $84.1 million from $162.1 million in August 2014.

  • Commercial permits dropped 47%.
  • Industrial permits dropped 32%.
  • Institutional-government permits dropped 62% than last year.

Residential Permits
Building permits declined all sectors in the Metro Vancouver area in August.

This is unusual given that typically one or more sectors offset gains or losses in other sectors.

What is the cause?

July was a strong month where most sectors rose.  In contrast, the residential sector in August had a significant downswing, and combined with the large decline in all non-residential sectors, total permits dropped by about one-third.

But it’s not all bad news. August’s level is only slightly below the monthly average in 2014.

Building permits in August also dropped in other Canadian Metro areas including Toronto (44%), Montreal (62%) and Edmonton (13%). In contrast Calgary building permits increased 10%.






584 acres of forested lands on Coquitlam’s Burke Mountain up for sale

The provincial government is selling a massive swath of its crown properties on the slopes of Coquitlam’s Burke Mountain in an attempt to balance its budget.

Burke Mountain to account for 25% of Coquitlam’s growth by 2046

On behalf of the province, Colliers International has taken charge of the sale of 584 acres of mountainside, coniferous forested lands at Pinecone Lake Burke Mountain Park in northeast Coquitlam.

The sites for sale have been split up into 21 small parcels and “represents one of the largest long-term single and multifamily residential development opportunities anywhere in Metro Vancouver.”

According to the City of Coquitlam, the parcels lie within the municipality’s Smiling Creek and Partington Creek neighbourhoods and can accommodate between 7,000 to 8,000 residents combined once fully developed. Zoning will allow for single family homes and townhouses, similar to the type of development on the Westwood Plateau.

By 2046, Coquitlam is expected to see up to 95,000 additional residents which will increase the suburban city’s population to 225,000 from the current 132,000. This will include 23,000 new residents on Burke Mountain and another 40,000 residents along the SkyTrain Evergreen Line.

The issue of mountainside sprawl

It is certainly encouraging that Coquitlam city officials are taking advantage and making best use of the new SkyTrain infrastructure investment by centring much of the city’s future growth around it. However, the same cannot be said for the inevitable additional sprawl that will be coming to the slopes of Burke Mountain.

This type of growth completely goes against the principles of what comprises sustainable development and healthy communities which includes refitting existing developed land – to make the best use of the land we have at hand.

Density within the existing urban area and at around major transportation nodes needs to be the region’s growth strategy.

Nevertheless, mountainside sprawling growth and intrusion into forests has been common for decades in the Tri-Cities and at UBC within Pacific Spirit Park, but it is particularly visually evident on the Upper Lands of West Vancouver with development replacing forests – as homes gradually spread uphill towards Cypress Provincial Park and mountaintop ski areas.

Such policies and decisions implemented by our public officials that allow for these developments are largely at fault, but the uncompromising, neighbourhood-focused Not In My Backyard (NIIMBY) and Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (BANANA) crowds are also accountable for pushing growth away from their centralized, urbanized communities into offensive sprawl elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.

We can argue for restricting density and height limits to protect ‘precious’ mountain sight-lines (among many reasons NIMBY/BANANA groups might have). The alternative to this is the occurrence of growth taking place in the form of highly unsustainable low density sprawl in the far corners and edges of the region like along mountain slopes.

At least everyone will have uninterrupted sight-lines of permanently scarred mountains.










Prices for detached homes hit record high in Greater Vancouver


VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail


Prices for single-family detached homes in Greater Vancouver have climbed to a record high.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s home price index for detached properties hit $976,700 in June, up 6.2 per cent from the same month in 2013.

The index price is calculated by using a formula that strips out the most expensive resale properties on the Multiple Listing Service. The board cautions that average prices give a skewed picture of the market because sales of many high-end homes boost the figures to well above other transactions that are considered more typical.

There were four areas in the region where index prices for detached homes exceeded $1-million in June: Vancouver’s west side ($2,257,100), West Vancouver ($2,053,300), Burnaby South ($1,015,200) and North Vancouver ($1,010,000).

Greater Vancouver sales of detached homes, townhouses and condos totalled 3,406 in June, up 28.9 per cent from June, 2013, but only 0.6 per cent higher than the 10-year sales average for June, board president Ray Harris said Thursday. The composite price index for all three types of resale properties rose 4.4 per cent over the past year to $628,200 – also a record high.

Bryan Yu, the Vancouver-based economist at Central 1 Credit Union, said in a new report that price gains for detached homes are ascending faster than increases in townhouses and condos.

“Rising detached home prices reflects a scarcity of developable land in Greater Vancouver as the geographically constrained land base remains under pressure from a rising population,” said Mr. Yu, who added that income-generating suites inside detached homes have contributed to hikes in real estate values.

The detached index price on Vancouver’s west side has jumped 9 per cent in the past year. Other notable year-over-year gains include: Port Moody (up 8.5 per cent to $895,400), Vancouver’s east side (up 8.6 per cent to $918,900) and Burnaby North (up 9 per cent to $996,300).

By contrast, prices for townhouses and condos have increased modestly across the region over the past year, and even slipped in some neighbourhoods over the last three years. Tighter mortgage lending rules and a flurry of high-rise projects have combined to dampen the condo market, Mr. Yu said.

In Coquitlam, for instance, June’s index price for condos grew 2.6 per cent to $255,000 over the past year, but is down 3.3 per cent from June, 2011.

Mr. Yu said British Columbia’s economy has benefited from new immigrants, but there has been an exodus of many residents who headed east in the last couple of years to other provinces. “Strengthening economic growth and more job opportunities should keep residents within B.C. borders and attract Canadians from other parts of the country in 2015 onwards,” he said.

