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Vancouver home sales in April lowest since 2001

VANCOUVER — People are still shying away from investing in Vancouver real estate, April sales numbers show.

This April’s sales were the lowest April total since 2001 and 20.9 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported Thursday.

“While the number of home sales remains below average, properties that are priced right are selling and we’re seeing greater balance between buyer demand and the number of homes listed for sale,” says Sandra Wyant, REBGV president.

There were 2,627 home sales in Vancouver in April, a decrease of 6.1 per cent from last April and an increase of 11.9 per cent from March.

In the Fraser Valley, sales were also up from March, but down from last year, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board reported.

Board president Ron Todson said sales usually increase in the spring, and this year is no exception.

“What’s different this year is that a number of external factors, such as tighter credit rules and the government’s spotlight on consumer debt have made some consumers more cautious about buying or selling a property,” Todson said in a news release.

Despite sluggish sales, prices have been creeping up again across the Lower Mainland, the real estate boards said.

“There have been modest increases in home prices across the region over the last three months. This comes on the heels of home price declines of approximately five to six per cent in Greater Vancouver during the last half of 2012,” Wyant said.

The home price index composite price in Greater Vancouver is now $597,300 for all property types, the board’s numbers show. Although this is down 3.9 per cent from April 2011, it is up 1.6 per cent from this January.

In the Fraser Valley, the benchmark composite price is $426,900 for all property types, down 0.2 per cent from a year ago, but up 1.4 per cent from January, the RVREB numbers show.

“Pricing is incredibly important in slower than average markets,” said Todson. “We’re not seeing the rapid increases in home values of the last decade, which means that sellers may need to sharpen their pricing in order to be competitive, but buyers won’t see dramatic price drops.”

On April 1, the province reverted to the GST and PST tax structure. Buyers in April saved a bit of money on their real estate commissions under the new rules, because tax on real-estate commissions is reduced to seven per cent from the 12 per cent HST.

The Fraser Valley region includes North Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Abbotsford and Mission, while the REBGV includes Vancouver, Richmond, Ladner, Tsawwassen, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Bowen Island, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Squamish, the Sunshine Coast and Whistler.

Meanwhile, a new BMO report out Thursday found that Eighty per cent of prospective buyers know if a home is right for them as soon as they step inside.

The BMO Psychology of House Hunting Report says Canadians spent an average of five months house hunting and viewed 10 homes before buying.

Nearly 70 per cent of buyers are willing to settle for less than perfect, but one-third feel rushed into making a purchase, the report says.

Canadian homeowners spent an average of five months house hunting and visited ten homes before making the decision to buy, the report says.

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Vancouver’s housing market shows signs of improvement

Vancouver real estate market shows signs of spring

Sandra Wyant has come across tantalizing clues that she believes point to a gradual turnaround in Vancouver’s tepid housing market.

The new president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver sees modest but encouraging signs of a stalemate easing between buyers and sellers. Sales volume in the Vancouver region fell 18.3 per cent in March, compared with the same month in 2012, but there is a silver lining: Decreases in year-over-year sales have slowed since last fall, when the number of homes sold tumbled nearly 27 per cent. Another clue? An industry statistic known as the sales-to-listings ratio has improved in Greater Vancouver. “There seems to be more of a meeting of minds going on,” Ms. Wyant said in an interview.

After a pricing slump that began in the spring of 2012, it means that a recovery – albeit tenuous – for Vancouver real estate is finally within sight, she said. After house prices in Greater Vancouver more than doubled from 2004 to 2011, they fell roughly 6 per cent last year. Prices are expected to be flat or slightly down this year, before a rebound in 2014, housing experts say.

Vancouver and Toronto have been the focus of Canada’s cooling housing market, with sales volume slumping in both markets. But it is in Vancouver where residential resale prices have fallen while Toronto has still managed to eke out small pricing gains.

To arrive at the sales-to-listings ratio, take the number of homes sold in a month and divide it by the number of active listings for that same month. With March’s 2,347 sales divided by 15,460 active listings, that equals a ratio of 15.2 per cent – a statistical reading for being a balanced market, but just barely.

Real estate agents consider it a balanced or neutral market in the Vancouver region when the ratio is between 15 per cent and 20 per cent. It is deemed a buyer’s market below 15 per cent and a seller’s above 20 per cent.

Cameron Muir, chief economist at the B.C. Real Estate Association, cautioned that such numbers are rough guidelines, and it’s too early to declare that Vancouver is swinging back toward a seller’s market, let alone becoming red-hot again. “I don’t think anyone expects to see prices accelerate any time soon like in the previous run-up,” Mr. Muir said.

Tsur Somerville, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, said sluggish prices could be in store for Vancouver for the rest of 2013, but a crash landing is unlikely. “Given where interest rates are, it would be silly to expect a large change in prices,” he said. Still, Prof. Somerville cautioned that if interest rates skyrocket and if there is a major meltdown in financial markets, then Canada’s housing market, not just Vancouver’s, would face turmoil.

The Vancouver area’s residential sales volume began weakening in the fall of 2011. Buyers are waiting for further softening in the market while sellers are holding out for better bids or pulling their homes off the multiple listing service if no decent offers emerge. Benchmark house index prices in Greater Vancouver peaked at $625,100 last May for detached homes, townhouses and condos. Index prices (which strip out the most expensive properties) fell to $588,100 in January, a 5.9-per-cent drop from last May. Monthly prices edged up slightly to $590,400 in February and $593,100 in March. Last month’s index price is down 3.9 per cent from $617,100 in March, 2012.

Source: Brent Jang, The Globe and Mail

Million-dollar question: Vancouver-area survey reveals suburban dreams

If you had $1 million, would you buy in Vancouver, or would you scuttle off to the suburbs? REW's biannual survey results suggest a love of picket fences.

How do you feel about buying a house?

Is it a good time to buy a home in Vancouver? Is it a good time to sell? Real Estate Weekly (REW) has released the results of its biannual Greater Vancouver real estate consumer confidence survey, which gauges the perception side of Lower Mainland real estate market, and the results are surprising.

As it turns out, would-be home buyers are more confident than would-be home sellers, by a widening margin.

Do you think it’s a good time to buy a house or a condo in the next three months?

When Mustel Research Group asked, "Do you think it’s a good time to buy a house or a condo in the next three months?", 54% of respondents answered "yes". This is a slight majority (for the first time in a year), though the margin of error in the survey is 4.1%. Depending on your own level of optimism, there could actually be more confident market-watchers, or few enough to keep them below the 50% mark for another season.

So, why buy?

  • 23% of those optimistic about buying cited falling prices (or some variation of the housing-bubble). This was also the #1 reason respondents gave for not wanting to buy, by the way.
  • 20% cited low interest rates.
  • 18% pointed to an overstocked market: plenty of choice.

You don't have to be a sociologist or statistician to predict the top reasons for responding "no": high prices.

Do you think it’s a good time to sell a house or a condo in the next three months?

Okay, this is where things get interesting. When asked, "Do you think it’s a good time to sell a house or a condo in the next three months?", 63% of respondents answered "no". That's 30% more people saying "no" than we saw in March 2012.

Not that surprising, really, presuming that the would-be sellers are somehow aware of this increase in buyer optimism: buyers are more inclined to buy when they perceive advantage (lower prices or future increases in property value, for example), which equates to disadvantage in some form to the seller.)

Why the doom and gloom, sellers?

  •  Nearly half of those who think selling is a bad idea pointed to dropping property values.
  • 20% blamed slowing sales.
  • 12% said there were too many properties on the market already; that it's getting too crowded out there.

Even some who thought it a good idea to sell, thought so for less-than-optimistic reasons: 26% of them said that they'd sell only to avoid seeing their property values shrink more than they already have.

So, all Mustel Research Group did was attach some numbers to the cocktail-party conversation you've been having for the last five years.

Respondents from the Fraser Valley characterized these survey results the most clearly: Langley-east residents were the most optimistic about buying, and the most pessimistic about selling.

In terms of bucking the trend, Richmond residents proved more pessimistic towards buying, while Surrey/Delta/Langley residents were more optimistic towards selling.

But wait! There's more! It involves a deep, dark secret. The real estate version of that Fergie song hidden on your iPod.

If I had a million dollars (If I haaaad a million dollars)

Now we come to the third (and best) question on the REW real estate market survey. Mustel Research Group asked folks the following: "Suppose you had exactly $1 million dollars to buy the only residential property you would have in the Lower Mainland area. Knowing that you can live anywhere in the Lower Mainland area, and that the farther you get from the City of Vancouver the less you pay, which one of the following types of property would you be most interested in buying?"

Here's how it broke down, based on the five options offered:

  • 34% would buy a large house and property in the suburbs.
  • 23% said they'd keep the million dollars and rent.
  • 20% would spent the hypothetical million bucks on a small detached house.
  • 12% opted for a luxury condo in a city centre.
  • 10% would choose a townhouse or duplex in a city.
  • Meanwhile, 1% were like, "I dunno."

Wow. So, for all the talk about eco-friendly urban oases and all the glass-and-steel towers popping up around False Creek like toadstools, you're telling us you'd rather scuttle off to the suburbs?

To be fair, you would have trouble finding a detached house close to Vancouver's city centre for only a million dollars. The million dollars may be hypothetical, but Lower Mainland property pricing is all too real: if you want space, you have to leave the area.

To what extent this survey result is a referendum on urban living versus an acknowledgement of how far a million dollars would go is not really clear. Furthermore, were respondents optimistic or pessimistic regarding what the hypothetical money would buy? That small detached house near the city centre may be hard to find, but it does exist. It's just not in Kitsilano.

Also, who "didn't know" what to do with the imaginary million dollars? It's an imaginary million dollars, dude/dudette: just pick something.

Generation gap

Age mattered in the REW survey as well. Turns out that those 55 and older were most keen to keep the cash and carry on renting. Generation Y (18-34) coveted the large suburban house with property, followed by the downtown condo. So Gen Y either really loves mowing the lawn, or really hates it.

Generation X (35-54), however, was most likely to seek a suburban life with that million-dollar windfall: the top two choices were the large house with property and the small detached house. (By now you all know where I stand.)

Generation X has really grown up... or sold out. Come to think of it, formerGeneration X frontman Billy Idol himself lives in the 'burbs: well, the hills overlooking Los Angeles, anyway.

It's not just about plucking weeds: the decision to buy property with land also speaks to home-life values. Urban living conjures thoughts of cultural and economic diversity, walkability, nightlife. Suburban living suggests quiet Sunday mornings in the garden, knowing your neighbours, commuting by car.

REW points out that there's no battle of the sexes here: men and women agreed on everything in the million-dollar survey section.

Familial status mattered in the survey results as well. Overall, singletons, couples without kids, and families with broods all favored buying a home with the fictitious $1 million rather than keeping the money.

However, single respondents were more likely than the others to keep the dough. Families with children were the quickest to buy, be it to provide a yard for the children or to secure an investment. (Remember, though: a house is only an investment if it's actively earning you money. Otherwise, it's an expense.)

Emotion matters

We know that emotion and perception are powerful drivers of the real estate market, and that everyone professionally involved in that market (including REW) wins when emotions are positive.

What is yet to be determined is whether or not this spring-has-sprung optimism will bear out in terms of increased property sales.

As of February, the sales-to-active-listings ratio is at 12.2%. That's still below average, but a pip up from January. Also, new listings are down by nearly 6% compared to last month, but still come in higher than the 10-year average for February.

While new listings are down, overall listings are up. So, some of that buyer optimism may be well-placed: there is indeed more to choose from, and the longer a listing sits on the market, the bolder you can get in negotiating its price.

Beware, though, the pushback of seller optimism: if REW's survey reflects reality, you may find yourself up against sellers who are selling because the see themselves up against a ticking clock-- determined to command the asking price. This is emotion we're talking about.

Besides, a glut of listings does not indicate that your dream home can be found by the dozen. How many available properties are of the type you're looking for, in the neighbourhood you want to call home?

Is this whole thing a self-fulfilling prophecy? Are we being told how to behave in the real estate market? Will we actually behave as the survey suggests?

A note on sample size

This is where I wish that the sample size were larger: 561 randomized telephone interviews seems like too small a net to cast when we've glimpsed the Ogopogo of suburban aspiration. We're gonna need a bigger boat.

If you want dig further into the REW/Mustel findings, you can check out the slideshow below. Those figures should provide you with enough cocktail-party bons mots to last until September, when we'll see the results of REW's next Lower Mainland real estate survey.


Vancouver foreign investment panel tackles 'safety deposit' condos for wealthy

Downtown Vancouver may have the equivalent of nearly two-dozen 30-storey condominium towers sitting empty, serving as merely oversized "safety deposit boxes" for the wealthy, according to researchers.

But blaming the city's severe housing prices on absentee foreign investors could just be "this decade's version of the Yellow Peril," a UBC business professor warned the audience at a panel titled Foreign Investment in Vancouver's Real Estate Market this week, raising questions about whether such fears are simply anti-Asian racism in disguise.

Foreign investment -- a heated debate topic in the city -- is a deeply uncomfortable conversation for many, but panelists agreed that more research is needed to address the city's affordability anxieties.

"I find it particularly striking that the emergence of concern about foreign investment started in about 2010, when all of a sudden the good people on the west side of Vancouver discovered that they could sell their houses for $3 million to people who spoke Mandarin, pocketed the money, and then were aghast that their kids couldn't move in," UBC Sauder School of Business's Tsur Somerville told a packed audience downtown on Wednesday. "There is a little bit of this that feels really manufactured very recently.

"This seems to be this decade's version of the 'Yellow Peril.' The reality is that we keep using 'foreign investment' as our new buzzword for Chinese investment. Obviously, there's a long history on the West Coast of North America of worrying about some problem -- whether it's low wages, venereal disease, the plague, whatever you want -- and blaming it on the Chinese."

One of the advocates best known for raising the controversial question of foreign investment and housing affordability in the media is Sandy Garossino, an independent candidate for city council in the 2011 civic election.

In response to Somerville's cautions about anti-Asian racism, Garossino told the panel audience that such accusations are not "very helpful," adding that her concern is actually about the emergence of "ghost cities" of empty condominium towers acting as financial "parking spaces" for the world's wealthiest -- and not about the nationalities of those investors.

"It's not like people made this up out of thin air," she insisted. "I don't think this is something that people in Dunbar thought up as a way to blame or point fingers at anybody.

"Until it started to become a problem, all the realtors were singing the praises of all this money flowing out of Asia. Suddenly, everybody's to blame and everybody's a racist because they believed what the media, the head of the Bank of Canada, and the realtors told them. That's not particularly fair... We need to track this, and we need to look at the effect of capital flow, regardless of where it comes from, on housing."

The three panelists agreed, however, that there is not enough data to fully answer questions of how many of Vancouver's empty homes are foreign-owned. Nor is there even an accepted method to measure how many units are in fact not lived-in at all here.

Somerville argued that the most important questions are not at all about where their owners are from -- in fact, many investor-owners are from other parts of Canada, or even the Lower Mainland.

