Vancouver Homes With Jay Banks Mon, 16 Oct 2017 06:35:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Heron Fri, 13 Oct 2017 22:52:06 +0000 The earliest known record of Pacific great blue herons in Vancouver dates back to 1921. These magnificent birds are currently a species at risk in Canada. Photo by Sherwood411.


]]> 0
Portal Park Sat, 07 Oct 2017 17:08:10 +0000 Portal Park is one of the best places to enjoy the beauty of nature near the busy streets of Downtown. Its main feature - this elegant pavilion - was captured by Arthur Castro.


]]> 0
Karran and Andrew Tue, 26 Sep 2017 18:20:04 +0000 Vancouver City Lights Tue, 26 Sep 2017 11:32:24 +0000 Shantel Jang's photo of Vancouver's lights at dusk is the perfect goodbye to summer. Thank you for submitting!


]]> 0
Things You Need to Know Before Buying an Old House in Vancouver Fri, 22 Sep 2017 09:45:46 +0000
A West End home - City of Vancouver Archives

Though a fairly young city, Vancouver has its share of older houses. In 2011, out of 41,440 owner-occupied single detached homes, thirty per cent of them were built in 1946 or earlier.

Older houses present problems for the prospective buyer. Insurers may refuse to cover, or renew policies on, houses that have not been upgraded to modern standards. What follows is a list of known issues that a buyer should investigate.

Is your wiring up to date?

Modern lifestyles, full of appliances and entertainment devices, consume far more electricity than they used to, and the electrical systems of older houses, built when the cutting edge of domestic technology was a two-slice toaster, may be inadequate to the task.

Many old houses have knob and tube wiring, also known as K&T wiring or open wiring. Every house in North America built between 1880 and 1940 had K&T wiring, and "It is still present to some degree in the vast majority of occupied houses in B.C. that were built pre-1950." The copper wire was covered by a cloth and rubber insulation called "loom", and ran through porcelain knobs and tubes. K&T is ungrounded and can short out. Electrical service was often limited to 60 amps.

K&T wiring was not designed to handle modern demands, and can post a risk for fire hazards. If a system built for 15 amps is overtaxed and constantly blowing fuses, homeowners may install 25 or 30 amp fuses, which may cause the wiring to overheat. This makes the wire and insulation brittle and contributes to the risk of fires. Another problem comes from retrofitting modern outlets to older wiring systems.

Some insurance companies will increase their fees for houses with K&T wiring, or not cover them at all. Furthermore, unprofessional electricians may not know the requirements of this kind of wiring, and repair it with scotch or masking tape instead of professional electrical tape.

Homes built between 1965 and 1976 may have aluminum wiring instead of modern copper wiring. Aluminum wiring is susceptible to overheating and failure of terminals, indicated by discolouring near the wall receptacle, the smell of hot plastic, or flickering lights. Most of these problems occurred with 110 volt circuits for outlets and lights, not the 220 volt circuits for major appliances.

According to an essay by a master electrician, out of the 500 Vancouver houses more than forty years old he surveyed, 95 per cent of them had electrical fire hazards, which he attributed to "handyman tinkering" by non-professionals.

When selling houses, particularly old ones, realtors are obligated to educate the buyers and sellers about the kind of wiring. It requires a certified electrician’s inspection, and that finding will inevitably recommend replacing the wiring. Removal and replacement of the wiring for a 1500 square foot house can cost from $5,000 to $8,000, and take one week or more. Upgrading an existing electrical panel to 200 amps can cost about $1,200.

Beware of the UFFI

UFFI is urea formaldehyde foam insulation, a shaving cream-like foam that can be injected into and around electrical outlets, plumbing and other hard-to-reach spaces. During the energy crisis of the early 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Canadian homes were insulated with UFFI to reduce heating costs. However, homeowners afterwards reported respiratory problems, eye irritation, fatigue, and other symptoms, which Health Canada attributed to formaldehyde gas released from the UFFI. The insulation was banned in Canada in 1980, and later in the USA.

Whether UFFI actually releases enough formaldehyde to be harmful is debated, particularly cases in which the insulation was installed 30 or more years ago. The Canadian Cancer Association’s website says, "Homes that had UFFI installed many years ago probably do not have high formaldehyde levels now." A post on the website of Carson Dunlop home inspection services concludes, "urea formaldehyde foam insulation has not been shown to be a health concern." Health Canada also points out that UFFI can deteriorate when wet, and release increased formaldehyde if installed incorrectly.

Regardless, currently UFFI is banned in Canada. The presence of UFFI in a house can lower its price greatly, and prevent mortgage companies from financing it.

Always check for asbestos

Perhaps the best known dangerous house material, asbestos is an insulating agent known to be cause cancer and respiratory disease, and cannot be detected just by looking at it. Homes built before 1990 are more likely to have asbestos, in floor tiles, wrapped around furnace ducts or pipes, or in other areas.