In the Fraser Valley, which includes the sprawling suburb of Surrey, June’s index price for detached homes reached a record-high $568,600, up 3 per cent from a year earlier. Total residential, commercial and retail sales last month in the Fraser Valley advanced to 1,668 transactions, up 25.7 per cent from June, 2013.

There has been a surge in demand for detached homes and townhouses in the less-expensive Fraser Valley. “Parts of the Fraser Valley have increasingly become bedroom communities for the Greater Vancouver area, given the attractiveness of lower home prices, particularly for those commuting to Surrey and Langley,” Mr. Yu said.

Central 1 Credit Union noted that housing markets in northern British Columbia already have received a lift from preliminary work on liquefied natural gas projects and drilling activity.






CMHC mortgage insurance ends for $1 million+ homes

If a home buyer has less than a 20% downpayment, they’re required to buy mortgage loan insurance by Canada’s Bank Act (sec. 418).

A home buyer with more than a 20% downpayment is not required to buy mortgage loan insurance. Yet lenders may ask them to buy this insurance anyway as a condition of approving a mortgage.

CMHC update

As of July 31, 2014, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Canada’s largest provider of mortgage insurance will stop providing mortgage insurance for homes that cost $1 million or more, no matter what the size of the downpayment.

In the REBGV area, 5,377 homes sold at a $1 million or more in 2013. Will CMHC’s actions affect home buyers?

“We don’t anticipate any changes,” said Samantha Gale, CEO of the Mortgage Brokers Association of BC.

“This is because Genworth and Canada Guaranty, companies which also provide mortgage loan insurance, will continue to provide this insurance.”

June 3, 2014

Home buyer demand increases across Greater Vancouver housing market

An increase in home buyer demand put Greater Vancouver in the upper reaches of a balanced real estate market in May.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver reached 3,286 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in May 2014. This represents a 14 per cent increase compared to the 2,882 sales recorded in May 2013, and a 7.7 per cent increase compared to the 3,050 sales in April 2014.

Last month’s sales were 6.5 per cent below the 10-year sales average for May of 3,514.

The sales-to-active-listings ratio currently sits at 20.4 per cent in Greater Vancouver, which is the first time that this measure has been above 20 per cent since June 2011.

“Our MLS® statistics tell us that there’s more home buyer demand today than at any point over the last three years,” Ray Harris, REBGV president said. “With sales surpassing the 3,000 mark in May and our sales-to-active-listing ratio exceeding 20 per cent, this is the most active marketplace we’ve seen since the spring of 2011,”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,936 in May. This represents a 5 per cent increase compared to the 5,656 new listings in May 2013 and a 0.2 per cent decline from the 5,950 new listings in April. Last month’s new listing count was 2 per cent below the region’s 10-year new listing average for the month.

The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Greater Vancouver is 16,072, a 6.7 per cent decline compared to May 2013 and a 3.6 per cent increase compared to April 2014.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $624,000. This represents a 4.3 per cent increase compared to May 2013.

“Home prices have experienced consistent yet modest increases in our region since the beginning of 2013,” Harris said.

Sales of detached properties in May 2014 reached 1,453, an increase of 19.9 per cent from the 1,212 detached sales recorded in May 2013, and a 23.1 per cent increase from the 1,180 units sold in May 2012. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 5.4 per cent from May 2013 to $966,500.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,286 in May 2014, an increase of 13.2 per cent compared to the 1,136 sales in May 2013, and an 11.2 per cent increase compared to the 1,156 sales in May 2012. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.2 per cent from May 2013 to $377,500.

Attached property sales in May 2014 totalled 547, a 2.4 per cent increase compared to the 534 sales in May 2013, and a 5.8 per cent increase over the 517 attached properties sold in May 2012. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 3.1 per cent between May 2013 and 2014 to $469,100.

Forecast: more demand for homes in Metro Vancouver

Posted on May 25th, 2014

Metro Vancouver will see more housing starts in 2014 as a result of a pickup in economic and job growth.

Canada Mortgage and Housing forecasts housing starts will reach 18,400 in Metro Vancouver in 2014 compared to 18,200 units in 2013.

Of these starts, row/townhouse starts will rise 4.5% to 2,300 units, while apartments will rise 3% to 12,000 units.

The average price of a detached home is forecast to rise to $1,430,000. The MLS® average price will increase 1.2% to $765,000.

MLS® sales are forecast to increase by 8.2% to 29,000 sales.










Government reduces tax burden on first-time buyers

First-time home buyers received welcome news in today’s provincial budget. Any REALTORS® currently working with first-time buyers will want to share this news with them as soon as possible.

The government has announced, effective February 19, 2014, under the Property Transfer Tax (PTT) First-Time Home Buyers’ Exemption program, qualifying first-time buyers can buy a home worth up to $475,000. The previous threshold was $425,000.

The partial exemption continues and will apply to homes valued between $475,000 and $500,000.

With this change, the government estimates 1,700 additional first-time buyers will annually be eligible to save up to $7,500 in PTT when they buy their home.

The government estimates this measure will cost $8 million in lost tax revenue each year.

The Real Estate Board, together with BC Real Estate Association, has actively lobbied to make home ownership more affordable for first-time home buyers. This increase in the threshold clearly signals our efforts have paid off as in past years.

In 2008, as a result of industry lobbying, the provincial government increased the threshold to $425,000 from $375,000. 

In 2005, the government increased the threshold to $325,000 from $275,000.

The PTT is calculated at a rate of one per cent on the first $200,000 and two per cent on the remaining value of the purchase price.