"The whole notion of foreign investment is not what we should be talking about," he said. "Our issue here is really with unoccupied units. Our concern, if we're thinking about housing affordability, is really with units that have been built and purchased, but they're not occupied. 

"They're occupying land, which is our scarce resource, but they're not addressing occupancy issues for people who want to live here. If what it is that we're concerned about is empty units -- and I think that is a really reasonable concern to have, even if it is all luxury units -- it's still going to have upward pressure on housing markets, and affordability is clearly an issue."

For urban planner and research Andy Yan at Bing Thom Architects (BTA) Works, the conversation really boils down to what kind of city people want to build, and what for. He is among the few researchers attempting to figure out how many units are sitting empty in Vancouver, and if foreign investment is actually a significant concern.

On the panel, Yan explained various methods he has used in his quest to find answers -- from counting how many owners have their property tax assessment forms sent to an agency or manager instead of their home addresses, to how many homes use less energy than a single refrigerator, 75 kW hours a month (the answer: 5.5 per cent of the city's units). 

But given that the average household consumers 400 kW hours every month, he added that roughly 17 per cent of Vancouver's homes only use two fridges' worth of energy. Are they empty homes? Part-time residents living elsewhere? There are no clear answers to the mystery, he said.

He pointed to 2011 census data, which reveals that the number of units not owner-occupied in the city varies by geography. But in luxuriant Coal Harbour, for example, up to 23 per cent of condominiums may be sitting empty. In downtown Vancouver as a whole, he estimated that figure at 15 per cent unoccupied.

But one certainty is that investment from outside the city is a reality, and Yan suggests that policies around housing investment might need to be reformed or examined.

"We live in a remarkable urban global age," Yan explained. "While I'm not sure about foreign investment in Vancouver real estate, I really do think that when you look at other cities around the world, money flows. 

"Money in the world is coming to Vancouver just as much as it's coming to San Francisco or Singapore or Saudi Arabia. How it's parking -- where it's landing and where it ultimately parks in a city -- fundamentally provides challenges if we (are) to aspire to a sustainable, liveable and just city. And where it's parking in a city, perhaps, poses a challenge towards rethinking some of those parking rules."

Garossino pointed to what she sees as a disturbing trend in some world cities: "ghost cities" of investor-oriented buildings never even designed to be occupied -- some with bedrooms too small to even fit a bed. Additionally, apartment pre-sales have become a new terrain for speculative investment and global trade.

In Hong Kong, for instance, there are more more condominiums purchased than the actual supply of newly constructed units.

The paradox has resulted, Garossino argued, in there being a quarter-million empty condos in Hong Kong -- the equivalent of one thousands 30-storey towers.

"When we hear about 'ghost cities' in China, actually we're building 'ghost cities' in our cities," she told the panel audience. "We in Vancouver are participating in a global market which is affecting New York, it's affecting London, it's affecting Hong Kong, it's affecting many global cities. We're not building micro-suites; we've got a manufacturing business, and we're building really large safety deposit boxes... This is no way to build a community."

David P. Ball reports on affordable housing for The Tyee Solutions Society.

This series was produced by Tyee Solutions Society in collaboration with Tides Canada Initiatives Society. This series was made possible through the support of Real Estate Foundation, Vancity, and BC Non-Profit Housing Association. Support for this project does not necessarily imply Vancity's endorsement of the findings or contents of this report. TSS funders and Tides Canada Initiatives neither influence nor endorse the particular content of TSS' reporting. Other publications wishing to publish this story or other Tyee Solutions Society-produced articles, please see this website for contacts and information.

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Fraser Valley Statistics Package - February 2013


(Surrey, BC) – Sales on Fraser Valley’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in February experienced a typical ‘early spring’ surge, increasing by 48 per cent in one month going from 617 sales in January to 913 last month. However year-over-year, they reflect a decrease of 28 per cent compared to the 1,269 sales processed in February 2012. Since last September, home sales have idled at levels last seen in the early 2000s.

Based on February’s increase in activity, Ron Todson, President of the Board, is guardedly optimistic, “We’re seeing signals that the stand-off between buyers and sellers over the last six months is coming to an end.

“Business has picked up in the last month with increased traffic at open houses, sellers quicker to accept offers and homes selling on average two weeks faster than they did in January.”

Todson adds that tightening inventory has also had an effect, “When buyers see that their selection is diminishing they’re more motivated to act.” The Board posted 2,582 new listings last month, a decrease of 9 per cent compared to the 2,846 posted during February last year pushing the total number of active listings down by 1.6 per cent compared to 2012. 

“As your REALTOR® will explain, each market is different. Right now, the market for detached homes is balanced in North Delta and Langley. The condo market is brisk in Abbotsford and Central Surrey and townhome sales are steady in North and Central Surrey as well as Cloverdale.

“One commonality amongst these areas and property types is greater affordability. What’s not doing well generally anywhere in the Fraser Valley is sales of higher-end homes unless they are priced competitively.”

In February, the benchmark price of single family detached homes in the Fraser Valley was $540,900, an increase of 0.7 per cent compared to $537,200 during the same month last year. For townhouses, the benchmark price was $296,700, a decrease of 1.3 per cent compared to $300,500 in February 2012 and the benchmark price of apartments was $202,500, an increase of 1.5 per cent compared to $199,500 in February 2012.

In February, it took on average 49 days to sell a detached home compared to 64 days in January. Townhomes took 60 days on average to sell compared to 72 days the month before and apartments spent an average of 66 days on the market in February compared to 83 days in January.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Stats as of February 28, 2013

The February 2013 statistics are in from the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and as expected, they show a significant drop in the number of sales compared with February 2012. The number of new listings was 2,582 in 2013 compared with 2,584 in February of 2012. The real difference is found within the sales data: only 907 sales in 2013 compared with 1,134 sales in February of 2012.

For more information on current sales or a breakdown of all the current data, please feel free to contact our office at 604-385-1840.

Is foreign ownership impacting Vancouver House Prices?

With the latest PR disaster by MAC Marketing Solutions where by it’s staff were falsely depicted as foreign buyers of a new development in Vancouver, the debate about the extent of foreign ownership of our Vancouver Real Estate has once again been surfaced.

We all routinely hear of those anecdotes from the real estate observers that foreign ownership is pushing up our prices here in the city, and making our neighbourhood appear haunted with empty properties all over the place.

So do these overseas purchasers invest and leave these homes and condos empty, or are they integrating and becoming new members of the community?

The truth is, we have no concrete statistics. In Canada, we don’t tally the amount of overseas owners or investors.

We do have a couple of sources of information and data that have been compiled by various groups

During 2012, the City of Vancouver started an academic working group which was created under the Mayor’s ‘Task Force on Housing Affordability’. Their task was to determine if Councillor Raymond Louie, who holds the position of the task force’s liaison’s statement that this was “a persistant theme that has been advanced by some”.

The report concluded that considerable investigation and resources would be required for a comprehensive study on the matter, but some interesting things turned up…

Andrew Yan of Bing Thom Architects undertook research pertaining to the energy usage of a selection of Downtown Condos. They assumed that if a condo is empty, then it will consume less electricity than one that is occupied. A refrigerator uses roughly 75 kwh, if a condo is using less than this, we can assume it’s empty. They concluded that 5.5% of the sample was empty for any given month.

They raised the threshold for the power consumption and experienced a change in the results. If they used a 100kwh threshold, then the % of empty condos rose to 8.5%, increasing again to 150kwh brought a potential vacancy rate of 17%.

In conclusion the City’s working group noted that we would need to cross reference data from several different stakeholders, BC Hydro, BC Assessment, provincial home-owner grants and census data. Only then would we be able to build a clearer picture, however the costs associated with doing so would prove probative as it would require a huge level of co-operation between various levels of government organisations to produce the data which may not even be meaningful or relevant.

Landcor Data Corporation figures for 2012 reveal that only 0.2% of people who purchased properties in the Metro Vancouver area last year.

As realtors we often find that many purchasers who are coming from overseas are actually residing in the properties, and building lives here for their families in the same way people who were born in Vancouver do. They are not only paying property taxes here, but they are out in the community, shopping at the grocery stories, buying clothes at the mall, and purchasing cars and other items. This results in more revenue for the province and the government in the forms of taxes, but also supporting the local economy with jobs and other spin off revenues.

BCREA revises Fraser Valley's 2013 forecast

On January 30, BCREA's senior economist Cameron Muir released the first quarter housing market forecast for BC including breakdowns for Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver.

The 2013 predictions for Fraser Valley have changed since last fall, becoming more conservative. Muir still expects home sales to increase in 2013 compared to 2012, but not to the degree that his department anticipated three months ago. In addition, he's forecasting home prices will moderate at a slightly faster rate.

Fraser Valley REALTORS® can expect sales to increase by 2.4 per cent this year compared to 2012; and average MLS® prices will continue to slide 3.3 per cent this year on top of the 3.7 per cent reduction during 2012.

Muir states in the report, "Headwinds in the global economy continue to constrain growth in British Columbia. The US has yet to generate enough employment to take a serious bite out of their jobless rate, while early signs of burgeoning domestic demand in China weren't enough to keep economic growth from slipping to a ten-year low in 2012."

The forecast describes 2013 as a transition year to next year when sales are expected to rebound even further and prices will stabilize. In 2014, BCREA is predicting an increase of 7.5 per cent in Fraser Valley home sales and prices to remain flat (-0.6 per cent) compared to this year.

Muir describes lower home prices in the Fraser Valley as a move in a positive direction improving affordability and encouraging potential buyers back to the marketplace. "In addition, many potential buyers that stayed on the sidelines in 2012 will likely enter the marketplace over the next year as the relatively strong financial condition of BC households precludes any deflationary spiral."

For Greater Vancouver in 2013, Muir is forecasting slightly stronger sales than Fraser Valley, an increase of almost 10 per cent this year compared to 2012, and not quite as high reductions in MLS® home prices -2.2 per cent on average in 2013 and -0.3 per cent in 2014.

CMHC's Housing Market Outlook, released in the fall of 2012, anticipates sales in the Fraser Valley will increase by 1.4 per cent in 2013 compared to 2012, while prices remain relatively stable. CMHC only releases two forecasts per year — spring and fall — while BCREA releases quarterly.

For a snapshot of the Vancouver real estate market, look to the mainland


graph home prices to chinese economy

Vancouver's housing market may depend on the strength of the mainland economy as much as anything that happens in Canada.

The chart of the week shows the relationship between growth in China's gross domestic product and home prices in metropolitan Vancouver, Canada's most expensive city, where Statistics Canada data show 15 per cent of the population has a first language that's a Chinese dialect.

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has warned that indebted domestic consumers are a risk to the world's 11th largest economy, and finance minister Jim Flaherty tightened mortgage lending rules for a fourth time last year.

Vancouver house prices have risen as much as 73 per cent since mid-2005, pushing the average cost of a single detached home in the city over C$1 million (HK$7.8 million).

The most recent mainland data signals that Vancouver may get fresh support from across the Pacific Ocean. Annual growth in Asia's largest economy was 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter, up from 7.4 per cent in the prior quarter, marking the first acceleration in two years, the National Bureau of Statistics said on January 18 in Beijing.

Faster growth "would support a slightly stronger Vancouver housing market", says Robin Wiebe, senior economist at the Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa and formerly an analyst at Canada's federal housing agency. "The major wild card right now is the ongoing impact of the tighter mortgage rules."


Urban Development Institute panel optimistic about Vancouver’s real estate prospects

There is no real estate bubble in Vancouver and markets will remain stable in 2013 — as long as interest rates remain low, immigration targets are met and Europe’s economy doesn’t melt down, a panel of real estate developers told more than 1,100 real estate professionals, business leaders and B.C. politicians on Thursday.

Colin Bosa, CEO of Bosa Properties, Tony Astles, executive vice-president of Bentall Kennedy, and Eric Carlson, president and CEO of Anthem Properties provided the Urban Development Institute’s annual market forecast while Diana McMeekin, president of Artemis Marketing, moderated.

Bosa said that as long as people continue to move to British Columbia, the real estate market will remain stable. He compared conditions in 2009 to those today and found that demand is similar, although immigration numbers were down in 2012 and two federal immigration programs — the investor program and the skilled worker program — are under review and could be subject to change.

In terms of supply, he said, more units were built in 2012 than 2009, but not many more than the 15-year average.

“The good news for all the salespeople in the room is, you’re going to sell lots of real estate this year, but the bad news is you’re going to have to work at it,” Bosa said, adding that projects near transit service will continue to sell well.

Southeast False Creek and Coquitlam Centre are two areas with a lot of unsold inventory, Bosa said. He said realtors in those areas might have to “sharpen their pencils” and that prices might decline.

However, he said Metro Vancouver condominium developers showed in 2009 that developers can “turn off the tap” quickly when the market slows.

Bosa said he believes people — and their money — from China will continue to flow into B.C. because they want to invest outside China and they want their children to grow up in North America.

“They like it in British Columbia because it’s safe and they’re accepted here,” Bosa said. “There is a good quality of life with universal health care and good schools.”

Two things that could stop the flow of people from China in to British Columbia would be a recession or a change to Canadian immigration policy, Bosa said.

“If you buy good real estate at fair prices, you can’t go wrong,” Bosa said. “It’s not that hard.”

Carlson said B.C. and Canada were protected between 2009 and 2011 while the rest of the world was reeling from the economic crisis. Canada did not really need the extremely low interest rates as much as the rest of the world, and the low rates coupled with immigration, stimulated the housing market.

“We felt a bit smug if we were provincial in our outlook. That ended in 2012. ... We started to feel the malaise for the first time,” Carlson said.

But he forecast that 2013 would be a stronger year because of B.C.’s ties to China and the U.S., which are both seeing economic recovery.

“I think this is the year that the fear factor goes away,” Carlson said, adding that he believes immigration will pick up this year and recovery in the housing market in the U.S. will mean many new jobs are created.

“U.S. unemployment will go down to 6.5 per cent this year, while U.S. gross domestic product will be trending towards three per cent by the end of the year,” Carlson said, adding that he thinks 2013 is a good time to buy real estate.

“I don’t think there is a bubble at all,” Carlson said.

Astles predicted the office building market will remain stable in 2013. He warned that a lack of supply means no rent relief until 2016.

He said Burnaby and New Westminster might have some oversupply, but Vancouver’s downtown is healthy. He said multi-family rentals were a low-risk investment, particularly because of limited supply.

He said there are some challenges when it comes to labour, with employees leaving for higher pay in Edmonton and points North, and with many experienced workers retiring.

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9th BC Real Estate Convention 2013

BC Real Estate Convention is the largest real estate and investment trade-show in Western Canada throughout the year from across Canada, USA, Europe, Mexico and from Asia. There are thousands of business people and potential buyers will come to visit our show every year and you can sell your product or service to the thousands of buyers or investors directly face to face at the Show. It is Free admission, free seminars! We are looking forward to see you in the event day. For Event details please contact us 1-604-433-8203 1-604-677-8203
When: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 to Thursday, March 14, 2013
Hours: 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Where: 999 Canada Place, Vancouver, V6C 3E1
Price: Free!
Web site url:
By: Convention BC Real Estate

Vancouver Housing Bubble: Why Chinese Investors Will Return

Bloomberg recently published a chart highlighting the relationship between Vancouver real estate and China's economy, suggesting that what happens in China has as much influence on the city's housing market as Canada's own economic policies.

