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By Tim Parker | Investopedia

 

Did you get a brochure in the mail or an email that offered a great way to chop off six to eight years from your home

loan?

 

The way to do this, according to the brochure, is to no longer pay one monthly mortgage payment but instead, pay

every two weeks. The conventional logic is that increasingly the frequency of the payments doesn't allow interest to

build up and over the course of a 30- or 15-year mortgage that can equal years eliminated from your loan.

 

Before you sign up for these biweekly payments, let's see if the accepted logic is actually true and if you're really

saving money.

 

Better Credit?
According to Bankrate, some people believe that making biweeklypayments improves their credit, but this is no

more than a myth according to experts. Using a biweekly payment schedule set up by your mortgage lender puts

you on an automatic withdrawal plan that assures that your payments are made on time. If you're the type of

person who misses payments from time to time because you forgot to write the check, an automatic payment

schedule will improve your credit because of the on time payments, but you can get the same advantage with an

automatic monthly payment too.

 

Reduces Interest?
Sadly, this is another myth not to believe. Depending on the particulars of your loan, there is a good chance that

the company receiving your mortgage payment isn't the company that holds the loan. Although you're paying twice

per month, the servicer receiving your payment isn't making biweekly payments to the company who owns your

loan. They're likely holding it in an account until the end of the month.

 

But does this mean that the interest that is building up isn't reduced? Remember that each calendar year has 52

weeks and if each month has four weeks that would only be 48 weeks. This means that biweekly payments won't

consist of two payments each month but instead, 26 half payments which equals the equivalent of 13 monthly

payments in a year. If the math is a little tough to follow, it works like this: Biweekly payments are equal to 13

monthly payments in a year where making traditional monthly payments are equal to 12 payments each year. By

paying an extra month, you're paying extra principal which shaves six to eight years off the life of the loan over

time.

 

But do you have to make bimonthly payments to do that? You could divide the amount of one month's payment by

12 and add that amount to your monthly mortgage payment. If you're paying $1,500 per month, divide 1,500 by 12

and make your monthly payment $1625. Talk to your mortgage company first to make sure there isn't something

more you have to do to make sure it is applied to the principal amount of your loan.

 

Don't Make it a Contract
There are two problems with answering the call from your lender for biweekly payments. First, the reason they

want to sign you up for this plan is because there will be a fee and that's more revenue for the bank. They are

charging you to give them a two week loan, according to Bankrate. Second, most consumers already have enough

contractual payment obligations in their life. Especially for those without a lot of financial reserves, it is better to

keep some flexibility in your budgeting rather than committing to the biweekly payments. You can always make

extra payments when you get three paychecks in a month, receive a tax refund or come in to unexpected money.

 

The Bottom Line
Don't fall for the advertisement to make biweekly payments through a bank or mortgage servicer sponsored plan.

In this case, the benefits do not outweigh the gains.

Read

Handout

 

By 

 

VANCOUVER — There’s a deep, gaping hole in downtown Vancouver and it’s getting bigger. After nearly four

years’ hiatus, work crews have resumed digging. The on-again, off-again 63-storey building on busy West

Georgia Street is on, again. Almost 300 condominiums, starting at $1-million each. A luxury hotel. Amenities

galore. Another indication of the froth that has returned to this city’s real estate scene.

 

Number crunchers report that housing prices are down slightly in Vancouver this year; in Toronto, the country’s

second most expensive real estate market, prices continue to rise. But economic conditions and logic don’t apply

in all corners of this city.

 

It still beckons wealthy and foreign investors, people besotted by glass condominium towers. People with cash to

burn on a “safe haven” second home with sweeping ocean and mountain views.

 

 

Across Vancouver, stunning new condominium developments are being planned. And selling out, within hours.

It’s reminiscent of the previous decade, when developers set about transforming a town notorious for leaky

condos into a forest of gleaming, premium-priced skyboxes. Buyers seemed prepared to oblige.

 

Before the economic crash in 2008 (and his death a year later) famed local architect Arthur Erickson put his mark

on the West Georgia Street tower. The building would be defined by its “hyperbolic parabloids,” elements intended

to make the building seem to turn 45 degrees in the sky.