Health Canada recommends that people reduce risk of exposure by hiring professional inspectors before altering their house. Often, the best response to pre-existing asbestos is to leave it be. WorkSafeBC recommends that asbestos should be identified and removed by trained professionals with protective gear, and that homeowners should contact their municipality to learn how to safely dispose of asbestos materials.

Homeowners should note that asbestos in a home may fall under the asbestos exclusion clause of an insurance policy.

The Professional Standards Manual of the Real Estate Council of British Columbia requires that sellers discloses the presence of UFFI and asbestos in properties. A hazardous materials survey can cost from $500 to $2000 or more, and removal of asbestos, depending on the type of material, can run from $400 to $15,000. Removal of UFFI can cost about $10,000 for an attic and between $15,000 and $20,000 for an entire house.

Vintage furnace is not always a win

Beginning in the 1930s, gas- and oil-powered furnaces were a major improvement over older, coal powered furnaces that had to be stoked. However, oil furnaces can be an environmental hazard and a fire risk, causing higher insurance costs. Forced-air gas furnaces and electric heat are much lower risks, and are more efficient too. A new furnace and re-routed ducts can cost about $8,000.

Another common feature of older houses is oil tanks for furnaces, whether indoors or outdoors, aboveground or belowground. Leaks from oil tanks can releases hundreds of litres of oil into the home or the ground, contaminating the soil and groundwater, or getting into the sump pump or floor drain. Many oil tanks corrode from the inside out, making their weakness invisible. As water in the tank sinks to the bottom, it may cause rust or corrosion where the legs attach. The only sign may be the odor of oil.

The presence of an old oil tank may cause the denial of homeowners insurance. According to a report from the Canadian Real Estate Association, "A home with an exterior oil tank older than 15 years, or an interior tank older than 25 years, usually will not be insured." British Columbia has standards for residential oil tanks in place, but voluntary guidelines for the maintenance and repair of installed tanks.

A paper from the environmental law clinic of the University of Victoria says that "B.C.’s Environmental Management Act and the common law can require the owner of a property that is a contamination source to pay for the cost of cleaning up that contamination and contamination of neighbouring properties." Insurance policies may have pollution exclusion clauses that keep them from having to pay for such spills. Removal of an oil tank from a basement costs between $350 and $500.

An older or heritage home may also be denied insurance if it has a roof has not been updated in the past 20 years, a wood-heating system, galvanized pipe or lead plumbing, lead-based paint, or problems with the septic or well installations.

Despite the issues with older houses, it is still almost always possible to get insurance, especially for people who already had insurance and are renewing policies. First-time buyers may need to turn to a specialty provider with higher premiums. Such houses also may take longer to insure, and buyers should start looking for coverage as soon as possible. Installing smoke alarms, sprinkler systems or monitored burglar alarms can also be rewarded with discounts.


]]> 0
Vancouver Real Estate: Lack of Inventory in August 2017 Wed, 20 Sep 2017 22:53:59 +0000 As the world was falling down around us with wildfires, hurricanes, terrorism, violent political demonstrations Vancouver real estate just skipped along to yet higher prices overall and extraordinary demand in the condo market.

The big reason for continuing rising prices in the Vancouver real estate market is the total lack of good inventory. The State of the Market report from the Urban Development Institute tells us that there is not one new move-in ready concrete condo or townhome available within the city limits. Even outside Vancouver the inventory is at record lows. There are only 23 move-in ready concrete condos for sale in the whole of MetroVancouver as of the second quarter of 2017.

The pre-sale market of multi family homes reached a seven-year low in the second quarter with 1446 condos and 496 townhomes available in the entire Metro region according to an analysis in the Real Estate Weekly.

Anne McMullen president and CEO of the Urban Development Institute is quoted as saying "...Various independent and academic studies have proven supply is being throttled by restrictive single-family zoning policy and delays in permitting."

Real estate property sales rose 22.3%in August 2017 compared with August 2016 which was impacted by the newly proclaimed Foreign Buyer Tax. Last year’s sales were mainly in the detached segment. According to Jill Oudil President of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver "First- time buyers have led a surge this summer in demand in our condominium and townhome markets. Homes priced between $350,000 and $750,000 have been subject to intense competition and multiple offers across the region."

"Conditions in our detached home market are distinct today from the dynamic in our condominium and townhome markets," Oudil said. "Detached homes have entered a balanced market. This means there is less upward pressure on prices and that buyers have more selection to choose from and more time to make their decisions."

The sales to active listing ratio for August 2017 is 34.6%. By property type, the ratio is 16.3% for detached homes, 44.8% for townhouses, and 76.3% for condominiums.