CMHC cap on mortgage-backed securities to raise home costs, cool market


With huge chunk of allocated yearly maximum already used, restrictions to program will soon be in place


The CMHC has authority to guarantee up to $85 billion under the National Housing Act Mortgage-Backed Securities program but by the end of July, $66 billion had been committed. To deal with the unexpected increase in issuance volumes, CMHC will introduce a formal allocation process in late August, which will likely lead to a small bump in the cost of new home mortgages.

Mortgages for Metro Vancouver’s prospective homebuyers could become more expensive to obtain as Canada’s national housing agency moves to limit the amount of mortgage-backed financing it is prepared to guarantee for mortgage lenders.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has notified mortgage lenders, including banks and credit unions, it will restrict each of them to a maximum of $350 million of new guarantees in August under its National Housing Act Mortgage-Backed Securities program.

For lenders who package their mortgage loans and sell them as securities to investors, the CMHC program takes out the risk by guaranteeing payments on the investments, and allows the lenders to use the proceeds as capital for new loans and offer them more cheaply.

The federal Crown corporation has given authority to guarantee up to $85 billion under the program, but by the end of July, $66 billion had been committed.

“As a result of this unexpected increase in issuance volumes and to better manage volumes, CMHC will be introducing a formal allocation process in late August,” CMHC said in an Aug. 1 note to lenders.

Analysts say the cap will make it harder and more expensive for banks to obtain funds to lend to their customers, which would likely be passed on by way of a bump in mortgage rates.

“The combination of steps the government has taken in the last year, coupled with the beginnings of a selloff in the bond market will put a bit of upward pressure on mortgage rates,” said CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld.

“Over-all, the days of very cheap mortgages are going to be replaced by cheap mortgages.”

TD economist Diana Petramala, who specializes in the housing market, estimated rates could rise from 20 to 65 basis points, the equivalent of 0.2 to 0.65 of a percentage point.

She noted that historically, this is a minor increase.

“Affordability will still remain in the housing market,” she said.

At the very least, the restriction takes away banks’ leverage to lower mortgage rates, according to Bryan Yu, an economist with Central 1 Credit Union in Vancouver.

“Essentially, if they are limiting the amount (of guarantees) available, I suspect it will be a little bit more costly in terms of (raising) capital,” Yu said.

“The question for consumers is if they will be able to get low or lower mortgage rates. It seems this would be a constraint on that.”

Analysts said Canadian banks should have no difficulties securing international markets for funding, but it will come at a higher cost. CMHC-backed securities are attractive for both banks and investors since they are largely default-proof.

Fearing an over-heated housing market could infect the larger economy and result in defaults the government must bear, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has taken a number of steps in recent years to stem the flow of mortgage credit.

He introduced tighter rules last summer for mortgage lenders and borrowers, a change the real estate and lending industries say was the main reason for a slowdown in residential property sales that began in August 2012 and continued through the first part of 2013.

As well, the finance minister acted to limit taxpayer exposure to a housing crash by setting limits on banks’ ability to buy bulk insurance from CMHC.

Still, Flaherty has been frustrated that banks were priming the house mortgage pump too aggressively, oblivious to the fact Canadian household debt continued to climb. At 165 per cent of annual income this spring, household debt reached heights similar to the peak in the United States before the 2007 crash that literally broke several banks.

Flaherty went so far this spring as to publicly chastise some banks for dropping mortgage rates too low.

The moves worked for a while, but in the past few months, housing has been on an upswing, with starts again reaching unsustainable levels near 200,000 annually, sales increasing and prices continuing to record new highs.

“We are starting to see the impact of the changes wearing off. Prices in most markets are now rising faster than income,” Petramala said. “So it makes sense the federal government, CMHC, may want to limit some of the risk-taking in the housing market.”

In July’s monetary policy report, the Bank of Canada cited the recent developments in the housing market as the top made-in-Canada risk to the economy.

“This renewed momentum would produce a temporary boost to economic activity and inflation, but more important, it would exacerbate existing imbalances and therefore increase the probability of a more severe correction later on. Such a correction could have sizable spillover effects to other parts of the economy,” the central bank concluded.

With files from Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun



July 2013 was also a hot month in real estate sales


July's record sunshine didn't hurt home sales in the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver's region. In fact July was the hottest real estate month of the year so far, the board says.

Sales reached 2,946 in July, the board reports. That's a 40.4 per cent increase compared to the 2,098 sales recorded in July 2012, and an 11.5 per cent increase compared to the 2,642 sales in June 2013.

Those numbers make July 2013 the highest selling July since 2009, the board says.

REBGV president Sandra Wyant said in a news release this morning: "Demand has strengthened in our market in the last few months, which can, in part, be attributed to pent-up demand from the slowdown in sales activity we saw at the end of last year."

The benchmark price for all homes in the board's region is currently $601,900. That's down 2.3 per cent from this time last year, but an increase of 2.3 per cent over the last six months.

"Home prices continue to experience considerable stability with minimal fluctuation throughout much of this year," Wyant said. "This stability in price brings greater certainty to the home buying and selling process."




Building Permits for Metro Vancouver – here’s what they’re telling us

Posted on June 6th, 2013

Building Permits – here’s what they’re telling us?

Building permits are typically a bellwether or indicator of future developments.

If we look at the Metro Vancouver area, the total dollar value of April 2013 building permits rose 16% higher to $648.1 million from $558.6 million compared to April 201q.

Non-residential Permits

Non-residential permits dropped 55% to $106.6 million from $239.2 million in 2012.

  • Commercial permits were 48% lower.
  • Institutional-government permits were 74% below 2012.
  • Industrial permits were down 60%.

Residential Permits – the good news

Permit values were 70% higher to $541.6 million from $319.4 million last year.