 

Parabloids weren’t the only hyperbolic flourish. A 7,400-square-foot penthouse suite was offered for sale, asking

price $28-million. Other units, less regal but still grand, were pre-sold at $2,300 per square foot, a Canadian

record. The Ritz-Carlton agreed to put its name on the 24-storey hotel.

 

Then the markets tumbled and the Ritz waltzed away. Work stopped. Down payments were returned. Joo Kim

Tiah, the project’s Malaysian-born developer, was forced to make adjustments. He added density and efficiencies,

more condominiums and hotel rooms. The City of Vancouver approved his revisions in 2009, but the market had

moved on. The excavation pit was cleared of equipment and that’s how it sat, empty and forlorn.

 

‘People are really tired of the s— that’s being built in this city. People want to see something
good’

 

Last Friday, the workers returned. Should everything go as planned, Vancouver’s turning tower will be completed

in four years. “I want to make sure I get it right this time,” says Mr. Tiah, who is just 32 years old.

 

It’s still a gamble, of course; building $500-million condominium towers is not for the risk-averse, even here, even

now. Reports that the apartments on West Georgia Street will be priced at $1,500 per square foot “raised a few

eyebrows, for sure,” says Jeff Hancock, senior manager of MPC Intelligence, a local firm that collects real estate

data and performs analyses for banks and other clients. “There’s always room for high-end product, but the

demand is concentrated in certain areas and among certain buyers, such as the Asian-Chinese buying

demographic. The Chinese are very savvy investors, very value oriented with long-term vision. They want

convenient locations that are near transit.”

 

In Vancouver, such opportunities are rare; when a new project is announced in any downtown location, or beside

one of the city’s elevated transit stations, investors line up to buy. In March, a 415-unit condominium project on the

three-year-old Canada Line sold out within a few hours. Later the same month, all 428 condominiums to be built

inside a new residential-commercial project downtown were pre-sold, again in a matter of hours. The

development will be headquarters for communications Telus, and is expected to cost $750-million to complete.

Site demolition and preparation began in February.

 

Telus Garden is big and bold, but it’s not a huge stretch for developer Ian Gillespie, president of Vancouver-based

Westbank Development Corp. Among other projects, Mr. Gillespie and his firm are responsible for the ambitious

Woodward’s complex that has changed the face of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, and two Shangri-

La hotel and condo towers, one here, the other in Toronto. Impressive feats, especially since several projects

were completed after the economic downturn.

 

Now comes another audacious project, a 600-unit, 49-storey condo tower with separate retail buildings and a

daycare, designed by a Dane, Bjarke Ingels, one of the most celebrated architects of the day. The buildings are to

be set betwixt traffic viaducts leading to Vancouver’s Granville Bridge, which spans False Creek and connects the

city’s crowded downtown core to its verdant west side.

 

‘All the low-hanging fruit has been picked’

 

It’s not an obvious location, but there aren’t many options left. “All the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” notes Mr.

Gillespie. The project footprint “is restricted to a small triangle, tiny even by Vancouver standards,” says Mr. Ingels,

who came up with an interesting solution: The main tower broadens as it rises. “As the tower ascends, it clears

the noise, exhaust and visual invasion of the bridge,” Mr. Ingels explains in Westbank’s rezoning application, filed

with the city in January. “Our design reclaims the lost area as the tower clears the zone of influence of the bridge,

gradually cantilevering out over our own site.”

 

The project has generated excitement, thanks in large part to Mr. Ingels’ involvement and his aggressive design.

There are skeptics who say it may never be realized. It will, vows Mr. Gillespie.

 

“People are really tired of the s— that’s being built in this city,” he says. “People want to see something good.” And

he’s betting they’ll shell out for good over bad.

Read

Carla Wintersgill  and Jesse McLean shown in front of their first home in Toronto,  ( April 4, 2012)

 

By Carla Wintersgill | Moneyville

 

I spotted a gray hair in the mirror the other day. It’s not a coincidence its appearance corresponded with my first

morning in our new home.

 

Last week, my boyfriend, Jesse, and I moved into a tiny two-bedroom, two-bathroom house in East York. Since

buying our first home in late January, we’ve endured a bidding war, a termite scare, a tax surprise, endless

paperwork and spent nearly every dollar we have to grab our own slice ofToronto real estate.

 

It’s a miracle all my hair isn’t grey.

It’s with 20/20 hindsight I can now see the things we should have done differently to make the process easier on

ourselves.

