Attending open houses of newly constructed townhomes in East Vancouver I see a lot of properties marketed for families that are totally inappropriate.  While the homes may be well priced and in a good neighbourhood, many have split their 900-1200 sq ft into 3 or 4 levels, others have no outdoor space, limited storage, etc!  These spaces are often well designed for a professional couple, but they areterrible if you have small kids who will constantly be climbing stairs, outgrowing clothing and wanting to play outdoors. At these open houses, 80-90% of the people who show up are young families, strollers or children in tow. So why do developers keep building these homes? Aand why do many Realtors think these homes are ‘family friendly’?


Helping a young family find the right home is difficult, and requires an in depth understanding of the needs of today’s family.  Of course price, size, neighbourhood and school catchment remain important, but a good agent can help a young family envision their home for years and decades to come and make the right purchase now.

  • How close would you like to be to parks, services, transit, shopping, etc.?
  • Where can you live surrounded by other young families?
  • How can you get a home that can grow with you as your family grows?
  • Do you need home office space?
  • How large of a yard or garden do you want for your child(ren)?
  • Are there any local sources of pollution or other dangers?
  • How can you best leverage your down payment, your largest investment, to maximize your economic return?

Call 604-254-2549 or email noam@noamdolgin.com to set up a conversation about what opportunities exist for your family.

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I wouldn’t and a large number of Canadians feel the same way. 


The fear of a leak and underlying concerns about the long term safety of local water and ecosystem make living by the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline a less than appealing proposition for thousands of local residents in Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Abbotsford and beyond.  


As one friend recently described it, “Since we don’t benefit from the pipeline directly, the one saving grace is that it might create affordable real estate in Metro Vancouver.” While finding a solution to the lack of affordable housing in Metro Vancouver is essential, I don’t believe the answer lies in allowing environmentally and economically questionable activities to drive down local property values to create new affordability ‘ghettos’.


But what are the economic benefits of a new pipeline? Unfortunately, information on the benefits of the project for the lower mainland are scarce, but proponents suggest it will bring jobs and tax revenue.


On the negative side, a new report released by Conversations for Responsible Economic (CRED), summarizes eight recent case studies where property values fell up to 40% after an oil spill. Losses that in BC would amount to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per household.


While it’s obvious that the economic cost of a spill would be disastrous to all levels of society, including to local real estate, I believe we will see the economic effects on local real estate and communities well before we see a spill.

In recent polling conducted by Angus Reid and commissioned by New Democratic Party MP Kennedy Stewart, 43% of Canadians said they wouldn’t even consider purchasing a home within 500 meters of a pipeline due to those concerns. Only 10% indicated it would have “no effect” on their decision making.


The concern was even stronger in Greater Vancouver where 45% respondents said they would rule out the possibility of buying the property, 23% said it would be an important factor in their decision making, 15% said it would have some effect but wouldn’t be a major factor, and only 7% indicated it would have no effect on their decision making.


I describe my work as sustainable real estate. As this is not a term people are familiar with I am often asked to define it.  Broadly speaking, sustainable real estate can take many forms.  Sustainable real estate choices reflect our values and our lifestyles, they sustain us, our community and our planet socially, economically and environmentally for years to come.  Non-sustainable land use includes policies and industrial infrastructure that threatens the economic, social and environmental health of local people and our sustaining ecosystems.”  For instance, putting a pipeline through a major metropolitan area is to be a non-sustainable choice, socially, environmentally and probably economically.


As local residents we need to remind ourselves that a spill in Metro Vancouver would threaten our health, our environment, and our economic future. Even just the potential of a spill could drive down local property values.  With huge economic risks and minimal local gains we need to stand together and oppose this project with sound social, environmental and economic arguments because reason is on our side.


Thank you CRED for your important new report, I hope it leads to more in depth analysis about the true costs of pipeline expansion.

 
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‘How is the market?’ This is the most frequent question I am asked as a real estate agent.  While the question is simple enough, the answer is surprisingly complex. The better question to ask is, ‘How is My market?’