“While it’s true that building permits have declined in the past nine months, this decline follows the mid-2012 surge,” explains Andrew Peck, vice-president and general manager of Royal Pacific Realty Group.

The outlook for regional commercial and industrial investment is modestly favourable. We expect market conditions to improve because our economy and population base will continue to increase. As well there continue to be major projects in the Metro Vancouver area.

New   office construction Total   Office Area
Telus Gardens


Old Stock Exchange, 475 Howe Street


745 Thurlow Street (Bentall Kennedy)


MNP Tower, 1121 West Hastings


980 Howe Street


Source: Statistics Canada



New Family Law Act – major changes to division of property and debt

The new Family Law Act came into force on March 18, 2013, replacing the outdated Family Relations Act (1979). The legislation was developed after consultation with more than 500 organizations, community groups, the legal community and other stakeholders.

It aims to meet the changing needs of families, including common-law families, which are growing at a rate four times faster than married couples, according to the BC Ministry of Justice.

Property division

Under the old Family Relations Act, when a married couple separated, assets including property owned by one spouse before
the marriage were subject to presumptively equal division unless the court found grounds to “reapportion” property and bring about an unequal division (for example to take into account then length of the marriage or an inheritance).

The old Family Relations Act did not apply to unmarried couples. While unmarried couples could apply to court for a division of property pursuant to the common law principle of 'unjust enrichment', this provided less certainty due to the absence of
statutory provisions guiding the division of assets for those couples.

Under the new Family Law Act, unmarried couples who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship (common law) for at least two years are considered to be spouses and are treated the same as married couples for the purposes of property division.

Now if a couple separates, the general rule is that all couples, whether married or common law, will share equally the family property and debt that accrues during the course of their relationship.

What is family property?

Family property is all property that either spouse owns at separation, regardless of whose name it is in, including the family home, RRSPs, investments such as shares, income tax refunds, bank accounts, and insurance policies and pensions, unless the property is excluded.

What is excluded property?

Excluded property includes property acquired by a spouse or held in trust before the relationship, gifts or inheritances, settlements or awards of damages, and money paid under an insurance policy, other than a policy respecting property. The exclusion does not include increases in value during the relationship, however. The value of this property as of the later of the date of the start of the relationship, or the date it was acquired generally will not be shared upon separation.

For example, if one spouse owned a home valued at $600,000 at the beginning of the relationship and in three years the home increased in value to $750,000, providing title to the house remained in that first spouse’s name, he or she would premumptively be entitled to retain the original value – $600,000 and one-half of the increase in value that accrued during
the relationship – $75,000. The other spouse would also prenumptively be entitled to $75,000.


Debt accrued during the relationship is also presumptively equally shared. This includes mortgages, loans, bank lines of credit or overdrafts, credit cards, income tax, repair costs.

Written and co-habitation agreements

Common law couples who do not want the property division rules to apply to them, can opt-out by preparing a written agreement and divide their property and debt as they see fit. Couples can also enter into a co-habitation agreement. The court will have less ability to overturn these agreements than in the past providing that certain conditions such as full financial
disclosure are met.


March 19, 2013

Mortgage Wars


Lenders are driving mortgage rates lower, despite Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s warnings of the impact that low rates could have on consumer debt levels and the housing market.

Manulife Bank has just begun promoting a new five-year fixed mortgage rate of 2.89 per cent, down from 3.09 per cent, about two weeks after Bank of Montreal drew public comment from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty by lowering its advertised five-year rate to 2.99 per cent from 3.09 per cent.

Now, Manulife’s move risks again drawing the ire of Ottawa. BMO’s rate cut earlier this month prompted Mr. Flaherty to warn the nation’s lenders against the dangers of engaging in a mortgage price war, and to take the highly unusual step of praising other banks for not matching BMO’s rate.

A spokeswoman for Manulife Financial Corp. said the rate was effective as of Monday for personal Manulife One and Manulife Bank Select mortgages.

“We understand some of our competitors offer lower rates,” spokeswoman Laurie Lupton said in an e-mail.

“Manulife Bank agrees with the government that Canadians shouldn’t take on more debt than they can handle. However, part of the value proposition we offer to clients is to offer competitive rates,” the spokeswoman added.

Banks routinely allow customers and brokers to haggle for prices below their posted or advertised rates, and lower prices than these are available in the market. A number of lenders had been selling five-year fixed mortgages at or below 2.99 per cent when BMO dropped its posted rate. Even posted rates aren’t always comparable because the details or fine print on mortgages can differ materially, such as prepayment penalties or the required length of the mortgage or down payment. But, as Mr. Flaherty told reporters earlier this month, “it’s also symbolic.”

A spokeswoman for the Finance Minister said Monday that his recent comments still stand, and he hopes that banks will “engage in prudent lending.”

Mr. Flaherty has long been concerned about overvalued house prices and rising consumer debt levels, worries that caused him to take steps last summer to make it slightly more difficult for borrowers to obtain mortgages. Home sales have dropped significantly since then, but Mr. Flaherty said this month that he continues to be concerned about the residential real estate market. And, while the growth in consumer debt levels appears to be softening, the amount of debt that the average household owes remains at a record high when compared to their after-tax disposable income. In this environment, there are fears that lenders could spur too much borrowing and cause the housing market to rebound too quickly by promoting ultra-low mortgage rates.

Drew Donaldson, a vice-president at mortgage brokerage Safebridge Financial, said he’s been able to get his clients 2.89 per cent on a five-year fixed mortgage for about a month, and the same rate from Toronto-Dominion Bank for about two weeks. “They just don’t like to over-advertise it because the government kind of slaps their hand,” he said.