 

The first would be to spend more time researching the process.

 

Buying a home means bouncing between three professionals — realtor, banker and lawyer — whose efforts

you’re responsible for coordinating. It helps if you understand what’s going on. Often we didn’t, instead counting

on the person we were dealing with to prompt us on the next step.

 

They say that ignorance is bliss, but, in our case, ignorance usually led to a series of frantic phone calls about

something we should have taken care of sooner.

 

“Do your homework,” Mary Stergiadis of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation says.

She recommends attending a first-time homebuyers seminar, where potential purchasers are able to meet with

realtors, mortgage lenders and real estate lawyers to get a better feel for what really goes into buying a house. It’s

also a chance to become familiar with the real estate jargon that is a part of the transaction.

 

“Sometimes mortgage professionals forget that we’re dealing with first-time buyers,” she says.

 

Before even thinking about dipping your toe in the market, it’s important to understand all the costs of buying a

home and maintaining the property in the future, Stergiadis says.

 

Websites of organizations such as the CMHC and the Canadian Real Estate Association are filled with factsheets,

videos and toolkits for buyers to adequately prepare themselves for the process of buying a home.

 

The most embarrassing oversight Jesse and I made during the sale was not realizing there are both a municipal 

land transfer tax (in Toronto only) and a provincial land transfer tax. That’s a $3,400 miscalculation. And, because

Jesse’s name is a on a family property, we don’t qualify for the first-time homebuyers land transfer tax refund.

 

We also didn’t realize all the land transfer tax would be due to our lawyer before closing. We ended up borrowing

$600 from Jesse’s mother to make our closing costs because a cheque we deposited into our account hadn’t

cleared in time to be included in the money order.

 

If you think you have enough money saved up for a house, save another $10,000.

 

Everywhere we turned, there was another service that needed to be paid for: electrician, locksmith, home

inspector, furnace technician, looming property tax, etc. Not to mention the buckets and buckets of paint and

supplies we bought to spruce the place up.

 

As our bank accounts were dwindling, we could have done more to find potential savings, Stergiadis says. I did

qualify as a first-time homebuyer and could have taken advantage of the Home Buyers’ Plan, which would have

allowed me to withdraw up to $25,000 tax-free from my Registered Retirement Savings Plan.

 

I don’t have that much in savings, but I could have done what Stergiadis and her husband did when purchasing

their first home. They deposited their down payment in an RRSP, collected a sizeable tax return to help manage

closing costs and buy new appliances, and withdrew the cash when it was time to buy the house. The only catch

to the Home Buyers’ Plan is that the RRSP must be paid back within 15 years.

 

Very smart. Too bad we didn’t think of that.

 

Lastly, if we could do it all again, we would try to relax a little bit more. The whole home-buying process was a

series of snafus. But no matter how many mistakes we made, eventually the sale worked itself out. I couldn’t be

prouder of our little house.

 

I may have grey hairs now, but the tradeoff was worth it.

Read

Different stages of life demand different housing and financing options

 
BY HARVEY ENCHIN, VANCOUVER SUN

The housing needs of a single 20-something are not the same as a parent 20 years older, which differ from those

of a senior citizen.

 

According to Statistics Canada, home ownership rises quickly to the early 40s, and continues to climb at a slower

pace until reaching a plateau of more than 75 per cent near age 65. The home ownership rate changes little from

age 65-74 but starts declining after 75.

 

The first choice of a new household is typically an inexpensive apartment close to amenities that cater to a

younger demographic. At the dawn of the child-rearing years, the household may seek single-unit housing,

perhaps a detached house in the suburbs or a townhouse in the city, in neighbourhoods where families with

children dominate. The elderly may choose a condominium in a community of their contemporaries to free them

from the burden of housing maintenance and enhance their sense of security.

 

As households move through this life cycle, their financing needs change along with their housing requirements.

 

Vancouver's tight rental market pushes many young people who might otherwise be expected to rent an apartment

into home ownership. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. recently estimated Vancouver's rental vacancy rate at

1.4 per cent, compared with the Canadian average of 2.4 per cent. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment

was $1,237, up 2.4 per cent from a year earlier, and the highest of any census metropolitan area in the country. No

wonder 22 per cent of those under 25 and living away from their parents' home, have chosen to become

homeowners.