Bloomberg pointed out that China's gross domestic product expanded by an annual rate of 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012 — up from 7.4 per cent in the prior quarter and the economy's first acceleration in two years.

Their graph established a direct correlation between China's GDP and Vancouver's housing prices — as China's GDP rose, so did Vancouver's real estate prices. If the trend holds, Bloomberg predicts, Vancouver's real estate prices should also soon rise.

Correlation isn't causation — and Vancouver's real estate market is certainly complex — but the Bloomberg research supports my prediction that Chinese buyers will be back to Vancouver real estate sooner rather than later.

Some background: Over the past year, mainland Chinese investor buyers all but disappeared from Vancouver's real estate marketplace, contributing to what was already a softening market in metro Vancouver.

But why did Chinese investors disappear in the first place? During the first decade of the new millennium, real estate prices in China were astronomic — even more expensive than Vancouver. In 2009, China introduced a policy designed to cool investor speculation in real estate. This policy, which was meant to help ordinary citizens buy their own home, stipulated that buyers could purchase their first home with 30 per cent cash down, but if they bought a second property, a whopping 60 per cent down payment is required. As a result of the policy, prices in major cities such as Beijing dropped by 30 to 40 per cent, effectively halting the investor market in the country.

What the policy did was greatly reduce the amount of cash investors had to invest in real estate, both in China and overseas.

Typically, Chinese New Year is when Chinese investors visit Vancouver and go on a shopping spree, but last year, Vancouver real-estate developers and marketers noticed the absence of the mainland Chinese buyer, a telltale sign that China's policy was working and that the overall economy was slowing down.

Here's why I think Chinese investors will return. In China, the real-estate industry accounts for 11 per cent of the country's overall GDP. Including related industries like appliances and furniture, you're looking at a hefty 22 to 25 per cent of the country's GDP. The People's Republic of China simply cannot afford to have this important industry stall, which is why I believe that the Chinese government will relax the restrictive lending policies, investors will start getting back into the market and, as their assets become more liquid, we'll see them return to Vancouver.

The brisk return of China's real-estate market means many Chinese will once again look for a safe haven to park their newly regained wealth.

While China's policy change has impacted investors' cash flow in the short term, it hasn't curbed their enthusiasm for Vancouver real estate. The sudden rise and fall in real estate prices that we're seeing now in China, as well as fluctuations in the overall economy, mean that people view investing there as no less risky than placing bets on a baccarat table. For many Chinese investors, parking money in Vancouver feels as safe as investing in treasury bills.

The People's Republic of China has a new leader in Xi Jinping and historically every change in leadership brings with it new policies to create its own legacy. I believe that with this leadership change, we will see major changes in the country's mortgage-lending policies and a renewed interest in real estate investing.

Experts predict that Vancouver's real estate market in 2013 will decline slightly, not crash. And with the likely return of the Chinese investor and the news that the Bank of Canada will hold the interest rate at one per cent, the future of Vancouver's real estate may not be as bad as what the headlines would have you believe.

A version of this article first appeared in B.C. Business.

Written by Will Lin

Housing Prices to Decline Further, Foreign Investment Down

VANCOUVER — Vancouver's house prices could fall a further five per cent before 2013 is over, according to a BMO economist.

Sal Guatieri, BMO Capital Markets senior economist, made the prediction during a Tuesday conference call, while Royal LePage called for average prices to fall three per cent as fewer luxury homes sell.

Guatieri said tougher mortgage rules and the suspension of the federal immigrant investor program in July could be factors in Vancouver's real estate slowdown.

"Nowhere is the housing market weaker than in British Columbia, where resales are down 17 per cent in the year to November and are well below the past decade norm," Guatieri said. "Vancouver's resales have plunged 31 per cent in the year to December and benchmark prices are down just over three per cent since the spring."

He said the mortgage changes, limiting the life of a mortgage to 25 years from 30 and prohibiting mortgage insurance on homes more expensive than $1 million, will hit pricier markets the hardest. Housing prices are about 10 times average family incomes, Guatieri said, putting "Vancouver in the upper echelon of overvalued housing markets, not just in Canada, but across the world."

He said many would-be house buyers are opting to buy condos, rent instead of buy, or move to other cities because of the high prices.

Vancouver condos remain affordable, he said, but detached homes are out of reach for first-time buyers. He expects further declines in home prices during 2013.

"That would not be surprising nor exceptional as the city has faced four double-digit price corrections in the past three decades," Guatieri said.

The federal immigrant investor program allows people to immigrate to Canada if they can show they have business experience, a net worth of at least $1.6 million obtained legally and can invest $800,000 in an interest-free loan to Canada for five years to create jobs. There was a backlog of more than 23,000 applications to the program last April. In July, applications were suspended so the federal government could process existing applications and review the program.

"There is some speculation that wealthier foreign buyers are waiting to see if the government will restart that program before they purchase a house in Vancouver," Guatieri said. "What has supported Vancouver's housing market, at least in the past five years, is not income, it's wealth. A lot of that is foreign wealth, although we can't quantify that."

He said many of these buyers don't need a mortgage because they have the cash and can buy a house outright.

"But that supply of people is diminishing, especially as prices have continued to go up," he said. "Unless people continue to flood into Vancouver — foreign residents with a lot of money — that market looks very ripe for a meaningful correction — not a material one — of at least five per cent or so for the next year."

The Royal LePage Price Survey and Market Survey Forecast found that the average price of a detached bungalow in Vancouver decreased slightly year-over-year by 1.6 per cent to $1,001,250, while two-storey homes also dropped just over one per cent to $1,102,500. Condominiums dropped 3.6 per cent year-over-year to $481,250.

"The real estate market has been slow in Vancouver over the past eight months," said Bill Binnie, broker and owner of Royal LePage North Shore. "Sellers have not been bringing their listings to the market because prices have not been competitive while buyers have been sitting on the fence hoping prices will go down. The reality is that sellers are not interested in making any significant reductions in price and with our good local economy and healthy employment, there has not been pressure for them to sell."

Royal LePage forecasts that fewer high-end sales will cause average prices in Vancouver to drop three per cent by the end of 2013. Nationally, Royal LePage forecasts a one-per-cent gain in the average home price by the end of the year.

Guatieri said the decade-long housing boom across Canada is likely over and that returns on investment in real estate are likely to fall. However, he cited Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland as strong markets that will buck the trend, while prices will hold steady in the rest of the country.

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Be prepared: 2013 BC Assessment Roll out

In partnership with BCREA, BC Assessment released its 2013 Assessment Roll yesterday.

In addition to handling their own interviews, BC Assessment is encouraging the media to contact spokespeople from local real estate associations for their expertise and comment. From our Board, President Scott Olson is on stand-by armed with Fraser Valley data relevant to news outlets.

As a REALTOR®, you may receive inquiries from your clients particularly if they don't understand or are dissatisfied with their assessment, which for this year's Roll may be the situation for some property owners because their assessed value (upon which their property taxes are based) could be higher than their home's current market value.

As you are aware, but many members of the public are not, assessed values are always an estimate of market value as of July 1 of the preceding year ( five months prior to the roll being released). Therefore, if the market has fluctuated either up or down in that time, it's possible that given current market conditions a home could be "over-valued" or "under-valued."

We can all empathize with the frustration or concern a homeowner could experience if they perceive that they're being over-charged taxes on an asset that has since depreciated in value. For example, a typical single family detached home in South Surrey/White Rock is valued at $850,000 today; however the 2012 assessed value is $897,000.

BC Assessment says REALTORS® can play an important role in educating the public. Here is key information for you to share:

  • Assessed values in the Fraser Valley have been relatively stable from 2012 to 2013.
  • Assessed values are an estimate of market value as of July 1 and from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, the market in the valley was relatively stable.
  • When the assessment notices are mailed in January the assessed value may be higher than the current market value because the market started to soften after July 1 (our valuation date).
  • Property owners can check their assessments using "e-value BC" on BC Assessment's website by reviewing information about their property and comparing to properties that have sold.
  • If they still have concerns about their assessment they should contact BC Assessment prior to January 31 to discuss their concerns or file a complaint to the Property Assessment Review Panel.

According to BC Assessment, most owners of single family detached homes in the Fraser Valley will see modest changes in their assessments "in the range of -5 per cent to + 10 per cent."

For more information, go to

Vancouver, Fraser Valley a drag on B.C. home sales

The total value of homes sold in B.C. dropped by nearly one-quarter in November

VANCOUVER — The total value of homes sold in B.C. dropped by nearly one-quarter in November, with declines in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley leading the slide.

The dollar volume of homes sold through the Multiple Listing Service in B.C. declined 24.6 per cent to $2.3 billion in November compared to the same month last year, the B.C. Real Estate Association reported Thursday.

Cameron Muir, BCREA’s chief economist, said that tighter mortgage rules introduced this summer had squeezed some buyers out of the market, but he expects sales to go up in 2013.

“When I suggest that we’re going to see an increase in sales levels next year, it doesn’t mean we’re going to return to the heady days before the recession. But the longer we see sales levels fall below the long-term average, the more likely we’re going to see pent-up demand (grow) in the marketplace, which may contribute to increased sales activity in 2013,” Muir said.

The number of units sold this November was down 17 per cent in the province from November 2011 to 4,680, while the average price was down 9.1 per cent to $480,891.

In 2011, there were large numbers of single family luxury homes sold, which elevated the average, Muir said. This year, a more typical mix of homes is being sold, so the average is lower. But prices are also coming down.

“There has been some modest downward pressure on prices in Vancouver, particularly in the single detached market on the west side, for example,” Muir said. “For the first six months of this year, the west side of Vancouver is down 9.7 per cent on the home price index. West Vancouver is down nine per cent and Richmond is down 6.2 per cent.

“We’ve seen those markets floating a little bit back down to Earth, and they’re having an impact on the aggregate numbers for the region.”

In Metro Vancouver, the dollar volume of sales fell 32 per cent from $1.74 billion to $1.18 billion, while in the Fraser Valley total sales fell 25 per cent from $498 million to $371 million.

“More promising numbers are coming from ... the area around Kelowna — they’re up 13 per cent in unit sales,” Muir said. “And B.C. Northern has been incredibly stable in this post-recession period. That’s likely the result of much more diversification of the economy in Prince George, for example, and relatively buoyant demand for commodities. Unemployment did not skyrocket there in the recession — it’s very resilient in B.C. Northern this time around.”

While sales in the Okanagan are up for the year so far, Muir said that region has not seen the same rebound Vancouver prices did from the recession.

“Prices in that region have come off in the past three years, but not as much as people might have expected them to, given that inventory levels have been extremely high relative to sales for about three years now,” Muir said.

For the year to date, across B.C. sales dollar volume was down 18.7 per cent, while the number of units sold was down 11 per cent, and the average price dropped 8.6 per cent to $515, 611.

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Home sales down as market cools in Fraser Valley

Home buyers in the Fraser Valley are giving up on expensive homes, as sales continued to slump through the fall, say local realtors.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) said sales overall dropped by 19.2 per cent in November 2012 compared to the same month last year.

Sales conducted through the Multiple Listing Service have been dropping for several months.

"Buyers can't borrow as much as what they could prior to the mortgage rule changes, so we're seeing our pool of prospective buyers shrink and we're seeing a change in the price range they're looking for," Scott Olson, president of the FVREB, said in a statement.

The new mortgage rules made it much more difficult to qualify for a government-insured loan for anything other than a 25-year term.

Shorter mortgage terms have meant a drop in what many first time home buyers can afford.

Olson said that is cutting into the sales of homes in the above average range.

"For three months in a row, we've seen a decrease in sales of detached homes $700,000 and up and greater demand for those $400,000 to half a million," Olson said.

The total number of home sales in the region from Delta to Abbotsford-Mission was 905 last month, down from 1,120 in the same month last year.

The number of new listings posted to the MLS dropped 11 per cent compared to last year, and was down 32 per cent compared to October. Olson said it means this was the slowest month for new listings since November 2003.

The number of active listings in November was 9,478.

According to the FVREB, the price of "benchmark" houses, townhouses and condos is staying relatively stable. A benchmark home is considered an average example of its type.

However, average and median prices have been dropping, in some cases sharply.

The price of a benchmark detached home in Langley dropped 0.2 per cent month-to-month in November, and the average and median prices both went up slightly.

However, while benchmark prices for townhouses and condos dropped slightly, at two per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively, average prices dropped 12.5 and 11 per cent.

Median and average prices also dropped more year-over-year than did benchmark prices.

The benchmark price for a townhouse is down just 0.1 per cent from a year ago; the average price has dropped 3.8 per cent and the median price is down 10.4 per cent.

For condos, the benchmark price is down 2.3 per cent from a year ago, while average price is down 6.8 per cent and median price is down 8.5 per cent.

Median and average prices can fluctuate more than the "benchmark" rate because they can be swayed by very expensive or very inexpensive homes changing hands. The sale of a few multi-million dollar homes can drive up the average sharply, for example.

Sellers are either keeping their homes on the market longer, or if they do not have to sell, taking them out of the game entirely, Olson said.

The number of days to sell a home is up to 59 in November, five days up from the same month last year. Townhouses take 70 days to sell, from 52 days, and for condos it was 74 compared to 72.

Similar sales patterns are being seen in the area north of the Fraser, where sales are down even more than in the FVREB's territory.

Both the Greater Vancouver area and Toronto, which saw some of the hottest real estate markets in Canada, are now cooling off in response to the new mortgage rules.

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Home Sales Decrease in the Fraser Valley; Those Buying Looking for Affordability

(Surrey, BC) – Property sales through the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) decreased by 19 per cent in November compared to the same month last year, moving from 1,120 to 905. Sales also decreased 14 per cent month-over-month compared to October 2012.

Scott Olson, president of the Board says, “Buyers can’t borrow as much as what they could prior to the mortgage rule changes, so we’re seeing our pool of prospective buyers shrink and we’re seeing a change in the price range they’re looking for.

“For three months in a row, we’ve seen a decrease in sales of detached homes $700,000 and up and greater demand for those $400,000 to half a million. Tighter credit conditions are having an impact on the market.”

In addition to the drop in sales in November, the number of new listings posted on the MLS® decreased by 11 per cent compared to last year and by 32 per cent compared to October. Olson observes, “This was a significant drop with last month ranking alongside November 2003 as the slowest for new listings in the last decade.

“It means that sellers are adjusting to conditions that favour buyers; great selection, houses are on the market longer and prices are lowering. If sellers don’t have to sell, they’re taking their home off the market.”

In the last six months, prices for all three residential property types combined have decreased by 1.4 per cent while year over year they’ve increased by 1.3 per cent. For single family detached homes, the benchmark price increased by 2 per cent in one year, going from $533,800 in November 2011 to $544,700 last month.