The state of Vancouver’s real estate market is a frequent topic on the evening news.  News anchors and economic experts alike are constantly reporting the situation as either “good” as prices rise or “bad” as prices fall.  What they don’t report is what these assessments are based on and for whom is it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ news?


Recently the real estate market has been reported as ‘good’. After a year of low sale volumes and stagnant or declining prices, we are now seeing an uptick in buyer interest, sales and prices.  This broad picture of the market may be a good indicator of the state of the economy as a whole, but what does it mean for a specific individual or family?  To get an accurate assessment of the situation for a buyer or seller in a particular market we need to take a much closer look. This is where a good Realtor becomes a valuable asset.


The numbers we hear reported on the news are usually averages for all property types across the entire Greater Vancouver area. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t tell you about the specifics of your home or neighbourhood, and are disproportionally affected by high value homes and high turnover neighbourhoods.  This means they are often not reflective of median or lower priced homes or less active communities.


Moreover, the latest statistics are ‘good’, only if you are a property owner looking to downsize, refinance or move away from Vancouver.  Thirty five percent of Greater Vancouver households rent.  Most of these renters would love to own a home if they could afford it.  And of the remaining sixty five percent who own, many would like to upsize or move to a more desirable location.  Therefore, what the news calls ‘good’, is only good for a small portion of the population.


‘How is MY market?’


Your personal housing market is determined by a number of different considerations:


* Are you buying or selling? Upsizing or downsizing?


* What neighbourhood or community are you in? Where ideally would you like to live?


* If you are looking for investment properties, what are the rent and vacancy rates in a given neighbourhood?

Understanding your market is about knowing the details of your unique situation.  A professional Realtor is an essential partner in researching your market and interpreting the complexities of the real estate industry so you can make the best decision for your unique situation.

   

As an illustration, let’s consider the situation in two adjoining East Vancouver neighbourhoods; Grandview and Hastings. Even though they are close to one another, each neighbourhood has a very different feel and a different mix of condos, townhouses and single family homes. These differences lead to very different sales numbers in any given month.


For instance, during the month of April 2013, the Grandview neighbourhood was fairly active with 25% of listed homes selling. Sale prices for single family homes and townhouses were up 2.12% and 2.27% respectively, while condos were down -0.07%.


In Hastings, sale numbers for the same month were slower with less than 15% of listed homes selling. Single family homes dropper -0.7% in price while condos and townhouses were up 0.95% and 4.16% respectively.


Based on the information above, those considering selling a single family home or duplex in Grandview are in a good position right now. Houses are selling well and purchase prices are showing a modest rise.


If you’re considering selling your house or condo in the Hastings neighbourhood you’re in a different position.  Depending on your situation you might consider  waiting until prices and buyers’ interest increases. If you’re thinking of selling a townhouse or duplex in this neighbourhood expect a good price but a longer wait for a buyer. 

For those considering buying (and most sellers are buyers as well), Hastings would be a good place to look. However, while prices may have dropped in April, Hastings has been the fastest appreciating neighbourhood in East Vancouver over the last 3 months and the last 3 years. Is it an up-and-coming neighbourhood or a bubble starting to burst? To truly understand the market we must look a little deeper


These are just two examples of sub-markets in Vancouver.  Understanding the specific circumstances of your chosen area, housing type, and amenities can make all the difference in making sure you get the best deal at the right time. 


Interested in learning more about YOUR market? Call 604-254-2549 or email noam@noamdolgin.com for a free consultation.


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Looking for the best deal and investment possibility in Vancouver? Want to own a home and land,  but only have a down payment for a Condo or townhouse? Consider instead buying a Vancouver Special, with a partner.


Once you look past the exterior, Vancouver Specials turn out to be one of Vancouver’s great housing gems.  Built primarily in the 1970s, Vancouver Specials usually have two full height suites of between 900-1200 sq ft each, two or three bedrooms per floor.  They are characterized by their low-pitched roofs and porches on the front of the houses. Vancouver Specials are much sought after by renters who appreciate the full height ceilings on the lower level. These homes are ubiquitous in much of East Vancouver and Burnaby, and due to their aesthetic reputation a good deal can often be found.