 

It's not a choice everyone can make. The average qualifying income to buy a standard condominium in Vancouver

is $74,700, while the median household income is under $68,000.

 

Once the qualification hurdle has been passed, lenders can provide up to 95 per cent of the purchase price if the

mortgage is insured. There are federal and provincial programs to assist first-time buyers, such as the federal

home buyers' plan - allowing for withdrawals up to $25,000 from a registered retirement savings plan - and the

B.C. first-time new home buyers' bonus, a rebate of five per cent of the price of a newly built (or extensively

renovated) home to a maximum of $10,000. First-time buyers were the subject of a separate article in this series.

 

As family composition, age and incomes change, many households will be faced with the decision to move or

renovate to accommodate these new circumstances. Neither option is worry-free.

 

Moving can be an expensive undertaking. There are commissions, legal fees and taxes on the sale of one home

and purchase of another as well as moving costs, utility relocation charges and minor repair and staging

expenses. In a world where time is money, the hours spent finding a new home should be considered too.

 

It is also probable that moving to a new home will mean a bigger financial commitment on a more expensive

property. The TD Canada Trust repeat home buyers' survey last year found that B.C. homeowners move to larger

and more luxurious homes sooner than they had expected.

 

And they do so more often than elsewhere in Canada, being most likely to have owned more than four homes in

their lifetime.

 

"Our research indicates that British Columbians aren't staying in one home too long," said Barry Rathburn,

manager, residential mortgages at TD Canada Trust. "There are costs associated with a move, so I'd recommend

people explore all their options before making the decision to change homes."

 

This restlessness, or rootlessness, is one reason the fine print on a mortgage can be as important as the rate.

Depending on its terms, a lender may port the mortgage and increase the amount. The borrower gets the lender's

current rate on the "new money," and that rate is then blended with the rate on the existing mortgage. A "port and

increase" clause also eliminates the penalty for breaking a mortgage on the sale of the home.

 

Alternatively, the seller may be able to use an existing lowrate mortgage as an incentive for a buyer, if the

mortgage has "assumability" provisions. This also avoids the penalty.

 

While moving can be expensive and traumatic, renovating could be even more so.

 

Besides the cost, there are challenges to living in a building site during a renovation and dealing with contractors.

What's more, an extensive renovation could add more value to a home than its neighbourhood is worth.

 

A house is a consumption good, a product, and as such has a price limit.

 

Given the frequency with which B.C. homeowners move, it's unlikely the cost of a major renovation can be

recouped. Renovation experts say the best returns on investment come from the simplest things: curb appeal,

flowers, well-groomed shrubbery, power-washed siding; and interior paint and new carpeting. A kitchen makeover

may return only 50 per cent of the investment, but new counter tops, fixtures and appliances could add more to the

selling price than their cost.

 

One of the most popular means of financing renovations is with a home equity line of credit, which allows the

homeowner to draw on equity built in the home. But there may be appraisal and legal costs to arrange it, which

could be avoided by opting for a personal line of credit or a personal loan.

 

Mortgage refinancing is another way to obtain funding, but borrowers need to be confident that the larger monthly

payment is manageable.

 

As StatsCan has pointed out, homeowners tend to retain ownership until 75, by which time most owners are not

facing financing issues.

 

They can sell their property and use the proceeds to buy a condo or rent, or take out a reverse mortgage and leave

the debt obligation that accrues to their heirs.

 

MORTGAGE ESSENTIALS:

 

The second of a six-part series taking an in-depth look at aspects of home lending.

 

APRIL 20: Advice for first-time buyers.

TODAY: Upsizing, downsizing or renovations.

MAY 4: Laneway homes

MAY 11: Recreational properties

MAY 18: Mortgages and strata

MAY 25: Your home, your investment

 

CONSIDER THE COST OF MAINTENANCE WHEN BUYING A HOME

 

A mortgage is the biggest financial burden of home ownership, but it's not the only one.

 

The cost of maintenance is often overlooked when buyers plan their real estate purchase, but is a major expense

that should be considered in the decision.

 

Both Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada estimate annual

maintenance costs at one to three per cent of the value of the property.

 

On a $500,000 home, that amounts to $5,000 to $15,000 a year, or more than $400 to $1,250 a month.

 

Those sums might sound crazy, and in the unique market of Vancouver, it probably is for reasons we'll examine.