For townhouses, the benchmark price in November was $298,900, a decrease of 1.5 per cent compared to $303,600 during the same month last year. The benchmark price of apartments in Fraser Valley in November was $202,800, an increase of 2.6 per cent compared to $197,700 in November 2011.

The Board received 1,723 new listings in November compared to 1,926 during the same month last year, taking the number of active listings to 9,478, on par with November 2011.

For a detached home in the Fraser Valley, the average number of days to sell in November was 59, up five days from the same month last year. For townhomes, it was 70 days and apartments 74 compared to 52 and 72 in November 2011.

Tired of hearing about a real estate bubble

Tired of hearing about a bubble?

Nearly half of Canadians (46%) intend to buy a property within the next five years

Nearly half of Canadians intend to buy a property within the next five years - Metro Vancouver Real Estate Update 2012

BMO Introduces Housing Confidence Report: Reveals Homeownership Intentions, Price Expectations and Affordability

Inaugural report tracks confidence in Canada’s housing market among Canadian homeowners

  • Buying intentions: 46 per cent intend to buy a property in the next five years; however, the market would cool quickly if prices increase by five per cent
  • Price expectations: Most homeowners in Canada expect modest price increases in all cities and provinces over the long term with the exception of those in Vancouver
  • Mortgage affordability: Over half have made cutbacks over the past year to make mortgage payments

According to the first BMO Housing Confidence Report, nearly half of Canadian homeowners (46 per cent) intend to buy a property in the next five years, signalling a high level of confidence in Canada’s housing market. A modest increase in prices, however, would derail plans to buy; meanwhile, three-quarters (72 per cent) of households would feel a significant strain if they were to experience a modest increase in monthly mortgage payments, such as one caused by an increase in interest rates.

The report reflects the sentiment of Canadian homeowners after the new mortgage regulations introduced by the Federal Government came into effect in July 2012.

“The fact that 46 per cent of Canadian homeowners intend to buy a property in the next five years implies that Canadians are feeling confident in the current real estate market environment,” said Martin Nel, Vice President of Lending and Investments, BMO Bank of Montreal. “However, that certainty is tempered, given the adverse effect moderate increases in home prices and mortgage costs would have on the average homeowner.”

“Rising debt and elevated house prices have increased the vulnerability of a meaningful number of households, and their financial situation will worsen if interest rates increase even moderately,” noted Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. “With rates likely to remain low for some time, the recent tightening in mortgage rules will help to cool credit growth and the housing market.”

Furthermore, Mr. Nel added that choosing a fixed rate mortgage and a lower amortization period can help Canadian households to increase financial stability. This echoed an earlier report by BMO Economics which noted that financial stability for Canadian homeowners in the coming years will be supported by locking-in to fixed rate mortgages and opting for shortened amortization periods.

BMO’s first semi-annual report, conducted by Pollara, tracks confidence in Canada’s housing market among Canadian homeowners by measuring intentions to buy or sell, price expectations and overall mortgage affordability. The report revealed:

Homeownership Intentions

  • GTA, Calgary and Vancouver: Intentions to buy in the Greater Toronto Area (57 per cent), Calgary (62 per cent) and Vancouver (53 per cent) within five years are outpacing the national average (46 per cent)
  • Size Matters: One in five (18 per cent) plan to downsize to a smaller home. The same percentage intends to up-size to a larger home
  • Exit Strategy: 10 per cent plan to sell their home and move in to a rental property, retirement community, or move in with family in the same time period
  • Real Estate Investment: One-in-five (21 per cent) plan to purchase an additional property for income, investment, or recreation

Effect of New Regulations on Buying Intentions

  • Just over half (57 per cent) are familiar with the new mortgage regulations introduced earlier in 2012
  • One-in-five (22 per cent) say they are less likely to buy a new home in the next five years because of the changes
  • Furthermore, 29 per cent planning to buy in the next five years say that they are likely to spend less on a new home as a result of the new rules

Price Sensitivity

  • Nationally, intentions to buy drop significantly from 46 per cent to 36 per cent in the event of a five per cent increase in home prices
  • In Ontario, intentions to buy would decrease by 13 per cent (52 per cent to 39 per cent) as a result of a five per cent increase in prices
  • In Alberta, a five per cent increase would change intent to buy by only 1 per cent; however, a 10 per cent increase would lower intent by 9 per cent, moving from 51 per cent to 42 per cent
  • A five per cent increase in prices in B.C. would lower intent to buy from 49 per cent to 39 per cent

Price Expectations

  • Nationally, homeowners in Canada expect prices to rise by 2.0 per cent over the next year
  • Across urban centres, those in the GTA expect prices to rise by 2.2 per cent, while those in Calgary expect an increase of 2.4 per cent
  • However, 27 per cent of Vancouver residents expect prices to decrease in the next year
  National   BC   AB   MB/SK   ON   QC   ATL  
12 Month Price Expectation +2.0 % +0.2 % +3.0 % +2.3 % +2.1 % +2.5 % +1.7 %

“Given that Vancouver is one of the priciest markets in the world, it’s not surprising that many people expect some correction,” said Mr. Guatieri. He added that while prices in Alberta should increase in the years ahead, prices in Vancouver and likely Toronto are poised to decline moderately; the Toronto decrease is contrary to the expectations of the majority of residents in the GTA.

Mortgage Affordability

  • One-third have cut back on big purchases and spending on entertainment (34 per cent and 31 per cent respectively) while one-quarter have reduced the amount they’re saving over the past year to make their monthly mortgage payments
  • 17 per cent have dipped into their savings to make mortgage payments
  • However, while homeowners are nearly unanimous in their view that debt is a serious issue facing Canada (92 per cent), just 19 per cent feel household debt is a problem for them
  • 16 per cent of homeowners say a 10 per cent rise in mortgage payments would leave them at risk of not being able to afford their home

The BMO Housing Confidence Report was conducted by Pollara. Survey results cited in this report are from online interviews with a random sample of 1,011 Canadian homeowners, 18 years of age and over, conducted between September 13 to September 21, 2012. A probability sample of this size would yield results accurate to ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Data has been weighted by region, based on the most recent Census figures, so that it is representative of Canadian homeowners.

MLS Fraser Valley October Summary

The following data is a review of market activity within the Fraser Valley and White Rock / South Surrey specifically.

Fraser Valley Statistics:

mls summary october 2012 all areas

White Rock / South Surrey Statistics:

mls summary october 2012 south surrey white rock

Price Statistics:

fvreb october sales statistics white rock south surrey

Positive signs for Fraser Valley housing market

SURREY, BC – The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) processed 1,053 sales on its Multiple Listing Service®(MLS®) in October, a decrease of 8 per cent compared to the 1,139 sales during October last year however, a 23
per cent increase compared to September.

Scott Olson is the president of the board.  “This is a marked improvement over September. Our sales increased atthe same time as our inventory dropped improving our supply‐demand conditions.

“Although we remain in a buyer’s market, it moves us in the direction we want to go, which is closer to balance.”

The number of new listings posted on the MLS® in October was on par with the same month last year and a decrease of 1 per cent compared to September with the result that the volume of active listings in Fraser Valley at the end of October remained unchanged compared to 2011 and 3 per cent fewer than in September.

Benchmark prices for residential property types are showing month‐over‐month decreases however, depending on the property type, still show positive gains year‐over‐year.   

The benchmark price of a detached home in the Fraser Valley in October was $546,900, an increase of 2.5 per cent compared to October 2011, when it was $533,800; and a 0.5 per cent decrease compared to September when it was $549,500.

The benchmark price of townhouses decreased 2.2 per cent going from $303,900 in October 2011 to $297,100 last month. The benchmark price of apartments increased year‐over‐year by 2.9 per cent, going from $198,100 in October of last year to $203,900 in October 2012.   

“Over the last three months we’ve seen the impact of lower sales and higher selection on prices of typical homes in our region. In most communities and for most property types, prices have slowly decreased in small increments

“This has had resulted in buyers having more time to make a decision and sellers working diligently with their REALTOR® to understand the market and set their prices accordingly. What’s happened in October is good news
for both. Greater stability is always positive.”

Economists at the British Columbia Real Estate Association have predicted sales in the Fraser Valley will rebound by 6 per cent in 2013 compared to 2012 while prices will remain flat.       

Condo Sales in Langley, Surrey and White Rock are Higher

While condo sales across B.C. are declining as a whole, a small pocket of the region is actively ‘moving the needle’.  Data from the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board indicates that condo sales in Langley, Surrey and White Rock were higher when compared to numbers from one year ago.

This data suggests buyers are after affordability but also the amenity and space that comes with a suburban lifestyle.

What’s interesting is that Langley’s residential condo development, Waterstone, has seen an increase in sales since last year. 

“June 2012 was our busiest month to date and we have seen a steady increase since last year,” said Scott Brown of Colliers International, the marketing firm for Waterstone. 

“More than a third of our buyers are downsizers and of these purchasers, many  have raised families in Langley and Surrey and are not only looking for bigger spaces that are more than 1,000 square feet, but amenities within their community.” 

Waterstone is situated near established retail centre and offers a 15,000 square foot clubhouse. 

“Much of the feedback from purchasers has come from the fact that Waterstone offers suites large enough to downsize into as well as ample amenity space,” said Brown. 

“The development features a cosy fireside lounge with chef’s kitchen and wine bar, a party and games room, business centre area, indoor pool, steam room, whirlpool and sauna, and state-of-the-art fitness facility.”

BC Real Estate Association Housing Forecast

farser valley real estate market 2013

Don't fret or freak out, says homes veteran

Peter Simpson wants to offer reassurance to new Lower Mainland homeowners worried about the shrinking value of their houses.

Don't be dazzled or depressed by price changes. They go down, then they recover and rise over time, he says.

Simpson has seen more than a few housing cycles in his 24 years running Canada's two largest home builders' associations in Vancouver and Toronto.

Simpson, 68, retires Wednesday as CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association, the country's second largest. The Vancouver group's membership has grown to 750 from 250 when he started 19 years ago.

The Vancouver association CEO says it's natural for first-time owners to see the latest real-estate statistics and fret about shifting values.

In his early 20s, Simpson sold his Corvette convertible to help scrape together a $10,000 down payment on a $38,500 house in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. He was earning $138 a week as a compositor at The Toronto Telegram newspaper.

"I woke up for three nights in a cold sweat wondering what the heck I had done," he says. "It worked out. It always does work out. The sun comes up the next day."

Greater Vancouver home prices will likely fall by an average of 5.9 per cent this year to $734,000, the B.C. Real Estate Association says in its latest forecast. The average price should drop by another 1.9 per cent next year.

In the Fraser Valley, prices are expected to drop 3.1 per cent this year and eke out a 0.2-per-cent increase next year, the association predicts.

Simpson believes people only hurt themselves if they become obsessed with tracking week-by-week house price changes.

"They should not consider their home and its value as a pork belly future," he says. "That causes a lot of people angst.

"Live in it, enjoy it and if you have to move somewhere else, sell it and move on."

If you must worry about something, worry about the resistance from some people to letting their neighbourhoods evolve into a mix of single and multi-family housing, Simpson says.

Densification is the key to providing affordable housing choices as the Vancouver region grows, he says.

"I have to start building more high-density housing along arterials and even up side streets in existing neighbourhoods," he says.

Single-family homeowners who oppose multi-family housing in their neighbourhood should ask themselves two questions, he says: Where will their children live who can't afford their neighbourhood?

And where will aging homeowners go when they can't climb the stairs of their current house but want to continue living nearby?

"People who want to keep their neighbourhoods exactly as they are should be careful what they wish for," he says. "They may not be able to live in their house as long as they anticipate."

Affordability, of course, is a challenge that's not unique to Vancouver. Simpson's youngest daughter, who lives in Toronto, has told him she doesn't expect to ever be able to afford a house there. "That saddens me," he says.

When Simpson says homeowners should be glad they have a roof over their heads he means it.

In a benign irony, this voice of the building sector invests a lot of time serving on committees to help people at the other end of the spectrum - the homeless.

Simpson's younger brother lived on Toronto's streets and in its flop houses for 30 years before his death in 2009.

"It's a huge challenge we all face," he says. "The challenge is not just the homeless but the people who are at risk of homelessness."


Read more:

Bank of Canada Interest Rate Announcement - October 23, 2012

The Bank of Canada once again opted to hold its target for the overnight rate at 1 per cent this morning. Interest rates have been held constant for over two years, the longest such period since the 1950s.  The Bank somewhat tempered its bias for higher future interest rates, including a softer statement regarding the appropriateness of a gradual withdrawal of monetary stimulus as excess supply in the economy is absorbed. In a bit of a surprise, the Bank actually raised its forecast for the growth in the Canadian economy this year to 2.2 per cent, but kept its 2013 forecast at 2.3 per cent growth. The Bank judges that at that pace of growth, the Canadian economy will return to full capacity by the end of 2013. 

It is our view that monetary policy at the Bank of Canada will continue to be constrained by external events in the global economy and household debt growth at home. While the Bank's preference for tighter policy is clear, it is difficult to make a case for higher interest rates when core inflation is below the Bank's 2 per cent target and already slow economic growth is threatened by global uncertainty. Therefore, we are forecasting that the Bank of Canada will hold its target overnight rate at 1 per cent until mid-to-late 2013 when, conditioned on an improved global economic outlook,  it may test the water with a 25 basis point rate increase.

Best BC Neighbourhoods For Real Estate Investment

Despite oscillating outlooks on B.C. real estate, 20 of the province’s neighbourhoods are included in a list of the Top 100 Canadian neighbourhoods to invest in.

Yaletown, South Surrey, Kelowna North and Victoria’s Fairfield are included in the report by Canadian Real Estate Wealth magazine.

The rankings aim to help investors identify exact locations for investors to focus on“as a hedge against short- or long-term corrections,” said a news release.

High demand in trendy Yaletown in Vancouver means favourable returns in both retail income and property value appreciation, while south Surrey – where houses average $1.1 million – was cited as a hot spot in B.C.’s second largest city.

The Okanagan, traditionally considered a retirement community, should catch the eye of investors because of record levels of students entering kindergarten as part of the changing demographics of Kelowna North, said a mortgage broker from Verico Financial Group, which helped compile the list, along with Re/Max Real Estate.

Unique character homes and tree-lined streets in Victoria’s Fairfield neighbourhood create robust rental rates for investors, says the report.

The report used “extensive industry analysis and statistics” including population, average home price, capital growth and vacancy rate. The edition will be available on newsstands on Oct. 22.

Other B.C. neighbourhoods in the top 100 report:

  • Mill Lake (Abbotsford)
  • North Burnaby
  • Chilliwack
  • Coquitlam Town Centre
  • Central Dawson Creek
  • North Delta
  • Sahali (Kamloops)
  • South Langley
  • Central East, Maple Ridge
  • Old City Quarter of Nanaimo
  • Sapperton (New Westminster)
  • Lower Lonsale (North Vancouver)
  • Northern Oxford Heights (Port Coquitlam)
  • The Bowl District (Prince George)
  • Hamilton (Richmond)
  • Gordon Head (Saanich)

Property prices and sales in Canada rise again after new mortgage rules slowed the market

Residential real estate sales picked up in 60% of local markets in Canada last month as the sector bedded down with changes to the country’s mortgage rules.