The price cutting isn’t limited to mortgages. Royal Bank of Canada has started advertising home equity lines of credit for 3.5 per cent, which is 0.5 percentage points below other banks.

Mr. Flaherty has said he spoke to Bank of Montreal after its rate reduction. The bank would not comment on that conversation or mortgage rates on Monday. BMO has been trying to boost its mortgage sales ever since it stopped using mortgage brokers about four years ago, but continues to lag major banking rivals.

Similarly, Manulife Bank has been fighting the large banks for business. In 2002, it had assets of just $1.6-billion; at the end of 2012 its assets topped $21-billion.

The decision by Manulife Bank to promote a lower rate comes less than one year after Manulife Financial Corp. CEO Don Guloien said the institution was looking at tightening its lending in response to Mr. Flaherty’s concerns about the impact that consumer indebtedness could have on the economy. Manulife Bank is known largely for its Manulife One product that allows consumers to run all of their banking – such as savings, mortgages and other loans – through one account. “We’ll take a look at the strategic plan for the bank and probably slow down the growth of it a little bit,” Mr. Guloien told The Globe and Mail in an interview in May 2012, reacting to concerns in Ottawa about overextended borrowers.

“Is your mortgage renewing? Are you planning to buy a new home this Spring?” Manulife now asks on its website. “Do you already have a Manulife One account and want to lock in some of your debt? Now’s the time to get this great rate of 2.89 per cent.”





BC Home Sales Remain Subdued but Stable

Vancouver, BC – February 18, 2013.  The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 3,410 residential sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC during January, up 1.8 per cent from December on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis, but down 13.6 per cent compared to January 2012.  Similarly, total sales volume increased 3.8 per cent SA, but declined 16 per cent from the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price in the province was $514,134, up 3.2 percent from December, however, down 2.7 per cent from a year ago.

"Despite a modest uptick in consumer demand last month, home sales have remained relatively stable at a noticeably lower level since last August,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Continuing low mortgage interest rates combined with an easing back of home prices in some areas is expected to trend home sales higher during the spring and summer months."

“The ratio of home sales to new listings is indicative of a balanced market at 42 per cent,” added Muir. “However, there remains a backlog of existing home listings to either sell or be pulled off the market before supply and demand can be considered in check.”

Dramatic swings in average price statistics caused by a surge and subsequent pullback in luxury home sales appear to be near an end. The year-over-year change in average prices now more closely reflects the home price indices in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.





BC Home Sales Continue at Moderate Pace

Vancouver, BC – November 14, 2012. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that the dollar volume of homes sold through the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC declined 14.6 per cent to $2.7 billion in October compared to the same month last year. A total of 5,276 MLS® residential unit sales were recorded over the same period, down 10 per cent from October 2011. The average MLS® residential price was $508,292, down 5.1 per cent from a year ago.

"While consumer demand was stronger in October on a provincial basis, home sales continue to trend below last year’s level,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Tighter mortgage credit regulation has moderated housing demand on the South Coast."

“However, an increase in residential sales was recorded in the Okanagan, Kootenay, Chilliwack and BC Northern board areas,” added Muir.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume declined 18.2 per cent to $31.1 billion, compared to the same period last year. Residential unit sales declined 10.5 per cent to 59,946 units, while the average MLS® residential price was 8.6 per cent lower at $518,321.





OTTAWA — The federal government is moving once again to tighten mortgage-lending rules amid lingering concerns about an overheated housing market and household debt levels.

In a move called for by some of the big banks, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced Thursday the federal government is reducing the maximum amortization period for a government-insured mortgage to 25 years from 30 years.

It's the third time the government has reduced the maximum amortization period in the last four years, ratcheting it back from 40 years to 35 in 2008, and then further reduced to 30 years in 2011.

Banks will still be allowed to offer 30-year amortization periods on low-ratio mortgages that include a downpayment of 20 per cent or more.

The changes will also see the government lower the maximum Canadians can borrow against their home to 80 per cent of its value, from 85 per cent, in an effort to encourage them to keep more equity in their homes.

Moreover, the government will limit the maximum gross debt service ratio — the amount of household income needed to pay for home expenses such as mortgage, property taxes and heating — at 39 per cent and maximum total debt service ratio at 44 per cent.

Flaherty also announced Ottawa will limit government-backed insured mortgages to home purchases of less than $1 million. A downpayment of at least 20 per cent will be required on mortgage loans for homes priced at or above $1 million.

Reducing the amortization period will increase monthly payments, but reduce the amount of total interest paid on a mortgage. Ottawa expects the change from a 30-year to 25-year amortization will, on a $350,000 mortgage loan at four per cent, increase the monthly payment $177 but reduce total interest costs by nearly $47,000.

The government believes less than five per cent of home buyers will be affected by the clampdown.

The new rules take effect July 9, 2012.

"We watch carefully, we monitor the market carefully. I remain concerned about parts of the Canadian residential real estate market, particularly in Toronto, but not only in Toronto, so that is why we are intervening once again," Flaherty told reporters in Ottawa.

It's our job to try to be ahead of things and act in a measured way, listening to the market. And I have been listening to the market, and quite frankly, I don't like what I hear, particularly in the condo market."

Flaherty said the government's moves are part of an effort to "moderate behaviour" among Canadian homeowners and make them reflect before jumping into the housing market at the high end.

Canada's largest city is seeing continuous home building because of persistent demand, he noted, which is accelerating prices and eroding affordability.

"This concerns me because it's distorting the market, quite frankly," the minister added. "My judgment is that we need to calm particularly the condo market in a few Canadian cities."