 

Assuming a mortgage of $350,000 at 3.5 per cent with a 25-year amortization, the monthly payment works out to

$1,756. Even the low end of maintenance costs would add 22 per cent to that payment, for a total of $2,156. That

could make the difference between happy and house poor.

 

Unless a homeowner is especially handy, many jobs will need to be performed by skilled tradesmen, particularly

if a repair involves gas or electricity. As any homeowner can tell you, things wear out, fall apart or break down more

frequently than you might imagine.

 

A minor job such as a clogged drain can easily cost $200 or more if the work is done by a licensed plumber; a

new roof will set you back a minimum of $10,000.

 

Then there are exterior and interior painting to do, carpets or flooring to renew, plumbing and electrical fixtures to

repair or replace, furnaces and hot water tanks to service, appliances and furniture to buy, fences to fix, decks to

rebuild and lawns and gardens to maintain.

 

Still, setting aside a fund to cover these expenses may not be the best use of money.

 

The cash could be used instead to pay down the mortgage more quickly, thereby saving thousands in interest

charges; or invested in the stock or bond markets.

 

Besides, the estimation of maintenance costs based on property value is illogical.

 

A new home under warranty will not have the same maintenance profile as a 100-year-old character house in an

advanced state of deterioration, although both may carry the same price tag.

 

While painting, plumbing, lawn care and weatherstripping are frequent recurring expenses, replacing the roof

happens once in 20 years while appliances have a life of 10-15 years.

 

Calculating a monthly cost for these expenses is useful only as an exercise in arithmetic.

 

The reason the maintenance estimate makes even less sense in Vancouver is that most of the value is in the

land.

 

B.C. Assessment puts a value of $818,000 on an east-side bungalow, but only $85,000 of that value is for the

building. Based exclusively on building value, the estimate of monthly maintenance costs is about $70 to $200 a

month.

 

Homeowners obsessed about these things might want to arrange a sinking fund in which to set aside a certain

amount of money according to a depreciation schedule, as businesses do for accounting purposes.

 

But following the advice from many financial planners to build up a fund of three months income as an emergency

reserve should be more than adequate to serve as a cushion for major events such as roof leaks, furnace

breakdowns and appliance failures.

 

Regular repairs should be manageable from cash flow. That's why buyers need to carefully consider their

financial resources before taking on a big mortgage.

 

It's one reason lenders prefer home buyers allot no more than 30 per cent of gross income to carrying costs.

They'll need some of that remaining 70 per cent one day to spend on drywall and caulking.

Read

National home prices show signs of easing

Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes.

 

BY JOHN MORRISSY, FINANCIAL POST

 

OTTAWA — Homes prices edged down 0.2 per cent in February from the month before but were still 6.1 per cent

higher than a year ago, according to a well-watched housing index.

 

The month-over-month decline was the third such retreat in the past four months for the Teranet-National Bank

National Composite House Price Index, released Wednesday, which measures price changes for repeat sales of

single-family homes.

 

In January, prices rose 0.1 per cent.

 

Teranet's report showed prices falling from the previous month in six of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed.

 

In Canada's two hottest real-estate markets, prices in Vancouver fell 0.3 per cent, the fifth consecutive decline,

while prices in Toronto rose by just 0.1 per cent. On a yearly basis, however, Toronto prices were 10 per cent

higher.

 

Nationally, prices were 6.1 per cent higher than a year ago. In January, prices were 6.5 per cent higher.

 

The data is likely to show up on the radar of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, who has repeatedly warned

that Canadians are piling on too much debt as they buy homes whose prices keep rising.

 

At a House of Commons finance committee meeting Tuesday, Carney warned that house prices in relation to

income levels are now running 35 per cent above historical norms.

 

Last week, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported that seasonally adjusted sales in March rose 1.6 per

cent from year-earlier levels, although the national average home price declined 0.5 per cent to to $369,677.

 

"It is a fact that according to CREA (the Canadian Real Estate Association) data for March, five of the 11 markets

covered were rather favourable to sellers (Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Halifax and Quebec City). Overall, the

Canadian market is nevertheless balanced," said National Bank senior economist Marc Pinsonneault.