Prices also increased slightly but overall the market is subdued compared with a year ago, according to the latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

The number of sales rose 2.5% month on month, the first monthly gain since March. CREA said it helps to partially offset the 6.2% drop recorded in August when the new mortgage rules were introduced.

Sales activity increased in Greater Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Greater Toronto, and Quebec City. Calgary and Quebec City were the only two large markets where new listings eased in September, with declines of less than 2%.
Actual, not seasonally adjusted, activity however, remains down 15.1 % from the same time last year with more than half of all local markets posting declines of at least 10%.

The actual, not seasonally adjusted, national average price for homes sold in September 2012 was $355,777, up 1.1% from the same month last year.

The national average price continues to be influenced by compositional factors, most notably by fewer sales in Greater Vancouver this year compared to much stronger levels last year. The result has been a downwardly skewed national average price this year compared to an upwardly skewed average selling price last year.

Excluding Greater Vancouver, which currently accounts for less than 5%, of national activity, from the national average price calculation yields a year on year increase of 3.4%, reflecting average sale prices that rose in 70% of all local markets in September 2012.

However, CREA’s MLS Home Price Index, which is regarded as providing the best gauge of Canadian home price trends, rose 3.9% year on year in September, the fifth time in as many months that the year on year gain shrank, and marks the slowest rate of increase since May 2011.

Year on year price gains decelerated for all benchmark property types tracked by the index. The increase was strongest for one storey single family homes, up 5.7% and two storey single family homes up 5%. Prices for townhouse and apartment units continue to post more modest gains, rising 1.1% and 1.5% respectively.

The index rose fastest in Regina, up 14.2% year on year, which was the only market covered by the index in which price growth accelerated. It also climbed in Calgary by 6.5%, in Greater Toronto by 5.7%, in Greater Montreal by 2.2%, and the Fraser Valley by 2.1%. In Greater Vancouver it posted a 0.8% year on year decline in September.

REAL ESTATE | B.C. developer introduces Canada's smallest condos in Surrey

Apartments will start at 290 square feet and will cost about $650 a month

Surrey development company Tien Sher is hoping to build Canada's smallest condos - starting at just 290 square feet - if its latest project is approved.

The project, called Balance, is a four-storey building containing 56 "micro suites" that will all include five stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors and a balcony. Sixty per cent of the suites in the complex will be 305 square feet or smaller, while the largest will be a 653-square-foot, one-bedroom condo.

Charan Sethi, president of Tien Sher, said he's putting forward the proposal to create more affordable housing for people with average incomes. The complex is part of the Quattro development, which is a seven-minute walk from the Gateway SkyTrain Station on 108th Ave. Sethi said that he often has people who want to buy into the Quattro development, but who don't qualify because their income is too low.

"Real estate prices in the Lower Mainland are among the richest in North America. In cities like New York, Tokyo and Paris, they found a solution - build smaller, but build closer to amenities. We wanted to build suites that renters could afford to purchase - today," said Sethi. "With suites starting at $109,900, if you can afford the $6,000 down payment and you make a salary of $17 per hour, we have a home for you."

Sethi said monthly payments would be about $650 a month and would require an annual income of about $35,000. The suites come with an eight-foot linear kitchen, a shower instead of a bathtub to save space, and a closet that could accommodate a washer and dryer.

Similar studio suites that are 425 square feet rent for $750 to $800 a month across the street in the Quattro 3 building, Sethi said.

"There is an outcry by people making between $22,000 to $55,000 a year who do not qualify to buy a lot out there, but they want a piece of the action. They want their own home, rather than renting all their life," Sethi said.

Peter Simpson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association, said he thinks the suites will attract first-time homebuyers, investors and maybe even some empty nesters who want to keep their toe in the Metro Vancouver real estate market.

New mortgage rules limiting amortization periods to 25 years have made it tougher for people to qualify for mortgages, and may be contributing to the real estate slowdown in Metro Vancouver over the past few months.

"That has taken a big bite out the industry because now it's even harder to qualify," Sethi said.

The project still has to pass three reviews by Surrey city council, but Sethi says he has been working with city staff and council and the project has passed its first hurdle.

"So far there has been a good response from the city," Sethi said. "It's moving forward, and it's a matter of going through the process."

Simpson said he expects other builders will be watching the Balance project closely.

"This is an idea I expect to see emulated throughout the region in the years ahead," Simpson said.

The suites do not include a parking stall, but buyers can buy one if they wish, Sethi said, adding that a co-op car will also be available in the complex.

Last year, the Burns Block building in downtown Vancouver was refitted with Canada's smallest self-contained apartments, with suites between 226 and 291 square feet. The landlord renovated the building, which had previously operated as a single-room occupancy hotel, into suites that rent for about $850 a month. The Surrey project are the smallest independently-owned suites that Sethi is aware of in Canada, and sales are expected to start in January 2013. Blog:

Read more:

Fraser Valley Listing and Sale Stats as of October 16, 2012

An interesting look at the number of listings and sales as of October 16, 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. As you can see, the number of listings is lower as expected. Some sellers are remaining on the sidelines feeling that the market is soft; however, this behaviour might not be justified. For the first 16 days of October 2011, the number of sales compared to the number of listings as a percentage was 39.6%. If we compare this to the first 16 days in October 2012, we see the ratio come in at 38%.

tuesday october 16 2012  

New mortgage lending guidelines raise industry concerns

Some real-estate industry insiders have concerns about new mortgage lending guidelines coming in this year, documents released by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada reveal.

OSFI asked for comments on the new guidelines from banks, real-estate appraisers, mortgage insurers and mortgage brokers earlier this year. Based on the comments received, OSFI backed off on two ideas that were initially proposed - a requirement for home equity lines of credit to be amortized and a requirement that people requalify when they renew their mortgage.

But other concerns were not addressed, including that a national database that estimates the value of houses may be inaccurate. The database, an automated system dubbed Emili, is used by the nation's biggest mortgage insurer, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., to set values, without having an appraiser sent to the address.

"The Emili system does not estimate a property's market value; instead it uses general parameters to determine a risk potential," one commenter wrote in the OSFI documents. "That explains why CMHC-insured loans are often granted without truly taking into account the property's market value - and therefore - the Loan to Value ratio. This poses a real danger of altering housing market data."

Rick Sieb, real estate appraiser in Vancouver, said the system could mean some home buyers pay too much.

"From our standpoint, the people who really are not served well by this system are the first-time homebuyers," Sieb said. "Before this system came in, we would do an appraisal for a purchase. The bank would only loan (based on) the value of the appraisal. A lot of times what used to happen is that the buyer would go back and renegotiate their deal. That doesn't happen now because they don't have that extra step in there."

Sieb said that in the late '80s, before Emili was introduced in 1996, one or two deals a week would either fall through or be renegotiated because an appraisal came in lower than expected.

"When it's a conventional mortgage, the bank sends out appraisers because it's their money," Sieb said, adding that sometimes they will do a full walk-through appraisal, while other times they will drive by to guarantee a certain minimum value, and other times they will look at the property tax assessment.

"It depends how much they are trying to purchase," Sieb said.

Marion Wrobell, vice-president of policy and operations for the Canadian Bankers Association, said banks make decisions on when to order a full appraisal based on different factors.

"They will choose whatever is appropriate to the circumstances," Wrobell said. "We do the same underwriting for an insured mortgage as we do for other mortgages."

Wrobell said CMHC has an incentive to make sure their valuations are accurate, because in the end they are taking the risk of insuring the mortgages.

"I don't think it's fair to suggest that there are these huge flaws with Emili." Wrobell said.

He said there is a margin of error in any valuation, including those made by personal appraisers.

"As long as there is no systematic bias to over-value (properties), from a bank's point of view, it should even out," Wrobell said.

Home prices have soared in Canada, raising concerns of a market crash, and making the housing market a key risk to the country's financial outlook.

In June, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced stricter rules on lending for high-ratio mortgages in a bid to cool the housing market. The new rules limit the maximum amortization period on such mortgages to 25 years, down from 30 years, and cap the amount that can be refinanced at 80 per cent, down from 85 per cent.

Read more:

Good Time to Sell? Our Consumer Confidence Survey

October 2, 2012

There’s no shortage of expert opinions from industry bigwigs about what the Lower Mainland real estate market is doing. So we like to check in with consumers to get their take on where the market is heading.

See the results of our September 2012 Consumer Confidence survey – and how sentiment has changed since we last got the consumer market pulse six months ago.

We asked three questions:

  • Do you think it's a good time to SELL a house condo in the next three months?
  • Do you think it's a good time to BUY a house/condo in the next three months?
  • With its high cost of living, WHY do you continue to call the Lower Mainland home?

Then we had them tell us their reasons in their own words, so we could group them together. Here’s what they had to say...

Good time to sell?

Fall a Good Time To Sell? 56% Yes. 33% No. Opinions have flipped since we asked this “good time to sell” question six months ago. Only 34% of our 550 respondents think the next 3 months will be a good time to sell a house or condo, compared to 56% of 278 respondents last March. The top three reasons given on the No side were a belief that prices are on the way down as the market corrects (37%), that sales have slowed (25%), and that it’s a buyer’s market with too many competing properties for sale (16%). 

No answers were mostly consistent across demographics, with a slight difference spurred by home ownership: 60% of home owners compared to 49.2% of renters think it’s not a good time to sell. Regionally, Richmond residents (73%) lean more strongly toward the “no sale” end of the spectrum.

In the Yes camp, taking advantage of current high prices and selling before a market correction were paramount. More renters than owners (26.7% versus 11.8%) perceive that prices are high, however.

The spontaneous answers people gave also revealed a host of other factors: 

Reasons to Buy: September 2012 Consumer Survey

Good time to buy?

Is Fall 2012 a Good Time To Buy? 46% Yes. 42% No.On the "good time to buy" question, our 550 respondents were almost evenly split, echoing the results of our March survey.

High prices coupled with a fear of home values dropping after a purchase were the largest deterrents to buying: 34% of the No side cited high prices, and 29% are anticipating prices will come down further.

On the Yes side, 28% per cent of respondents believe there was a lot to choose from on the market, 27% predicting a market correction (wanting to take advantage of lower prices), and 22% encouraged by the low interest rates. These were the also the three main reasons spurring the buying rationale in March 2012 too, though the emphasis changed.

On the question of whether this fall is a good time to buy, where respondents live plays a key role. Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, and Port Moody residents are the most optimistic about buying conditions, with 60% agreeing it's a good idea to buy a house within the next three months. In contrast, the majority (51%) of Burnaby and New Westminster residents believe the timing is wrong.

Renters are less keen on the idea of buying in the near future: 39% of renters think the next three months is a good time to buy compared to 54.4% of home owners.  

See the full list of reasons here:

Reasons to Buy in the Fall 2012

Why stay in the Lower Mainland?

Despite the region's high liveability rating, it's family first for why people choose to live in the Lower Mainland despite its high cost of living. Job ranked second (30%), followed closely by climate, scenery, and familiarity. Liveability factors such as parks, shopping, and transit ranked 7th. See the rest of the reasons given here:

Family first in the Lower Mainland in September 2012

What keeps you living in the Lower Mainland? Do you think it’s a good time to buy or sell a home in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Abbotsford/Chilliwack in the next three months? We welcome your comments!  

See the September 2012 survey here.

See the March 2012 survey here.

For current market conditions, see: Greater Vancouver statsFraser Valley statsresale condo/townhouse stats.

Daily Fraser Valley Stats - October 9, 2012

october 9 2012

A Little Information About the Upcoming White Rock By-Election

Mark Your Calendars with these Key Election Dates!

  • September 18 Nomination Period begins at 9:00 a.m.
  • September 28 Nomination Period closes at 4:00 p.m.
  • October 2 Deadline to Challenge a Nomination at 4:00 p.m.                                                                           Local Government Act 75.2 time of the delivery of the nomination documents in accordance with section73 and 4p.m. on the fourth day after the end of the nomination period
  • October 4 Election Signage is permitted to go up (Bylaw 1923)
  • October 5 Candidate can Withdraw by 4:00 p.m. (name won't appear on ballot)
  • October 16 Mail Ballots can begin to be distributed ((Bylaw 1849)
  • October 24 Advance Vote (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.)  White Rock Community Centre 15154 Russell Avenue 
  • October 29 Mobile - Special Vote (9:00 a.m. to noon) Evergreen Baptist Home 1550 Oxford Street
  • October 30 Advance Vote (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) White Rock Community Centre 15154 Russell Avenue
  • November 1 Mail Ballots are no longer available to distribute (Bylaw 1849)
  • November 3 Election Day (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.)

-WR Community Centre - 15154 Russell Avenue

- Kent Street Activity Centre - 1475 Kent Street

- Centennial Arena - 14600 North Bluff Road

  • November 7 Declaration of Election Results
  • November 12 Election Signage MUST be removed (Bylaw 1923)
  • March 5 Financial Disclosure Papers Due


Where can I vote?

Eligible voters can cast their ballot at any of the following voting locations:

Advanced Polls - Wednesday, October 24 and Tuesday, October 30, 2012:

  • White Rock Community Centre - 15154 Russell Avenue (8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.)


General Election Day - Saturday, November 3, 2012:

  • White Rock Community Centre - 15154 Russell Avenue (8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.)
  • Kent Street Activity Centre - 1475 Kent Street (8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.)
  • Centennial Arena - 14600 North Bluff Road (8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.)


Who can vote?

You can vote in a municipal election if you:

· Are 18 years of age or older on general voting day

· Are a Canadian citizen (Note: landed immigrants are not eligible to vote).

· Have lived in B.C. for at least six months immediately before voting day.

· Have lived in White Rock for at least 30 days immediately before voting day.

· Are not disqualified by law from voting.

White Rock residents who meet all these requirements can vote. You may also be eligible to vote as a non-resident property elector if you:

  • are eligible to vote as a resident elector in another municipality, regional district or school district; and
  • own property in the City of White Rock for 30 days or more before you register to vote.

Note: If you own property with someone else, only one non-resident property owner may vote.

If two or more non-resident property owners own a single piece of property, the majority of owners must designate - in writing, using Form 2-8 - one owner as the non-resident property elector for that property. If you own property along with a corporation, then none of the owners of the property are eligible to vote.

Please print Form 2-8 titled "Non Resident Property Elector Consent Form" and complete prior to bringing it with you to the voting place.

Are you registered to vote?


The City of White Rock uses the Provincial List of Voters issued by BC Elections. Ensure you are registered by calling 1-800-661-8683 or you can check if you are registered online at Registration online will take less than 5 minutes and will save you time on election day.

What identification is required in order to vote?

If a person is already registered on the voters list you will only be required to show one piece of picture ID at the time of voting. In order to receive a ballot any potential voter must make a solemn declaration noting they are eligible to vote and have not voted previously in this by-election.