Flaherty and some of the country's leading economists have for months been warning they remain worried about Canada's housing market and rising household debt.

In March, prior to delivering the federal budget, Flaherty met with 13 private-sector economists for his traditional pre-budget consultation to get their assessment of the Canadian economy.

Some of the big banks suggested at the time that the federal government consider implementing "measured actions," such as reducing the maximum amortization period for government-insured mortgages back to the traditional 25 years.

On Thursday, the banks largely welcomed the measures.

"Overall we see (Thursday's) announcement as a much better substitute to interest rate hikes since the moves are aimed with almost surgical precision at the margins of the mortgage market," Benjamin Tal with CIBC World Markets said in a research note.

"The combined impact of the four changes will not be large enough to derail the housing market, but are clearly significant enough to soften activity, and at the margin will act as a negative for house prices —mainly at the mid-range segment of the market."

Frank Techar, president of personal and commercial banking at BMO Financial Group, called the changes "prudent, measured, responsible, timely."

"Minister Flaherty has tapped the brakes at precisely the right time and his actions should help ensure Canada's housing market experiences a soft landing," Techar said in a statement.





January 04, 2012

METRO VANCOUVER - North Vancouver home prices up. Lions Bay and Squamish prices down.

Vancouver, West Vancouver way up. Whistler way down.

When Metro Vancouver and regional property owners receive their 2012 assessment notices in the mail over the next few days, they'll see a wide variation in values by region, city and neighbourhood.

The Sea to Sky region, for example, will see assessments generally down, with Squamish homeowners' property values dropping up to 10 per cent in some areas and rising five per cent in others, according to BC Assessment. The valuation date was July 1, 2011.

In Whistler and Pemberton, some property owners will see decreases in values up to 15 per cent.

In comparison, North Vancouver home assessments have risen five to 15 per cent, while West Vancouver property owners will see significant increases in the 15-to-30-per-cent range.

Vancouver's 192,000 property owners can also expect big hikes.

"Almost all homes in [the city of Vancouver] are increasing in value compared to last year's assessment roll," said area assessor Jason Grant in a statement. "Most single family homeowners in Vancouver will see significant increases, in the 10 per cent to 25 per cent range. Strata condominium owners will also see increases, but typically less than 10 per cent."

Property owners in Richmond and Burnaby will also see sharp increases in assessments.

Paul Borgo, deputy assessor with the Vancouver Sea to Sky region, said in an interview that while it's not unusual to see wide variations in value by region, city or even neighbourhood, "the city of Vancouver has been quite robust in 2011. However, the west side outperformed the east side in single family terms. And West Vancouver also has a very strong market."

Rosario Setticasi, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, agreed, citing Vancouver's west side, West Vancouver and Richmond as markets that performed better than others. "They're favoured areas for people to live in [and] there was some influence from foreign investment."

Setticasi also noted the assessments reflect values on July 1. "We had a surge in the beginning of [2011], it peaked in the summer, and came down a bit in the second half of the year, which won't be reflected in the assessment."

Robyn Adamache, senior market analyst for Metro Vancouver, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., said she is not surprised at the variation in assessment values given the fundamentals of the region's real estate market in 2011. "There were wide variations in growth in home prices in different municipalities, so I would expect more variation than usual."

Overall, Vancouver's assessment roll increased from $222 billion last year to $254 billion this year, while West Vancouver's assessment roll increased from $26.4 billion last year to more than $30.2 billion this year.

But Squamish's assessment roll declined from $3.92 billion last year to $3.81 billion.

An example of local market trends, according to BC Assessment, is a single family home in Squamish's Garibaldi Highlands neighbourhood which will see its assessment drop from $531,000 to $497,000, while another home in Whistler's Alpine Meadows neighbourhood will see its assessed value drop from $964,000 to $918,000.

However, a home on a 50-foot lot on Vancouver's west side will see its value rise from $1.19 million to $1.645 million, while another east Vancouver detached home on a 33-foot lot will rise from $816,000 to $1.03 million.

In West Vancouver's tony British Properties, an example of the trend to higher prices is a home that will rise from $1.53 million to $2.2 million.

In the Fraser Valley, property owners will see little change in values this year.

"Most homes in the Fraser Valley have remained stable in value compared to last year's assessment roll," said deputy assessor John Green.

On a percentage basis, the total change for all residential property types was up 7.9 per cent in Surrey, 16.4 per cent in Vancouver, 16.5 per cent in Richmond, 5.2 per cent in New Westminster, 12.2 per cent in Burnaby, 6.9 per cent in Coquitlam, 5.1 per cent in North Vancouver city, 7.6 per cent in North Vancouver district, 15.9 per cent in West Vancouver, but down 1.9 per cent in Squamish, five per cent in Lions Bay, 6.2 per cent in Whistler and 3.2 per cent in Sechelt.

Pat Kelly, owner of Whistler Real Estate Company, said the resort municipality saw a drop in sales both before and after the 2010 Olympics, although the market has picked up since summer.

"There was a volatile world economic situation [and] people were looking for value for their money, things they need as against things they want."

He said that while activity picked up in late 2011, prices haven't reflected that because most activity is in the under-$1 million market.

He also noted that there has been a "noticeable" drop in buyers from the U.S.

Kelly, whose company is also involved in the Squamish market, said Squamish prices have flatlined, partly because there's no major employer in the town.

"Squamish hasn't had the same appeal as other suburban markets, and I don't know why. It's very good value for an area within 40 minutes of downtown Vancouver."

Assessments were generally stable or down in other parts of the province, including Penticton and Kelowna, which saw a drop of 2.7 per cent in the total value of all residential properties.

The total number of B.C. properties on the 2012 roll is 1,917,394, a 0.75-per-cent increase from 2011.