 

Postmedia News

 

Twitter.com/johnmorrissy

 

Metropolitan area % change m/m / % change y/y

 

Calgary / -0.6 % / +1.3 %

 

Edmonton / -1.0 % / +1.1 %

 

Halifax / +0.4 % / +2.3 %

 

Hamilton / -0.8 % / +7.5 %

 

Montreal / +0.2 % / +4.4 %

 

Ottawa / -0.4 % / +4.6 %

 

Quebec / +1.6 % / +5.6 %

 

Toronto / 0.1 % / +10.0 %

 

Vancouver / -0.3 % / +6.2 %

 

Victoria / -1.1 % / -1.7 %

 

Winnipeg / +0.2 % / +8.2 %

 

National Composite / -0.2 % / +6.1 %

 

Source: Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index

Read

Slideshow image

 

By: Darcy Wintonyk and Lynda Steele, ctvbc.ca

Date: Tuesday Apr. 24, 2012 9:26 AM PT

 

Could you live in a home that is just 200 square feet?

 

A new breed of so-called "micro-lofts," some as small as the size of two parking spaces, are being hailed as a

small solution to some of Vancouver's biggest housing problems.

 

Ranging from 226 to 291 sq. feet, the units, located in the once-condemned Burns Block building on West

Hastings Street, are compact and clever living spaces that are the smallest rental units in the country.

 

Furnished with built-in tables, Murphy bed, flat-screen TV with free cable, and a galley-style washroom, the

heritage units rent for around $800 a month. The three-piece bathroom has a showerhead installed directly above

the toilet to save space.

 

Tenant Jace Ardiel, a human resources specialist, isn't deterred by the lack of breathing room.

 

"It's perfect for me. I'm not home very often. I would much rather spend all the extra money I would pay in rent on

travelling," he told CTV's Steele on Your Side.

 

If tenants feel the need to escape their tiny digs, the building features a 1,000-sq.-ft rooftop deck, complete with

garden. There's also a basement gym and bicycle storage.

 

Developer Jon Stovell of Reliance Properties says all 30 micro suites were rented in days when they were

released in September 2011, mostly by young people who have a different view of life in the big city.

 

"The city is your living room. The city is your dining room. You don't need to use your own resources to recreate all

that when you can just step out your door and enjoy a park, a beach, a restaurant, a café," Stovell said.

 

With rent calculated at 30 per cent of gross income, Stovell said the units would be considered affordable for

people with an income of $26,400 annually.

 

The building used to be a dilapidated eyesore in historic Gastown -- a rundown rooming house forced to close in

2006 because of fire and safety violations.

 

Some housing advocates wanted it reborn as low-income housing but city councillor Kerry Jang says diversity in

the rental market is important, especially in a city with sky-high rents.

 

"If we really want to solve Vancouver's housing crisis, whether you're a homeless person on the street or a new

couple looking to buy their first home, we have to be able to provide a range of housing," he said.

 

The developer is building another micro-loft complex in east Vancouver that one will sell suites in the 300-square-

foot range for about $170,000. There's also another building planned for Victoria.

 

Ardiel said he would "absolutely" buy one: "If this was for sale I would have bought it. I just think it's such a smart

investment."

 

Watch CTV tonight as Lynda Steele tours this mini housing solution, and take a look at the amenities packed into

200 square feet.

 


Read

 

By Michele Lerner | Bankrate.com

 

If you rented out your home to a tenant instead of selling the house during a slow market, you might be ready

now to put it on the market. The effort to sell a home can be complicated by the presence of a renter.

 

While many real estate agents recommend waiting until your lease expires and selling your home without a renter

in residence, not all landlords can afford to have their home vacant for a few months during the transition. In

addition, local regulations can impact the process of selling an investment property.

 

"The first thing any landlord should do is to check out the local tenant-landlord rules," says Patricia Kennedy, an

associate broker with Evers & Co. Real Estate in Washington, D.C. "The rules vary from one jurisdiction to

another. For instance, in D.C., tenants have the right of first refusal when a home goes on the market and again

when an offer comes in."

 

Kennedy suggests that homeowners start the sales process by communicating clearly with the tenants and

asking if they want to buy the home.

 

Ben Hoefer, a Realtor with John L. Scott Real Estate in Seattle, says, "There are some exceptions and some great

tenants that keep a place in good condition and are cooperative. But in general, having a tenant can have a

negative impact on a home that's on the market. Normally, the home drops in value because of the condition of the

home and the lack of access for agents and prospective buyers."