If a person is not already registered on the voters list, and they are eligible to vote, the following ID requirements must be met when registering at the time of voting:

At least 2 ID documents must be shown that provide evidence of the person's identity and place of residence, at least one of which must contain the person's signature,



At least two ID documents must be shown that provide evidence of the person's identify, at least one of which must contain the person's signature, and make a solemn declaration as to the person's place of residence.

What forms of ID are acceptable?


* Canadian Passport * Birth Certificate
* BC Drivers Licence * Canadian Citizenship Card
* Certificate of Vehicle Insurance * Social Insurance Card (SIN Card)
* BC ID Card * BC Care Card or BC Gold Care Card
* Credit Cards and Debit Cards * Property Tax Notice or Utility Bill



Mail Ballot Opportunity:

Voting by Mail Ballot: A voting opportunity for electors who have a physical disability, illness or injury which affects their ability to vote by other means and for electors who expect to be absent from the Municipality on General Election Day and on all the advance voting dates.

Electors voting by mail ballot must register with the Chief Election Officer; once this is done even if their circumstance has changed they cannot vote at a voting place.

Please call 604-541-2212 to register for a mail ballot or if you have any questions on this process.

Mail Ballot Application Form: Click here

What if I need assistance with voting or require curbside voting:

If a voter has difficulty reading or writing English, they may bring a translator to assist them in the voting process. The translator must complete a solemn declaration of assistance in order to provide translation assistance.

If you are unable to enter the voting place, you may ask to receive and mark your ballot at a place located outside the voting place (curbside voting). It will be necessary for you to bring someone with you who can advise the election officials that you need help outside the voting place.

If you require help with voting, you may ask the President Election Official (PEO) in charge at the voting place to assist you. You may also bring someone with you to the voting place to help you vote. This person must make a solemn declaration to preserve the secrecy of your ballot, to mark the ballot according to your wishes and to not attempt to influence how you vote.

Qualifications to run for Local Government Office:

November 3, 2012 City of White Rock voters will elect one (1) candidate for the position of Councillor for the remainder of the 2011 - 2014 term.

To qualify as a candidate for local government office, at the time of nomination a person must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older on general voting day.
  • You must be a Canadian Citizen.
  • You must be a resident of BC for at least six months prior to the date of nomination.
  • Not disqualified by any statute or law, from being nominated, elected or holding office.

Nominees must be nominated by ten (10) electors of the City of White Rock. 

Nominees (the candidate) are not required to be residents or non-resident property owners in the City of White Rock.







Role of City Councillor - Time Commitment:


If you are elected by the 2012 by-election, you will be expected to serve the 2011 - 2014 term.

You should be aware that holding local office can be time consuming. In addition to regular meetings, Council usually have one meeting a week held on Mondays, you may also be asked to sit on special committees, boards or commissions that may also require a significant time commitment both with attending the meeting and preparing for them. 

Additional information is offered on the following Provincial website links:


Contact Us:

If you require any assistance or have any questions regarding the election process, please contact:

Fraser Valley Real Estate Market, September 2012

October 5, 2012

The Fraser Valley has started to experience the slowdown in sales that's been affecting the Greater Vancouver MLS® market since April. Fraser Valley home sales were down for the second month in September, and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board calls it a "wait and see" approach by buyers.

After a year of speculation about if and when prices will fall, it's easy to see why buyers are uneasy, even in the more affordable and moderate markets within the FVREB.

Sales and Listings

In the three major residential categories, 723 MLS® properties changed hands in September. Detached houses made up 57.3 per cent of those sales, with townhouses and apartments about even at just over 21 per cent each.

Those sales numbers were unnaturally low for September. In fact the red line we've added to the graph shows that September's sales were more typical of December, usually the slowest month of the year.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Board Sales, Listings & Active Inventory, September 2012

New residential listings were up by 9.1 per cent over August, standard for September which is usually the second-most-active selling period of the year. But the active listings remained stable, increasing by just 0.9 per cent over August.

What's Up, What's Down - At a Glance
  Sept 2012/August 2012 Sept 2012/ Sept 2011
Overall Sales -20.1% -26.4%
- Detached -20.2% -33.1%
- Townhouse -26.2% -26.2%
- Apartment -22.6% -16.3%
New Listings +9.1% -3.1%
Active Listings +0.9% +4.9%

Some segments of the market felt the sales downturn more than others, and it all depended on price.

MLS® Home Price Index & Benchmark Prices

Scott Olson, FVREB president, says, “Sales of more expensive homes — single family detached — have decreased disproportionately more than the sales of townhomes and apartments. In fact, apartment sales last month in Surrey, Langley and White Rock were higher or comparable to September of last year, keeping prices across the Fraser Valley resilient.

Fraser Valley MLS® Benchmark Prices, % Change
  Sept 2012 August 2012 Sept 2011
Detached $549,500 -0.3% +3.0%
Townhouse $300,500 -0.8%  -1.7%
Apartment $206,600 +0.2% +4.1%

Backing up what Scott Olsen says, there's an interesting disconnect between the benchmark prices and median prices in detached houses. MLS® benchmark prices are a calculation to find the price of a typical home for a specific area and home type. Median prices show the mid-point sold price of all home sales within an area, so they're a quicker indicator of what's actually happening.

Median prices for detached houses were lower than benchmark prices everywhere except South Surrey White Rock. That indicates a couple of possibilities. Either buying activity is in the less expensive end of the spectrum or sold prices are starting to come down. Or both.

In the apartment category, though, median prices were higher than benchmark in Surrey Central, Surrey North, Langley and South Surrey White Rock, indicating a healthy continuing demand for condos in those areas.

Over the last three months, prices for all three residential property types combined have decreased by 0.4 per cent while year over year they’ve increased by 2.1 per cent.

You can read the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board's full breakdown of statistics here.

See also:

Greater Vancouver Real Estate Market September 2012

Daily Fraser Valley Stats

Some of you might find this type of real-time data interesting. We receive these numbers each morning to give us an idea on the current market status compared to the previous month and the previous year.

friday october 5 2012

Metro Vancouver Starting to Give Up Gains

An interesting chart showing all segments of the real estate market are giving back gains. The graph does not include Surrey, North Delta or White Rock.


gvrd chart showing prices coming off

BCREA Housing Market Update Video (September 2012)

Canadian Real Estate Association cuts home sales forecast for this year and next

OTTAWA The Hamilton and Burlington real estate market was among only six out 27 in Canada to record growth in home sales in August over the month before, according to data published Monday by the Canadian Real Estate Association.

The decline was spurred by large drops in sales activity in the country’s largest markets and led CREA to cut its 2012 and 2013 outlook for home sales. The association also lowered its national average price forecast as it reported the biggest month-to-month drop in activity in two years.

The association said that tighter regulations on mortgage lending that came into effect in July helped push August homes sales to their largest month-over-month decline since June 2010.

Sales of previously owned Canadian houses and condos have now gone down in five of the past six months.

“While we always caution that housing market trends at the national level can and do run counter to trends in many local markets, the decline in activity in August was definitely the result of much of the country moving in the same direction,” CREA president Wayne Moen said in a statement.

Nationally, sales in August slipped 5.8 per cent compared with July and were down 8.9 per cent compared with August 2011.

Hamilton saw a 0.4 per cent growth in sales from July to August. But year over year, sales in the Hamilton-Burlington area dropped 11.3 per cent comparing August this year to the same month a year ago.

Sales dropped in 24 of 27 markets year over year, including 31 per cent in Vancouver and 14.9 per cent in Toronto.

Listings are also down 3.9 per cent in Hamilton-Burlington between July and August and 16.2 per cent year over year.

In terms of dollar value, $399 million in residential real estate was sold in Hamilton-Burlington in August, up 4.9 per cent from July and up 0.7 per cent year over year. Only six of 27 markets have seen dollar value growth year over year.

The average local sale price has grown 13.5 per cent, from $321,036 in August 2011 to $364,464 last month. The national year over year average price increase is just 0.3 per cent.

Cameron Nolan, president of the Hamilton-Burlington Real Estate Board, says Hamilton continues to be “undervalued compared to the rest of Canada and especially the GTA. That’s because we have pretty solid immigration numbers, pretty solid employment and a strong economic outlook.”

A drop in listings but continuing strong sales has tipped Hamilton-Burlington into a sellers’ market, says CREA chief economist Gregory Klump, which then impacts average price.

“If the sales to listing ratio is between 40 and 60 per cent, that’s a balanced market. Hamilton is well above that.”

Hamilton’s ratio in August was 72.6 per cent, up from 63.7 per cent in August 2011. The national figure for August was 51 per cent.

He attributes the drop in national sales to new mortgage rules which shorten amortization periods on government-insured mortgages from a maximum of 30 to 25. The new rules took effect midway through July. That has shrunk the pool of qualified first-time homebuyers, says Klump, although the full effect won’t be clear until several months of data are in.

The new mortgage rules will likely have a greater impact in high-priced markets and may drive some first-timers to more affordable markets like Hamilton, says Klump.

In its outlook for the year, CREA said Monday that home sales are now forecast to rise by 1.9 per cent to 466,900 units in 2012. That compared with a forecast in June that suggested 475,800 homes would be sold in 2012, up 3.8 per cent from 2011. CREA expects volume will slip by 1.9 per cent to 457,800 units in 2013.

CREA also forecast the national average home price would rise by just 0.6 per cent to $365,000 in 2012 and edge lower by one tenth of one per cent to $364,500 in 2013. The outlook was down from a June forecast that prices would rise by 2.2 per cent to $370,700 in 2012.

Economist David Madani of Capital Economics said the recent slump in home sales suggests that a housing correction is under way. He suggested the price decline could be as much as 25 per cent over the next year or two.

However, TD Bank senior economist Sonya Gulati suggested that absent a catalyst like an interest rate increase or external economic shock, there is no reason to think the housing market will rapidly unravel from the current levels.

“The weakness in both the price and sales series in August was largely expected and the regulatory-induced slowdown should persist over the next six to eight months,” Gulati said.

TD has suggested that the tighter mortgage rules will shave five percentage points off sales activity and cut prices by 3 per cent on average during the second half of this year and early 2013.

CREA said sales were lower in about two-thirds of all local markets across Canada representing 80 per cent of national activity, with lower monthly sales in almost all large urban centres, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa.

With files from The Canadian Press

Fraser Valley Real Estate Market Home Sales Down -23% in August 2012

Last year at this time, the Fraser Valley real estate market posted positive home sale gains in a market that was considered somewhat normal. This year, August sales across the Fraser Valley have shifted to the downside following a similar trend seen this month across Greater Vancouver with slowing demand, but fairly stable pricing.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) reported that residential property sales through the MLS system in the Fraser Valley declined by -23% to 1,073 sales in August 2012 from the previous month of 1,393 sales in July 2012.

The August 2012 figure of 1,073 residential MLS home sales in the Fraser Valley real estate market represented the following:

  • Down -23.0% compared to 1,341 sales in August 2011.
  • Down -16.1% compared to 1,279 sales in August 2010.
  • Up +7.6% compared to 997 sales in August 2009.
  • Third lowest August sales in the region over the past decade.
  • Second lowest monthly figure since 799 sales in January 2012.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Board President Scott Olson said, “It was a slower August, but nowhere near historical lows for our Board so it’s too soon to tell if it’s a sign of a longer-term trend or if buyers and sellers in the Fraser Valley finally enjoyed a bit of summer. We do know that our economy currently remains fundamentally strong with stable mortgage and employment rates; and, our region in particular has some of the fastest growing communities in the Lower Mainland.”

Olson added, “We’re seeing evidence of that growth in the sales of more affordable, attached properties in the Fraser Valley. For example in August, apartment sales went up significantly in Central Surrey and Abbotsford and remained on par in North Surrey and Cloverdale compared to last year, suggesting that first-time buyers are continuing to find opportunities.”

Fraser Valley Real Estate – FVREB August 2012 home sales down -23% (-320 units) to 1,073 total from 1,393 sales in July 2012.

Fraser Valley - August 2012 Home Sales

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) serves the following British Columbia communities:

  • North Delta
  • Surrey
  • White Rock
  • Langley
  • Abbotsford
  • Mission

The following table shows the actual Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) total MLS residential sales figures for each month from 2009 to 2012.

2009 FVREB – Total MLS Residential Sales for Fraser Valley:

2009 MLS Residential Sales Monthly % Increase/Decrease
January 389 -23.4%
February 682 +75.3%
March 1006 +47.5%
April 1293 +28.5%
May 1501 +16.1%
June 1982 +32.1%
July 2089 +5.4%
August 1786 -14.5%
September 1590 -11.0%
October 1704 +7.2%
November 1522 -10.7%
December 1260 -17.2%

2010 FVREB – Total MLS Residential Sales for Fraser Valley:

2010 MLS Residential Sales Monthly % Increase/Decrease
January 981 -22.1%
February 1204 +22.7%
March 1565 +30.0%
April 1793 +14.6%
May 1477 -17.6%
June 1815 +22.9%
July 1101 -39.3%
August 997 -9.4%
September 1044 +4.7%
October 1014 -2.9%
November 1084 +6.9%
December 895 -17.4%

2011 FVREB – Total MLS Residential Sales for Fraser Valley:

2011 MLS Residential Sales Monthly % Increase/Decrease
January 834 -6.8%
February 1279 +53.4%
March 1818 +42.1%
April 1516 -16.6%
May 1608 +6.1%
June 1588 -1.2%
July 1322 -16.8%
August 1341 +1.4%
September 1165 -13.1%
October 1139 -2.2%
November 1120 -1.7%
December 890 -20.5%

2012 FVREB – Total MLS Residential Sales for Fraser Valley:

2012 MLS Residential Sales Monthly % Increase/Decrease
January 799 -10.2%
February 1269 +58.8%
March 1412 +11.3%
April 1435 +1.6%
May 1616 +12.6%
June 1463 -9.5%
July 1393 -4.8%
August 1073 -23.0%

August 2012 home sales in the Fraser Valley reversed the upward trend seen last year at this time by posting a fairly substantial decline on a month-over-month basis.

Monthly home sales dropped by -23.0% in August 2012 from July 2012 compared to an increase of +1.44% in August 2011 from July 2011.

Fraser Valley Home Sales for August 2011 and 2012

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board launched its new MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) at the start of 2012.

Over the past year, the average price for a home (all property types) in the Fraser Valley decreased by -4.6% to $483,024 in August 2012 from $506,075 in August 2011.

August 2012 Sales-to-Active Listings Ratio - All Types - Fraser Valley

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board launched its new MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) at the start of 2012.

Over the past year, the average price for a home (all property types) in the Fraser Valley increased by +3.3% to $495,345 in February 2012 from $479,290 in February 2011.

August 2012 - Average Price - Residential Detached - Fraser Valley

In their September 5, 2012 news release, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board stated that:

Across the Fraser Valley, the benchmark price of a single family detached house in August was $551,400, an increase of +3.5% compared to $532,700 in August 2011.

For townhouses, the benchmark price in August was $303,000, a decrease of -0.7% compared to $305,200 during the same month last year.

The benchmark price of apartments in Fraser Valley in August was $206,600, an increase of +3.4% compared to $199,800 in August 2011.