The total value of real estate on the 2012 roll is $1.1 trillion, a 6.42-per-cent increase from 2011.








For immediate release

Home Sales Climb Higher Outside Vancouver

Vancouver, BC – November 15, 2011. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) residential unit sales in the province rose 6.5 per cent to 5,865 units in October compared to the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price was up 2.6 per cent to $535,695 last month compared to October 2010.

"BC home sales rose three per cent in October compared to September on a seasonally adjusted basis," said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. "While consumer demand in Vancouver edged lower last month on a year-overyear basis, strong increases were recorded in the Fraser Valley, Kamloops, Kootenay, the North and on Vancouver Island."

"Total active residential listings in the province declined by 3,360 units in October from September. However, active listings were up 6.9 per cent from October 2011," added Muir. "Market conditions remained slightly in favour of home buyers last month."

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume increased 16.8 per cent to $38 billion, compared to the same period last year. Residential unit sales increased 3.5 per cent to 66,922 units, while the average MLS® residential price rose 12.9 per cent to $566,925 over the same period.



Housing Forecast Points to Market Stability in 2012
BCREA 2011 Fourth Quarter Housing Forecast

Vancouver, BC – November 8, 2011.The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) released its 2011 Fourth Quarter Housing Forecast today.

BC Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) residential sales are forecast to rise 3.2 per cent from 74,640 units in 2010 to 77,000 units this year, increasing a further 3.9 per cent to 80,000 units in 2012.

“Low mortgage interest rates are expected to persist through 2012 keeping affordability on an even keel,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “However, headwinds on the economic front will constrain consumer demand over the next year to below the ten-year average of 87,600 units.” A record 106,300 MLS® residential sales were recorded in 2005.  

“Moderate consumer demand combined with larger inventories of homes for sale means BC housing markets will experience little upward pressure on home prices through 2012,” added Muir. The average MLS® residential price in the province is estimated to rise 11.8 per cent to $564,600 this year, and is forecast to decline 2.5 per cent to $550,500 in 2012. 

- 30 -


November 2, 2011

Greater Vancouver at lower end of balanced housing market

With a sales-to-active property listings ratio of 15 per cent, the Greater Vancouver housing market continues to hover at the lower end of a balanced market and has been trending in that direction over the past five months.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties on the region’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) system reached 2,317 in October, a 1 per cent decrease compared to the 2,337 sales in October 2010 and a 3.2 per cent increase compared to the previous month. Those sales rank as the second lowest total for October over the last 10 years.

“Right now, prospective home buyers have a good selection of properties to choose from and more time to make decisions,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said. “Home sellers should be mindful of local market conditions to ensure they are pricing their properties competitively.”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 4,374 in October, which is on par with the 10-year average. This represents an 18.3 per cent increase compared to October 2010, when 3,698 properties were listed for sale on the MLS®, and a 23 per cent decrease compared to the 5,680 new listings reported in September 2011.

The total number of properties listed for sale on the Greater Vancouver MLS® system currently sits at 15,377, which is 9.3 per cent higher than the 14,075 properties listed for sale during the same period last year. October was the first month that the total number of property listings showed a decrease this year.

The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 7.5 per cent to $622,955 in October 2011 from $579,349 in October 2010. However, since reaching a peak in June of $630,921, the benchmark price for all residential properties in the region has declined 1.3 per cent.

Sales of detached properties in October reached 974, which represents virtually no change from the 976 detached sales recorded in October 2010, and a 34.5 per cent decrease from the 1,487 units sold in October 2009. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 11 per cent from October 2010 to $884,778, but decreased 1.3 per cent compared to the previous month.

Sales of apartment properties reached 958 in October, a 2.6 per cent decrease compared to the 984 sales in October 2010, and a decrease of 40.4 per cent compared to the 1,607 sales in October 2009. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.2 per cent from October 2010 to $402,702, but decreased 0.7 per cent compared to the previous month.

Attached property sales in October totalled 382, a 1.3 per cent increase compared to the 377 sales in October 2010, and a 37.4 per cent decrease from the 610 attached properties sold in October 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 6.5 per cent between October 2010 and 2011 to $519,455, and increased half a per cent compared to the previous month.




Home Sales Edge Higher in September

Vancouver, BC – September 14, 2011. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) residential unit sales in the province rose 8.8 per cent to 5995 units in September compared to the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price increased 6 per cent to $523,568 last month compared to September 2010.

"MLS® home sales edged up 3 per cent in September compared to August on a seasonally adjusted basis,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Housing demand last month was bolstered by persistent low mortgage interest rates and a surge in employment."

"Despite a modest gain in unit sales, total active residential listings in the province remained elevated in September,” added Muir. A total of 55,616 homes were listed on the MLS® in the province at the end of September.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume increased 17.5 per cent to $34.8 billion, compared to the same period last year. Residential unit sales increased 3.2 per cent to 61,127 units, while the average MLS® residential price rose 13.9 per cent to $569,922 over the same period.



New Housing Price Index - October 13, 2010 

The New Housing Price Index (NHPI) for Canada increased 0.1 per cent in August following a 0.1 per cent decline in July. New home prices in Canada exhibited more stability than many analyst expectations given the implementation of the HST in July to Ontario and BC. Compared to August 2009, the NHPI was up 2.9 per cent across the country.

The NHPI also increased 0.1 per cent in Vancouver during August compared to July. Year-over-year in August the NHPI in Vancouver climbed 4.4 per cent. Meanwhile, in Victoria, contractors reported no change in their selling prices between July and August. Year-over-year, the NHPI in Victoria declined by 0.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada's NHPI is calculated for Vancouver and Victoria only in British Columbia. The survey of home builders used to derive the index counts market selling prices less any value added taxes, such as the HST.