 

Kennedy says many real estate agents are reluctant to show buyers a tenant-occupied home because they expect

resistance to allowing visitors into the property and assume the condition will be less than optimal. "Smart tenants

can hold up a sale for as long as year if they don't want to move," she says.

 

Selling a vacant home has some drawbacks as well, including a lack of rental income while the home is on the

market.

 

"An empty home can be staged with some furniture and plants," says Donald Marcy, a Realtor with Coldwell

Banker Residential Brokerage in Madison, N.J. "The bigger issues are the lack of income and the fact that the

homeowner will have to pay utilities. Depending on the location of the home, there may also be concerns about

security and about things like pipes freezing."

Tenant cooperation

 

For those homeowners who do choose to sell with a tenant in residence, Marcy says landlords need to

communicate clearly and try to get the tenant to cooperate.

 

"It's one thing if the tenant already wants to move, but a tenant who doesn't want to move can be hostile," Marcy

says. "The owners need to explain what they are doing and why, and they need to set up a protocol for how and

when the home will be shown."

 

Marcy says tenants should be told the keys won't be just handed out to anyone who wants to see the place, and

that an agent or the owner will accompany prospective buyers.

 

Anyone who has sold a home knows the stress involved with keeping the home constantly neat and clean, along

with vacating whenever a buyer wants to see it, but at least homeowners have the incentive of making a sale.

Realtors suggest providing an incentive to tenants to get them to cooperate.

 

"Money always talks," says Liz Sidorowicz, a broker with Re/Max Signature in Chicago. "You can offer to give the

tenants 50 percent off their rent for a month if they'll keep the place clean and let in prospective buyers and their

agents."

 

Marcy recommends offering something such as a gift certificate for dinner for two during each month the home is

on the market. "You need to ask the tenants to keep the beds made and dishes out of the sink, but you also need

to remind them to keep cash, jewelry, firearms, prescription drugs and anything embarrassing out of sight of

prospective buyers," he says. "Giving them some type of incentive should encourage them to cooperate with

buyers."

 

Kennedy says reassurances about the safety of the tenants and their belongings should be given along with an

incentive such as a rent rebate at settlement. "Landlords need to recognize that the tenants see the property as

their home, not a commodity," she says.

 

Hoefer recommends offering a free hotel room for the renters on the weekend of an open house or some other

perk that might make life easier for them.

 

"Rental rates have gone up in many areas, so offering to pay the difference in rent for a couple of months or finding

them a rental agent and providing recommendations can also encourage cooperation," Hoefer says.

Read

 

By Chris Morris | Bankrate.com

 

Making a home sale has never been a lot of fun -- but in this economy, it's even worse.

 

If you've followed the usual chestnuts about boosting curb appeal and staging your living room properly, but still

aren't getting any bites, there are other ways to help catch a buyer's eye.

 

Bankrate.com spoke with real estate agents to get their best tips on how to move a house in the quickest amount

of time -- without giving the place away.

Get an appraisal

Knowing what a professional appraiser believes your house is worth is a good reality check on a couple of fronts.

 

First, it gives you a realistic target price -- versus your own beliefs -- that can be factored in with recent comparable

sales. It also gives you an idea of what sort of home loan a buyer can get.

 

"It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the price," says Naomi Brodbar, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Princeton

Junction, N.J. "You can take any figures in the market and make them work to your advantage. With this, you know if

you're in the right ballpark."

 

You'll likely pay about $300 to $400 for the report.

 

Pre-inspect before listing

Buyers want to see that you've cared for the home during your time there. An indisputable way to showcase that is

to hire a home inspectorto go through the house with a fine-toothed comb and to rectify any major issues the

inspector finds.

 

Of course, the buyer is going to hire his or her own inspector -- but this helps convince the buyer that the home has

been kept up well. It also prevents the buyer from issuing a laundry list of demanded fixes, which some buyers do

in an effort to further lower the sales price after their offer is accepted.

 

"It says 'We've thought enough of this property to make sure that if there are any unforeseen problems, then we

have taken care of them for you,'" says Dorcas Helfant-Browning, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Virginia Beach,

Va., and past president of the National Association of Realtors.