August 2012 - MLS Home Price Index Benchmark Prices by Type - Fraser Valley

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board indicated that home prices remained resilient in August despite the lower sales in the region.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Board President Scott Olson added, “Overall, we’re seeing prices stay resilient, however in almost half of our communities, the three-month trend is showing a decrease in prices while the other half is showing increases.”

So far this year, total home sales are down -7.4% compared to last year’s figures with a total of 10,425 residential MLS home sales in the Fraser Valley up to August 2012 compared to 11,254 sales over the same period in 2011.

Feng shui a mystic force in Vancouver real estate

For a realtor trying to survive the currently sluggish market, there might be no sight as disheartening as that of the unyielding feng shui master who shows up with the buyer to assess the property.

The master, is, after all, probably going to get the last word.

The ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, which is, roughly, about creating a harmonious environment, can have a major impact on a sale in the Lower Mainland. Feng shui master Johnson Li knows all about that, having shot down many a potential purchase.


Mr. Li has been a feng shui master since arriving in Vancouver 20 years ago. He divides his time between the Lower Mainland, Hong Kong, China, and places like Victoria and Seattle, where he’s called upon to assess homes for occupants or would-be buyers.

Feng shui got plenty of media attention in the late 1980s, when a wave of Taiwanese buyers was purchasing and renovating properties based on the system. Today, it’s still alive and well and has spread beyond the Chinese demographic, with devotees from other cultures opting to let feng shui guide their choices.

Mr. Li acknowledges that he is one of the most expensive feng shui masters in Vancouver, but his rate is even higher when he works in China. Here, he charges $8,800 to assess commercial properties; $3,800 to assess houses, and $2,800 to assess apartments. His fee is not to assess only one property for a client, but rather, as many properties as necessary until he finds one with good feng shui. He says that he once rejected more than 100 listings until he settled upon an appropriate house, which must have been an interesting situation for the buyer’s realtor.

The practice is not limited to Chinese buyers, says Mr. Li. He has clients who are Caucasian and East Indian. In Surrey, a Polish family requested his help when they couldn’t sell their house after six months without action. After his recommended changes to the house, he says they sold two months later.

Patricia Coleman is a feng shui practitioner who caters mostly to a non-Chinese demographic in Vancouver. She has guided homebuyers and has “feng shui’d” houses to make them easier to sell.

“I have a lot of western clients,” she says. “It’s not just about trying to sell a house, but making the right decision. It’s a huge purchase. You need to ask, ‘Is it the right one?’

“Every culture has an understanding of placement and energy.”

Faustina Kwok, who lives in Richmond with her naturopath husband Martin, says their new house was built according to feng shui principles that she believes will increase its value. They also “feng shui’d” her husband’s clinic. However, when it came to the house, she wasn’t willing to forgo a good floor plan and flow for feng shui, Ms. Kwok says. She’d been inside “feng shui’d” houses that felt odd because the flow was off. But she was willing to move the driveway, and add a partial wall so that the master bedroom wasn’t in direct view of the front door.

“We just did the big modifications, like where the toilet shouldn’t be,” she says. “You don’t want to flush your fortune away. At least I take comfort knowing my toilet is not in the wrong place,” she says, laughing.

Although growing in popularity, it’s still a largely misunderstood practice, says Mr. Li. Some people think that the popularity of an address that includes the number eight is feng shui, but that’s more about superstition. Feng shui grew out of something far more practical, he explains.

“It is the art of looking at places that are safe or not, gauging whether they are a habitable place,” he says, seated in his Kingsway office, surrounded by his extensive library, a translator at his side. “Feng shui means the study of surroundings.”

Mr. Li has stopped the sale of many houses, and he’s witnessed attempts at feng shui by builders who were shrewdly, or naively, anxious to appease the Chinese market. Mr. Li explained how he once kiboshed the sale of a newly built home in West Vancouver. The builder had hired another feng shui expert to help design the house, which included a giant vertical aquarium as well as an indoor Koi fishpond. Mr. Li took one look at the aquarium and pond and gave a thumbs-down on the pricey property. His clients took his advice and walked. The builder was so furious, he says, that they asked him to put his reasons in writing.

As he poured another round of green tea, he explained that it’s a basic feng shui principle that you don’t want water above your head. As well, a Koi pond inside a house is not a good thing, he added.

When asked to explain, Mr. Li chuckled and said, “Because it will smell like fish.”

As for the feng shui practitioner who’d allowed such missteps, he explained that unfortunately, because so many consumers want instant and easy answers, there are a lot of unscrupulous practitioners who don’t know what they are doing. He doesn’t like doing assessments for developers and realtors because “they use him to make money.”

He recalls a realtor slipping him a red envelope as he was doing his assessment. The envelope was stuffed with a substantial amount of money, which he later turned over to his clients.

Emily Lo says she trusts Mr. Li for all her real estate purchases, even if it irritates the realtors, who often try to persuade her to use Mr. Li’s report as one of the subjects to sale. However, she’d prefer to get his opinion upfront, after the initial walk-through.

“He has the power of veto, and if you are paying that amount of money, you are going to trust what he says.”

Gastown realtor Ian Watt says the issue of feng shui comes up about once a month.

“A lot of my Chinese clients are really big into that,” he says. “It’s amazing, because it does affect real estate for a certain demographic. Everybody over 50 cares for sure.”

He has a client with a condo on Pacific Boulevard currently on the market, and the client refuses to let him close the window during showings.

“It’s on Pacific Boulevard, which is very noisy. The traffic sounds don’t help,” he says. “They want the window open all the time, and it’s something to do with feng shui.”

Anna Chen, who co-owns the unit with fiancé Dan, can explain. Her uncle is a feng shui master who visits from Taiwan, and he told her to keep the window open in order to sell the unit. Ms. Chen, who is 32, said that she was reluctant to believe in feng shui throughout her 20s, but now that she’s older, she’s starting to see its value.

“I think it helps. I’ve seen it help. So that’s why I asked my uncle to help me to sell the place, and also to help us buy the next place. Now, when we go to a new condo listing, sometimes I ask him to come with me. He told me the direction of the entrance and everything will affect health and fortune, how much you can make, or are you going to lose.”

B.C. Real Estate: ‘You can’t burst a bubble that wasn’t there

Sagging home sales and flat ­prices have prompted speculation that the “housing bubble” might be about to burst — a prospect that immediately catches the attention of British Columbians.

But there is no housing bubble, according to Tsur Somerville, director of the University of B.C.’s Centre for Urban Economics in the Sauder School of Business.

“You can’t burst a bubble that wasn’t there,” said Somerville. “But you can have prices above where they should be and it not be a ­bubble.

“A bubble isn’t just defined by high prices,” he said.

Somerville identified a housing “bubble” as conditions akin to what was happening in 2007.

“It didn’t matter what the condo looked like or what it’s going to look like or who was building it, people were lined up around the block and snapping it up,” he said. “They were saying, ‘I’ll take 12, please.’ That’s more of a bubble environment.”

While it might not be a bursting bubble, what is going on in the Vancouver area right now is not exactly normal, either.

Greater Vancouver home sales in August were the second lowest since 1998 and represented a drop of 30.7 per cent compared to August of last year, and were 21.4 per cent lower than in July of this year.

The 1,649 sales of detached, attached and apartment homes were also 39.2 per cent below the 10-year August average of 2,711.

But prices were relatively flat. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver composite benchmark of $609,500 for residential properties in August was down only 1.1 per cent from July, and just 0.5 per cent down from this time last year — despite 2011 being a busy year for high-end property sales.

If there was a large number of unsold units coming onto the market or a huge change in the economic environment, Somerville said, “that would really cause prices to tank.”

“Most people don’t have to sell their house,” he said. “You bought it for $200,000. The price is now $150,000. Unless you have to, why would you sell it?”

For prices to go down ­significantly, contended Somerville, “You need people who have to sell, either because the economy has collapsed and they don’t have any income or developers have built a whole bunch of units that are unsold and the bank is screaming at them or foreclosing or something like that.”

None of those conditions appears imminent.

Somerville said it would take “some negative shock,” such as an ­economic meltdown or mortgage interest rates jumping from four per cent to nine or 10 per cent, to trigger lower prices.

“The euro melting down would cause one of those [shocks],” he said. “If the Canadian government changes its immigration policy and slammed the door on wealthy Asian immigrants, that would affect ­[prices].

“I don’t have a crystal ball but if I had to guess I would be more likely to guess this kind of lower sales/flat prices is more likely to continue.”

The B.C. Real Estate Association is more optimistic. Chief economist Cameron Muir is predicting increased sales in 2013 because of continuing low interest rates, population growth and more full-time jobs.

Employment growth in the ­Greater Vancouver area in the first ­seven months of the year, according to Muir, has been 3.5 to 4 per cent ­higher than the same period last year.

“I would expect to see sales pick up before the end of the year, at least on a seasonally adjusted basis,” Muir said.

Adding to his optimism is increased consumer demand for housing in the Okanagan and in B.C.’s North, where resource extraction continues but where there has also been more economic diversification.

The BCREA is forecasting Multiple Listing Service sales to go down by four per cent this year compared to last year but to go up by 7.5 per cent in 2013.

Read more:

Seasonal dip in sales; home prices continue to hold steady in the Fraser Valley

SURREY, BC – The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board processed 1,393 sales on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in July, an increase of 5 per cent compared to the 1,322 sales during the same month last year, and 5 per cent fewer than the 1,463 sales in June. At the same time, the board posted 2,938 new listings on the MLS® in July – on par with last year and just slightly more than the number received in June, resulting in July finishing with 10,813 active listings.

Scott Olson, president of the Board, says, “I keep trying to find another word other than stable, but it continues to be the best way to describe the Fraser Valley market. While our inventory remains at above‐average levels, our sales are sufficiently steady to keep prices consistent.

“One factor in our favour and likely influencing our market is greater affordability. We sold 25 per cent more townhomes in July 2012 and 7 per cent more condos compared to the same month last year with over half of the townhomes selling for less than $325,000 and half of the condos for less than $210,000.”

The sale of single family detached homes in the Fraser Valley increased by only 1 per cent in July compared to last year. The area that experienced the greatest year‐over‐year decrease in sales – at 32 per cent – was South Surrey/White Rock where a typical single family detached home was valued at just under $880,000. “We are seeing a reduction in sales of higher‐end homes. Last July was one of the busiest on record in that area, so the decrease appears sharper. South Surrey/White Rock would normally see about 100 detached homes sell in July and last month 86 sold, keeping the market competitive and prices resilient,” explains Olson.

Across the Fraser Valley, the benchmark price of a single family detached house in July was $551,400, an increase of 3.4 per cent compared to $533,400 in July 2011. For townhouses, the benchmark price in July was $303,400, a decrease of ‐0.6 per cent compared to $305,200 during the same month last year. The benchmark price of apartments in Fraser Valley in July was $206,200, an increase of 2.5 per cent compared to $201,200 in July 2011.

Olson adds, “Real estate is highly local. Depending on the property type and community, prices can be up by 8 per cent or down by 5 per cent compared to a year ago. Contact your REALTOR® for accurate, detailed data about your neighbourhood.”


Fraser Valley Real Estate Market Remains Stable, June 2012, July 11, 2012

If you're looking for a real estate market with ever-increasing prices or dizzying drops in sales, better go somewhere else. There's no excitement here, folks.

MLS® house prices, sales and listings in the Fraser Valley have been chugging along like a diesel-powered delivery van all year... and isn't that refreshing!

For instance:

  • Sales-to-listings ratios have stayed in buyers' market territory since February, hovering between 14 and 15 per cent. 
  • Benchmark prices for townhouses and condos have basically been flat since mid-2009.
  • Benchmark prices for detached homes have increased by a gentle 3.5 per cent in a year.
  • Average time on market has been 44 days, give or take a day, for four months.

Sales and Listings

Overall sales are down, both month over month and year over year, but the decreases are modest compared to those of the Greater Vancouver real estate market

  • m/m -9.5 per cent compared to REBGV's -17.2 per cent
  • y/y -7.9 per cent compared to REBGV's -27.6 per cent
What's Up, What's Down - At a Glance
  June2012/May2012 June 2012/ June 2011
Overall Sales -9.5% -7.9%
- Detached -4.4% -9.9%
- Attached -10.4% -3.7%
- Apartment -25.7% -10.2%
New Listings -12.3% +4.9%
Active Listings -1.4% +9.4%

“Although our inventory is trending at historically high levels, sales have remained steady so we’re not seeing significant downward pressure on residential prices overall," says FVREB president Scott Olson.

MLS® Home Price Index & Benchmark Prices

The MLS Home Price Index for houses and townhouses continued to rise slightly in the Fraser Valley, compared to Greater Vancouver, where the HPI has dipped for all housing types. Looking at the breakdown for all housing types and areas, the changes on the HPI range from 1 per cent to -1 per cent, with only a few exceptions.

Townhouses were weakest, with the index dropping in six out of eight areas, including drops of 5.8 per cent in North Surrey, 3 per cent in Mission and 1.3 per cent in Langley.

Fraser Valley MLS Benchmark Prices, % Change
  June 2012 May 2012 June 2011
Detached $551,000 +0.5% +3.6%
Attached $305,000 -0.6%   0.0%
Apartment $205,800 +0.3% +1.2%

Will Canada’s housing boom end with a whimper or a bang?

  Jul 17, 2012 – 1:56 PM ET Last Updated: Jul 17, 2012 2:06 PM ET

Sizzling hot markets in Toronto and Vancouver have fuelled a lot of debate lately about whether Canada’s housing market is overheated — and the jury is still out.

National Post

Whimper not a bang: David Rosenberg

Gluskin-Sheff economist David Rosenberg came down on the side of whimper today, after expressing concerns just last week that Canadian housing prices were looking unsustainable. The latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association appears to have changed his mind.

“Prices are starting to deflate by 0.8% YoY, though more like air coming out a balloon slowly than a giant pop,” wrote Rosenberg Tuesday in his morning note.

“It is gradually becoming a buyer’s market with the inventory of unsold homes rising to six month’s supply, which is at the edge of a balanced market.”

Existing home sales dropped 1.3% in June from the month before and were down 4.4% from a year ago. A big part of the contraction was a 27.7% decline in the once heady Vancouver market and 7.9% slide in Toronto’s.

As tighter mortgage rules in Canada bite, sales and prices are likely to erode further, he said.

The new rules — introduced last month by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to curb both a possible housing bubble and Canadians’ ballooning household debt — are equivalent to a 1% mortgage rate rise in dampening the market, he said.

They include:

  • Borrowers will be allowed to use up to 80% of their property’s value as collateral for home-equity loans, down from 85%.
  •  The maximum amortization period dropped to 25 years from 30 years for government insured mortgages.
  •  Government-backed mortgage insurance will be limited to homes with a purchase price of less than $1 million.

Captial Economics

Canada’s housing correction could see prices fall another 10% (some economists expect 15%) said Rosenberg, which could send some mortgage holders into a negative equity position.

But there is a silver lining for first-time homeowners, he said, who have been shut out of the market by the sharp price run-up in recent years.