October 4, 2010

September Stats

Housing market factors indicate stability in recent months

September home sales in Greater Vancouver were consistent with activity experienced in the preceding two months across most categories.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that the number of residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 2,220 in September 2010. This represents a 0.8 per cent increase compared to August 2010 and 37.6 per cent decline from the 3,559 sales in September 2009.

In comparison, last month’s residential sales represent a 40.1 per cent increase over the 1,585 residential sales in September 2008, a 20 per cent decline compared to September 2007’s 2,776 sales, and an 11.9 per cent decline compared to September 2006’s 2,519 sales.

“We’ve seen fewer properties coming on to the market over the last three months. This trend, combined with the continued attraction of low interest rates, is likely having the effect of less downward pressure on home prices,” Jake Moldowan, REBGV president said.

Since spring, housing prices in the region have trended slightly downward, with a decrease of 2.7 per cent compared to the all-time high reached in April when the MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) residential benchmark price was $593,419. The overall benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 5.5 per cent to $577,174 in September 2010 from $547,092 in September 2009. The current price remains consistent with last month, rising just 0.1 per cent between August and September 2010.

Total active property listings posted on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Greater Vancouver currently sit at 15,401, basically unchanged compared to last month and a 22 per cent increase from September 2009. Over the last three months, active listings in the region have declined12.3 per cent.

New residential property listings posted in September declined 17.6 per cent to 4,731 compared to September 2009 when 5,746 new units were listed.

“We saw signs of more stability in our marketplace last month than we have seen since spring based on a variety of indicators that we look at each month,” Moldowan said. “At 56 days, it took, on average, three days less to sell a home in our region compared to August. This is the first month-over-month decline we’ve seen in this category since April.”

Sales of detached properties in September 2010 reached 866, a decrease of 39.1 per cent from the 1,423 detached sales recorded in September 2009, and a 58.6 per cent increase from the 546 units sold in September 2008. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 6.7 per cent from September 2009 to $790,992.

Sales of apartment properties reached 971 in September 2010, a decline of 34.7 per cent compared to the 1,489 sales in September 2009, and an increase of 27.1 per cent compared to the 764 sales in September 2008.The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.7 per cent from September 2009 to $388,373.

Attached property sales in September 2010 totalled 383, a decline of 40.1 per cent compared to the 647 sales in September 2009, and a 39.3 per cent increase from the 275 attached properties sold in September 2008. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 5.2 per cent between September 2009 and 2010 to $490,385.







May market offers buyers greater selection

The number of properties listed for sale in Greater Vancouver continued to rise in May, while the number of sales showed a year-over-year decrease.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 3,156 in May 2010, a decline of 10.4 per cent compared to the 3,524 sales in May 2009; 5.1 per cent more than the 3,002 sales in May 2008; and 27.1 per cent less than the 4,331 sales in May 2007. May 2010 sales also represent a 10.1 per cent decline compared to last month’s sales.

In terms of number of property listings, last month marked the third consecutive month during which more than 7,000 homes were listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) in Greater Vancouver.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties totalled 7,014 in May 2010, a 48.2 per cent increase compared to May 2009 when 4,733 new units were listed, and an 8.3 per cent decline compared to April 2010 when 7,648 properties were added to the MLS®.

At 17,492, the total number of property listings on the MLS® increased 10 per cent in May compared to last month, and is up 28.2 per cent compared to this time last year.

“Prospective home buyers in today’s market have a broad selection to choose from in every property type. REALTORS® are telling us they’re working with buyers who are not feeling as rushed to make a decision as they did late last year and earlier in the year,” Jake Moldowan, REBGV president said.

Over the last 12 months, the overall MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver increased 16.7 per cent to $590,662 from $506,201 in May 2009.

“It’s important for those looking to buy or sell a home to remember that real estate is local and wise real estate decisions are made by those who understand current market conditions at the neighbourhood level,” Moldowan said.

Sales of detached properties in May 2010 reached 1,256, a decrease of 10.4 per cent from the 1,402 detached sales recorded in May 2009 and a 4.4 per cent increase from the 1,203 units sold in May 2008. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 19.1 per cent from May 2009 to $810,175.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,354 in May 2010, a decline of 7.1 per cent compared to the 1,458 sales in May 2009 and an increase of 8.8 per cent compared to the 1,244 sales in May 2008.The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 13.9 per cent from May 2009 to $398,783.

Attached property sales in May 2010 totalled 546, a decline of 17.8 per cent compared to the 664 sales in May 2009 and a 1.6 per cent decline from the 555 attached properties sold in May 2008. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 14.8 per cent between May 2009 and 2010 to $500,339.


Source: Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver




For the complete news release, including detailed statistics, follow this link:

For immediate release

February Home Sales Strong Despite Olympic Fever

Vancouver, BC – March 11, 2010. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) residential sales in the province climbed 63 per cent to 5,955 units in February compared to the same month last year. On a seasonally adjusted basis, MLS® residential unit sales in the province declined 13 per cent compared to January 2010.

“Home sales continued to moderate in February after the record pace of the fourth quarter.” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “However, February’s performance was better than expected considering many households were preoccupied with Olympic gold."

The BC residential sales dollar volume increased 91 per cent to $2.96 billion in February compared to the same period last year. The average MLS® residential price climbed 17 per cent to $497,807 over the same period.

"Low mortgage interest rates are continuing to underpin consumer demand and fuel first-time homebuyer activity,” added Muir. “Improving economic conditions are expected to bolster consumer confidence over the coming months.”





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