Designed as an ideal home for a single family, with the benefit of a mortgage helper, Vancouver specials are an great alternative to strata living.  Whereas a 900 sq ft condo in East Vancouver may cost $400,000 and a 1200 sq ft townhouse or ½ duplex $600,000 ( $450 – $500/sq ft), a 2200 sq ft Vancouver Special can net you two 1200 sq ft dwellings for around $850,000 (less than $400/sq ft) and there are no strata fees. Plus you get a yard, garage, only have 1 partner, and more. Purchase a Vancouver Special with a friend or another family and make your money go farther!


Your partner can either be another family/friend or an investor!


Due to the lower price per square foot as compared to condos, co-investing in a Vancouver Special can be a strong investment for your partner. These investments can be cash positive from day one and return over 7% annually to the investor, even in a flat market.


So whether your co-purchaser will be living in the home or investing, consider a Vancouver Special as an appealing and affordable housing choice in Metro Vancouver.


Interested, but don’t have a partner who you might purchase with?


I can help bring you together with another like minded buyer. Be in touch for more information.


 
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Historically collaborative purchases have taken two forms. Co-ops where groups of people purchase land or property together, and co-investment from friends and family. While co-ops have proven to have a number of economic challenges, they still present an opportunity for groups of interested home owners especially those interested in new developments in alternative living.


More exciting in my opinion is the opportunities for cooperative purchase of a single family home shared between 2 people or families. Vancouver is replete with homes like the famous Vancouver Special which provides for two full high suites between 900 – 1200 sq ft. These homes are often priced up to 20% / sq ft below comparable condos, duplexes and townhouses, plus you don’t have any pesky strata payments.  Effectively form your own duplex and save up to $100,000 each.


Co-investment continues to be a viable option for people in Vancouver looking to get into the market for the first time. Many people’s investments today are only paying 1-4%, I can show you how you can offer your investor 7.6% returns based on today’s interest rates.  By leveraging your co-investment you can get more space for less money and own a home, instead of a condo.


Your social network is your greatest asset, put it to work for you to create the home, community and future you are seeking.

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When I bought my first property in Vancouver, people asked  me, why are you buying a house, shouldn’t you first buy a condo? My response was simple but confused everyone.


“I can’t afford a condo, I can only afford a house.”


For me, the issue was not down payment, fortunately I had that, the problem was that I had just moved back to Vancouver and had no job.


The great trick in the Vancouver housing market, especially for first time home owners and young families, is to skip condos, townhouses and 1/2 duplexes, and look for single family homes with 3 suites in them.  Forget mortgage helpers, think mortgage payers.


And the math is simple: (Numbers based on East Vancouver, (Feb 2013)

Rent – 2 bedroom condo = approx. $1500/ month, $0 Saved on mortgage

Own – 2 bedroom condo = approx $1900/ month, $600 Saved on mortgage

Own – 4 bedroom Home with 2 rental units

= approx $1400*/ month, $1000 saved on mortgage

(*$3400/ month - $2000/month rental income)

Pay less, save more, get more!


Owning a home, you will pay less month to month, you will save more when your mortgage is up for renewal, you can get more space, plus of course more independence, more potential for appreciation…


Of course, you do need that pesky down payment!


Contact Noam for help making your next home work for you.

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There are a number of certifications for ‘green’ homes available in Vancouver. Strangely,  these certifications are only available on new construction, no certification currently exists for older homes. But older homes are by their nature ‘greener’ since they already exist, and numerous techniques are available to upgrade and/or restore them sustainably.


Currently in Vancouver hundreds of old homes are being demolished every year for new construction.  What if we could save some of those homes, restore them with locally sourced materials, and materials reclaimed from the other demolitions.  Convert basements into affordable rental housing. What if we went further, insulating the homes, installing heat pumps and other energy saving technologies.  Shouldn’t these homes be certified ‘green’.


There is a lot of good that comes out of LEED, BuiltGreen, and the other current certification processes, but they alone do not dictate if a building is green. Consider an old fix-er upper or a restored home, they can often be the greenest choice.


If you are looking to maximize the ‘green’ potential of your home, please be in touch for tips and guidance.

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