Not everyone is convinced, however. Capital Economics in its global outlook Tuesday said the housing market still looms too large in the Canadian economy for comfort.

Housing investment accounts for a near record 7.2% of overall GDP and “when the bubble bursts, we suspect the contraction will be severe,” Capital economists said.

Posted in: Real Estate  Tags: 

Tighter mortgage rules out of place in softening real estate market


Did the Harper government blunder into overstimulating a housing market that it`s now in the process of squeezing at just the wrong time?

The question springs to mind now that new numbers show that Canada`s housing market showed signs of significant softness in June, with sales falling 4.4 per cent below their year-earlier level _ the first such drop in a year _ as the national average home price edged down by nearly one per cent.

This comes just as new, tighter mortgage-lending rules went into effect early in July, the key change being a shortening of the allowed repayment period on a government-backed insured mortgage to 25 years from 30.

The result jacks up the monthly payment on a mortgage by about 10 per cent if the buyer was originally hoping to use the longer 30-year repayment option.

This is just the right medicine for an overheating real-estate market, but much more dubious when demand is already weakening. It will price some buyers, especially first-time ones, right out of the market.

Analysts, including some who favoured the tightening, are a little worried.

There was already a recent undercurrent of concern as home prices moved inexorably higher in the winter and spring: was the market setting itself for a painful fall? At the TD Bank, chief economist Craig Alexander predicts an average price drop of 10 to 15 per cent per cent over the next two to three years.

Most analysts didn`t see such a big correction, although many think the priciest markets, Vancouver especially, are overdue for a dip.

But, warns economist Robert Hogue at the Royal Bank, ``the risks are higher now than they were before.'' Hogue thought markets were cooling nicely even before the stricter rules came in. Now, he worries, ``this may give a push beyond what the market needs.''

Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, thinks the market will probably adjust without too much trouble _ but acknowledges that he too feels a little tug of concern. ``This may have been one turn of the screw too many,'' he says. ``That`s the risk.''

The irony is that it was under this same Harper government that Canada loosened its mortgage rules so much that by late 2006, you could borrow for 40 years with nothing down. The then-governor of the Bank of Canada, David Dodge saw this as so irresponsible that he broke the central bank`s usual rule against criticizing government policy.

It`s what foolish governments often do: curry favour by loosening policy too much in good times, only to have to tighten as conditions worsen.

So far, though, the market still appears to be healthy, with modest price gains in most big cities across Canada, but a downtrend in sales pointing to the possibility of further cooling in the very costly Vancouver and Toronto markets.

Indeed, in the country`s priciest market, Vancouver, prices actually fell by nearly one per cent last month, according to the Home Price Index compiled by the Canadian Real Estate Association. Over the entire past year, Vancouver prices are only up by a modest 1.7 per cent.

This evaporation of price gains in a market that was red-hot last year was so dramatic that it helped stabilize the entire Canadian market. While the average Canadian price fell by 0.8 per cent from a year ago, once you remove Vancouver from the numbers, the average price elsewhere goes up by 3.2 per cent, not down.

This resulted from the unwinding of frenzied demand early last year for some of the highest-priced homes on the Vancouver market, said economist Robert Hogue at the Royal Bank. Possibly because foreign demand waned, such homes are now much slower to sell.

Toronto prices barely moved last month, edging up by 0.2 per cent, although earlier gains pushed the average up by a strong 7.9 per cent year-over-year.

Montreal, where last month`s gain was a modest 0.3 per cent, is ahead by a total of 2.7 per cent over the past year, according to the Home Price Index, which, unlike simple price averages, seeks to eliminate the distortions caused by varying numbers of high-priced and lower-priced homes sold in different months.

Calgary stands out as the only city where the number of sales went up significantly _ by a robust 17 per cent, in fact _ but prices rose by a more modest 5.3 per cent.

Montreal Gazette

Buyers Can Again Make Low Ball Offers As Home Sales Hit 10 Year Low

Home sales in the region fell 17.2 percent from May to June, and a 27.6 percent decline from 2011, hitting a ten year low.

VANCOUVER – Buyers again can try low ball offers and have a better chance of landing a price to their liking after steady declines over last year in the local housing makrker.

The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties reached just over 2300 last month – compared to slightly more than 3200 a year ago.

Board president Eugen Klein told CTV news buyers are facing less competition and have more selection to choose from compared to earlier in the year.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has declared a buyer’s market after property sales hit a 10-year low in June.

House and apartment sales reached just 2,362 last month, according to a board report released Wednesday morning, representing a 17.2 per cent drop from May and a 27.6 per cent decline from the 3,262 sales in June 2011.

“Overall conditions have trended in favour of buyers in our marketplace in recent months,” board president Eugen Klein said in a statement. “This means buyers are facing less competition and have more selection to choose from.”

The report says prices have remained relatively stable, however.

The benchmark price for an apartment property increased 0.3 per cent from the previous year to $376,200, while detached properties increased 3.3 per cent to $961,600. The benchmark price for attached properties decreased just 0.1 per cent down to $468,400.

According to the board, June saw the lowest monthly sales total in the region since 2000, a number 32.2 per cent below the 10-year June sales average of 3,484.

Meanwhile the number of property listings, at 18,493, represented a 22 per cent increase over the same month last year.

“Our sales-to-active ratio sits at 13 per cent, which puts us at the lower end of a balanced market,” Klein said. “This ration has been declining in our market since March when it was 19 per cent.”

There were 5,617 new listings in Metro Vancouver last month, marking a slight decrease from June 2011’s numbers.

June’s sales consisted of 1,016 apartments, 921 detached houses and 415 attached.

B.C issues highest number of building permits since 2007 - Permits reached $4.4 billion up to May this year.

British Columbia municipalities issued building permits in the first five months of 2012 at levels not seen since before the global recession.

Up to May of this year, permits reached $4.4 billion in B.C., a level not seen since the same period in 2007 when permits were more than $5 billion, according to Statistics Canada figures.

Building permits — which indicate an intent to build, not actual construction — sunk to $2.4 billion in the first five months of 2009.

The value of building permits in May this year alone, at $1.09 billion, accounted for nearly half of the 2009 five-month total. The value of the May 2012 permits is an increase of 35.8 per cent over the same month in 2011.

The increase in the value of permits in May this year was even greater in residential construction in B.C., hitting $660 million, a 45.6 per cent increase from May 2011.

The increase in total building permits in the Vancouver metro area in May year over year jumped a whopping 112.3 per cent to $781.8 million, according to Statistics Canada.

“It’s a sign of optimism, certainly in the Lower Mainland. People don’t build or invest in construction services unless they are confident in the future,” said Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Philip Hochstein.

“I think if you look around the world, British Columbia is a bit of an oasis in the [economic] storm ... That’s translated into people interested in construction [here],” he said.

An indication of the construction interest — beyond the permit numbers — is the number of cranes that are going up in the Lower Mainland, added Hochstein.

The independent contractors association estimates the number of cranes will peak at 142 in the Lower Mainland in November 2013, well above the 78 cranes that were counted in 2005-2006 before the financial meltdown.

The Marine Gateway, located near the Canada Line on Marine Drive, and Telus Gardens downtown are among major projects announced recently.

Hochstein noted that with an average of 136 workers from the major trades working under each crane, more than 19,000 skilled workers would be on those construction sites.

Statistics Canada said the gain in building permits in May in B.C. was mainly attributable to multi-family housing and institutional building.

The Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) said notwithstanding external risks such as the European debt crisis, it is forecasting building permits to grow 10 per cent for the full year over 2011.

The association noted institutional construction in the Lower Mainland and southwest B.C., at nearly $200 million, reaching a level not seen since 1993.

“While we don’t expect monthly gains to continue at this level next month, these numbers are a positive indication for investment in the region,” said VRCA president Keith Sashaw.

Peter Simpson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders’ Association, said the reason B.C. is rebounding faster than other areas of the globe, including the United States, is because Canada suffered less under its more prudent banking system and many economic sectors in the province are firing on all cylinders.

“I think in many industries we’re going to have a shortage of skilled labour, and that will attract more people to come to our province as well,” he added.

Not all building construction observers are convinced there is reason for unbridled optimism.

Tsur Somerville, a professor at the Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C., said he finds it surprising residential permit levels in the Lower Mainland have increased.

Recent changes tightening mortgage down payments and the general economic climate are not likely to increase people’s interest in purchasing a home, said Somerville, the director of UBC’s Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.

During the global financial crisis, value of building permits in the Vancouver area dropped to a low of $300 million in May

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Canada's new mortgage rules will trim GDP growth: TD economists

New rules to trim growth
New mortgage rules unveiled last week by the Canadian government will ripple through the economy and ultimately trim its growth, a new forecast say.


The study released today by Toronto-Dominion Bank projects the combined impact on home construction and consumer spending will probably take between 0.1 and 0.2 of a percentage point off economic growth this year and next.

Last week, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tightened up on mortgages for the fourth time, a move aimed at cooling some residential markets and pushing consumers to scale back on their debt burdens.

The new rules, effective July 9, will reduce maximum amortization on government-insured mortgages to 25 years from 30 years. They also cut the amount of equity homeowners can pull out of their properties.

At the same time, the country's bank regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, unveiled final rules on home equity lines of credit and other products.

"While these new lending rules are not intended to severely impede household spending and housing demand, their impact will be substantial," warned economists Craig Alexander, Derek Burleton and Diana Petramala.

"In particular, the previous rule changes had a significant impact on home sales, particularly in the six months following implementation," they said in their report.

"The policy changes, combined with modestly higher interest rates and a gradual deterioration in affordability, are expected to trigger a welcomed unwinding of excesses in the Canadian housing market."

TD believes average house prices will probably decline by 10 per cent to 15 per cent over the next two years.

As the market slows, consumers will pull back, while housing-related industries, such as renovation, also feel the pinch.

"Overall, housing-related consumer purchases account for just under 10 per cent of overall personal consumption expenditure," the economists said.

"In addition, the blend of softer sales and rising inventories of unsold new homes is likely to bring down the pace of homebuilding activity starting in the second half of this year, with residential construction expected to detract from growth in 2013."

Overall, TD expects economic growth of about 2 per cent a year over the next couple of years.

  • Toronto condo boom prompted new mortgage rules, Flaherty says
  • Tightened lending for mortgages will cool market, but by how much?
  • Mortgage rules to sink home prices, deter use of houses 'as ATMs'
  • For many, new mortgage rules put home ownership out of reach
  • Ottawa's new mortgage rules will lead to 'long-term stability': Carney
  • Rob Carrick: Ottawa's new mortgage rules save us from ourselves
  • Boyd Erman's Streetwise: Shrinking CMHC, the beast at the centre of housing market
  • Toronto, Vancouver house prices to sink 15% over 2-3 years, TD warns
  • Debt growth slows, but income growth slows even more

Vancouver sales hit 10-year low, real estate board declares a buyer's market

VANCOUVER -- The number of residential property sales in Metro Vancouver hit a 10-year low in June, prompting the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver to declare a buyers' market.

According to a board report released Wednesday, sales of houses, townhomes and apartments dropped to 2,362 last month, a 27.6-per-cent decline compared with 3,262 sales in June 2011.

"Overall conditions have trended in favour of buyers in our marketplace in recent months," said Eugen Klein, the board's president, in a news release. "This means buyers are facing less competition and have more selection to choose from compared to earlier in the year."

Despite the claim, prices for single-detached homes continues to rise in most Metro Vancouver markets, with some increasing by as much as 7.1 per cent in the past six months.

June sales were the lowest total for the month in the region since 2000 and 32.2 per cent below the 10-year June sales average of 3,484, the report shows.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties totalled 5,617 in June, down three per cent from the year before. That brought the market's total inventory to 18,493 units, which is up 22 per cent from the same point in 2011.

Meanwhile, the report noted, some of the hottest areas a year ago were among the coolest markets after the first six months of 2012.

Vancouver's west side, for instance, saw 769 single-detached homes sell in the first six months of 2012, down substantially from the 1,310 that sold there in the red-hot first half of 2011.

Vancouver's east side similarly saw 767 single-detached sales in the first half of 2012 compared with 1,053 in the first six months of 2011.

Richmond, another of 2011's Metro Vancouver's hot spots, saw 603 single-detached sales from January to June compared with 1,111 for the same period of 2011.

Vancouver West and Richmond, for example, saw benchmark prices — the cost of a typical home — for all forms of housing stay relatively flat from January to June, with Vancouver West recording a 2.5-per-cent increase to $823,000 and Richmond's benchmark price dropping 0.6 per cent to $590,000.

Metro Vancouver as a whole saw benchmark prices rise 2.6 per cent in the six-month period to $621,000.

However, West Vancouver and Whistler led the way with hikes in the benchmark price of 7.1 per cent each to $1.65 million in West Vancouver and $594,000 in Whistler from January to June.

The board's June report said that Squamish — a town that saw prices stagnate in recent years — was third, recording a 6.4-per-cent increase in its benchmark price to $405,000.

Other communities that saw overall price hikes from January to June included Port Moody (5.2 per cent to $513,000), East Vancouver (4.7 per cent to $622,000) and Tsawwassen (4.4 per cent to $616,000).

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Ottawa Tightens Lending Rules

OTTAWA — The federal government is moving once again to tighten mortgage lending rules, announcing Thursday it’s reducing the maximum amortization period for a government-insured mortgage to 25 years from 30 years.

The decision follows warnings from banks about an overheated housing market and rising household debt levels.

The changes, announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, are the fourth 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.

Reducing the amortization period will increase monthly payments, but reduce the amount of total interest paid on a mortgage.

Click here for the federal government’s official statement

The government expects less than 5% of home buyers will be affected by the changes.

The change will lower the maximum Canadians can borrow against their home to 80% of its value, from 85%, and fix the maximum gross debt service ratio — the amount of household income available for mortgage payments — at 39% and maximum total debt service ratio at 44%.

Flaherty also announced Ottawa will limit government-backed insured mortgages to home purchases of less than $1 million.

The new rules take effect July 9, 2012.

“Our government stands behind the efforts of hard-working Canadian families to save by investing in their homes and their future,” Flaherty said in a news release. “The adjustments we are making today will help them realize their goals, build on the previous measures we have introduced to keep the housing market strong, and help to ensure households do not become overextended.”

Flaherty and some of the country’s leading economists have for months been warning that 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.

The finance minister and a handful of the economists said at the time they remained concerned about household debt levels in Canada and a somewhat overheated housing market — especially on condominiums.

Then, as now, some of the big banks suggested the federal government consider implementing “measured actions,” such as reducing the maximum amortization period for mortgages back to 25 years.

Avery Shenfeld, chief economist with CIBC World Markets and one of the handful of banking officials cautioning Flaherty about the Canadian housing market, said at the time there was “a general feeling that, more than just the condo market, the Canadian housing market is starting to get a little bit overdone in terms of price momentum.”

Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist with TD Bank Financial Group, also warned the minister about the state of the Canadian housing market and wanted the government to consider reducing the maximum amortization period down to the traditional 25 years from the current 30 years.


News coming soon.