In August 2017 the benchmark price for a detached home in North Vancouver was $1,711,100 up 0.4% in one year, up 75.0% in 5 years and up 98.4% in 10 years. In Richmond the benchmark price was $1,676,000 down -0.9% in one year, up 70.3% in 5 years and up 138.4% in 10 years. In Vancouver East the benchmark price was $1,565,300 up 2.1% in one year, up 82.3% in 5 years and up 148.0% in 10 years. In Vancouver West the benchmark price was $3,654,500 up 1.0% in one year, up 72.5% in 5 years and up146.8% in 10 years. In West Vancouver the benchmark price was $3,189,500 down -6.3%in one year, up 66.7% in 5 years and up 109.1% in 10 years. Each year affordability declined for local buyers.

Vivagrand Developments, a real estate company out of southern China, has been using the Vancouver market as a springboard into international development. They recently cancelled Langara West, their pre-sale project at 59th and Cambie. 71 people bought pre-sale units at a price point of $750-$900 dollars per square foot.

The project will now not go forward as the financing was withdrawn due to the delays in getting a building permit from the city of Vancouver. The city planning department states that the developer did not submit revised paperwork as required after a tree on the property that was an integral part of the application was cut down anonymously.

The current price per square foot for new construction in the Cambie neighbourhood is $1200-$1400 a square foot. These buyers are receiving their deposit +50% back from the developer. No damages. Most will be unable to purchase a new unit in the area.

Delays in getting building permits in the city of Vancouver are notorious. Any prudent buyer should check the track record of the developer from whom they are considering purchasing a pre-sale product. Buyers are well advised to buy from a large builder who has access to guaranteed financing and who has the financial strength to withstand unusual delays. Vivagrand is not the only developer who has left buyers in the lurch. Chandler Development Group who has a checkered bankruptcy history is back in the news again for swindling some LA investors.

In the case of the Langara West project the developer has stated that they will be reselling the land and not going ahead with the project. Commercial realtors have estimated that the purchase price of $12.5 million in 2014 has risen three times since then so the developer will receive a large profit on the resale of the property. The trusting pre-sale buyers are out of luck.

In August 2017 the benchmark price for an apartment property across the region was $626,800. This was a 19.4% increase from August 2016. In August 2017 the benchmark price for a condo apartment in North Vancouver was $551,000 up 15.9% in one year, up 53.3% in 5 years and up 60.6% in 10 years. In Richmond the benchmark price was $594,100 up 26.4% in one year, up 70.7% in 5 years and 80.4% in 10 years. In Vancouver East the benchmark price was $529,400 up 20.4% in one year, up 72.3% in 5 years and up 90.9%in 10 years. In Vancouver West the benchmark price was $787,400 up 13.0% in one year, up 66.7% in 5 years and up 76.7% in 10 years. In West Vancouver the benchmark price was $1,128.000 up 10.9% in one year, up 54.4% in 5 years and up 56.6% in 10 years.

The NDP has brought down an interim budget that featured some money for affordable housing but did nothing to address affordability in the real estate market or raising taxes on non-resident buyers. We will have to wait until February 2018 and the full formal budget to see where those election promises are going. There is speculation that Andrew Weaver and the Greens are objecting to some of the planned implementation and so ideas need public consultation and input in the hope that will force some decisions.

Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun continues to report regularly on the shenanigans around real estate and the ineptitude of CRA in enforcing any tax provisions against those taking advantage of the easy rules on money laundering and tax avoidance. According to Census figures Vancouver with the most expensive real estate in Canada ranks #14 in average wages. Also interesting is the fact that Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver West and West Vancouver with the most expensive real estate in Canada have the highest rates of poverty and the largest number of foreign born residents.

According to Richard Wozny,prominent immigration lawyer, this disparity is caused by "inappropriate reporting of family incomes" and governments need to crack down on residential property speculators. Todd reports that Wozny states that it is not logical that so many low-income residents buy expensive houses. The outcome is that Metro transit system costs, school funding is largely borne by residents of the suburbs where house prices are lower. Apparently residents of Port Moody which has average house prices have the highest taxable incomes in Metro Vancouver.

In comparing Vancouver to Seattle it is clear their house prices have not risen like ours even though they attract wealthy immigrants to their city. It appears that the difference between us is that the US taxes all residents on world-wide income. There is no escaping the wrath of the IRS. Maybe we should try that here. More anon.


]]> 0
Arcadia Beach Wed, 13 Sep 2017 22:37:58 +0000 Catch the last rays of the Sun with this scenic photo of Arcadia Beach by Jerry Meaden.


]]> 0
Vancouver Mural Festival 2017 Tue, 05 Sep 2017 08:38:01 +0000 Vancouver Mural Festival is the city's largest annual free public art celebration, giving young artists the chance to contribute to Vancouver's cultural legacy. This year's edition featured 60 new street art murals. David Ullock's and Douglas Nhung's “Luxurious Dreamscape Bubblebath” located near 6th Ave was captured by Jeremy Board.


]]> 0
Solar Eclipse Mon, 28 Aug 2017 09:05:31 +0000 Asher Isbrucker captured the North American eclipse as seen from Vancouver where we saw a 86% solar coverage by the Moon. He didn't bring adequate equipment to create any images of the true eclipse, but this neat triple lens flare effect came about inadvertently when he aimed his 70-230mm lens at the sun on an angle, carefully looking at the live view instead of through the viewfinder.


]]> 0
Nothing is guaranteed in Vancouver Fri, 25 Aug 2017 06:27:55 +0000 There's so much turmoil in the news today and so many extreme opinions on every subject that it does seem like a good time to be nice to those around you. The biggest issue in Canada at the moment is that of illegal immigration including refugees streaming into Quebec from the US.

Some legal immigrants who jump through all the hoops to get here are saying of Canada that it's one of the most difficult countries to get into legally and the easiest to get into illegally. The Prime Minister has reassured us that all Canadian laws will be applied to refugee claimants. Fairness is so engrained in the Canadian psyche that this issue and real estate affordability are probably the hot buttons in a discussion anywhere in the country.

Immigration ideas turned upside down

Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun who writes regularly on immigration issues interviewed Sanjay Jeram a political science professor at Simon Fraser University. Jeram states that immigration discussion in Canada is a taboo subject. He thinks that immigration to Canada should be examined from an economic not racist point of view. The discussion should be around the impact on overcrowding, housing, opportunities for domestic workers or the welfare state.

He talks about how federal immigration policy has brought in two financially opposite groups of newcomers. The rich and those with low incomes. There is competition between the low-income groups including international students for all rental spaces in both Toronto and Vancouver. The influx of wealthy foreign buyers has moved middle-income housing to the high-end. This means the local millennial buyers cannot afford to purchase or rent in the cities.

Jeram's point is that foreign investment should not be in housing but in activities that benefit the economy. There should be limits on purchasing by foreign buyers as there is in Europe since so much of the money they bring into the country is invested in real estate and homes are left empty and unused.

Jeram’s thesis is that corporations should be required to train local workers before bringing in skilled workers from abroad to fill available jobs. He is concerned that Canadian society will run out of tolerance due to the pressures on the social safety net.

Spyglass Dock on Granville Island at the east end near the Cambie Bridge, looking across False Creek to Marinaside Crescent in Yaletown. Photo by Viv Lynch

The search for affordable housing continues

A recent survey of millennial thoughts on real estate discovered that financially mature millennial buyers say they can afford $350,000 to buy a home. A different article projected that there won’t be enough homes available to buy at an affordable price until the bulge of the Baby Boomers reach their mid-80s.

Real estate activity in Metro Vancouver is stronger than in parts of the Greater Toronto area. In both cities, the investment surge is into the new condominium development. Partly because foreign buyer taxes can more easily be evaded, there is an upside to the price as the development gets built and there is a rental component that will return value to the buyer.

It is noticeable in many real estate offices in Vancouver that the large increase in listings of resale properties is heavily in the condominium sector. In Vancouver Westside new listings for modern livable houses that are not grand mansions come on the market for $4 million and more. Not affordable housing by anyone’s standards.

We are waiting to see if the new NDP government has time and energy to address housing when there are so many urgent decisions to be made. At the moment there are discussions in the financial sector as to whether there is inflation that requires rate increases actually happening. Anything that raises mortgage rates is like a rock thrown into a pond---the ripples go out forever.

Nothing is guaranteed in Vancouver

Last month we discussed how the Bing Thom Architects designed 57-storey redevelopment of the First Baptist Church property at Burrard and Nelson. Since then the application by Westbank Properties and First Baptist Church to develop the church property has been approved by City Council.

It's another lesson learned by those who opposed the application based on the obstruction of the view they paid a premium for when they purchased their nearby upscale condos. Having your water view dependant on overlooking empty space like the church parking lot is a recipe for investment loss.

Nothing is guaranteed in any way in Vancouver. Every piece of land is open to development. And every view can be compromised, even the street corridor views to the harbour which are getting narrower by the year.

True waterfront locations are at a premium in Vancouver. There are many buyers both local and offshore willing to pay top price for a larger unit with a guaranteed unobstructed outlook. If money is no object, search for a place in the very front row of condos right at the waterfront, where it's absolutely impossible to build in front of you. Another good option is to buy on a hillside so that anything that's built further down will not obstruct your view.

When buying a pre-construction condo, make sure to check out what will be going on around the building before signing a pre-sale contract, and be careful with parks in front of the view as parks can be rezoned.


]]> 0