Offer a home warranty

Everyone likes a security blanket. Home warranties give buyers an assurance that if something goes wrong with

any of the major appliances, plumbing or electrical systems in the house, they won't have to shell out a lot to get

them fixed.

 

As the seller, you'll also reap some of the benefits, as many plans provide additional coverage for when your

house is on the market. This can be particularly beneficial when you go through the inspection process after you've

accepted an offer.

 

Plans generally cost between $300 and $450, with extra charges for some appliances (such as your washer or

dryer) and items like a pool or hot tub.


Consider cash incentives

No matter how perfect you think your house is, the new owners will want to change something about it. It could be

the paint, landscaping or even the front door.

 

Acknowledging this upfront and offering a cash incentive to pay for those improvements could make your house

stand out from the competition.

 

It also gives you the upper hand. Because you're setting the amount of the incentive -- say, $1,000 or so -- you can

work that into your house's asking price to recoup the outlay.

Take care of post-move expenses

Moving is tough for everyone, so consider making the buyer's life easier by contracting a service to mow the yard

through the summer. Taking care of the tab for pool cleaning is another type of incentive that you can work back

into the price.

 

And because everyone likes to be catered to, it can also give your house an edge if a buyer is trying to decide

between yours and another.

Remain flexible on the price

Many buyers offer their home with a floor price in mind -- one they're absolutely not willing to go below. It becomes

a point of pride in what can be an emotional process. That can be dangerous.

 

In the long run, an extra $1,000 (or even $3,000) is a drop in the bucket -- and it's not worth fighting over, even if it's

below your floor price. But what about an offer that's $5,000 or even $10,000 below what you were hoping to get?

 

"Buyers don't care what your minimum price is," says Leslie Nichols, a broker for Nichols & Associates Real

Estate in Houston. "Price is the most important thing. ... Price will overcome location. Price will overcome condition.

Price will overcome everything else."

 

Before automatically rejecting a low offer, consider a few factors and be brutally honest with yourself. Determine

how many months that shortcoming works out to in terms of your regular mortgage and utility expenses. What are

the odds you'll get an acceptable offer in that time period? If they're not excellent, give the "bad" offer a second look.

 

Explore an auction

Real estate auctions generally are associated with foreclosed properties. But all types of homeowners now are

exploring auctions as a way to sell their homes.

 

Admittedly, there is some risk. You'll have to pay the auction company to market and advertise your home before

the auction -- whether you reach a sale or not. But if you're in the right market, it can be an effective way to quickly

and profitably move a house.

 

"They can be good in markets where inventories are lean," says Helfant-Browning. "But I find them less successful

in markets where there's heavy inventory."

Read

 

By Michele Lerner | Bankrate.com

 

It's not always easy to find a mortgage lender. The first step, naturally, is to check mortgage rates on

Bankrate.com. But that's not the final step. Selecting a mortgage lender should be based on more than just the

lowest rate. Gather a few rate quotes, and then follow up with some research and interviews before you choose

the lender who is right for you.

 

"You want to sit down with two or three lenders to make sure you find one who's a good fit, the right match for you

as a borrower rather than a product pusher," says Michael Jablonski, executive vice president and retail production

manager for BB&T Home Mortgage. "Mortgage lending should be a collaborative process."

 

A good lender can qualify you for a loan and offer advice on ways to improve your credit and should talk to you

about mortgage payments in context with the rest of your financial plan.

 

Asking friends, family and co-workers for lender referrals can be helpful, along with checking with a local bank,

suggests Arlene Allert, vice president and regional manager of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in San Francisco.

Reputable real estate agents can give recommendations, too.

 

Brian Martucci, a senior loan officer with GetLoans.com in Washington, D.C., says consumers should check on a

lender's reputation for getting loans to completion and their experience in addition to comparing mortgage rates.

 

If you are happy with your bank or credit union, you might want to check on their mortgage loan programs, but

Martucci says you shouldn't expect special treatment such as a lower mortgage rate or discounts on fees. Some

banks offer incentives to their customers and others don't, Allert says.

Lender interviews

 

"You don't have to apply for a loan to ask questions," says Cindy Tessier, assistant vice president at Navy Federal

Credit Union in Vienna, Va. "You can find out a lot by simply calling to ask about loan programs. If the loan officer is

hard to reach or gives you a hard sell, you may not want to work with that lender."

 

Allert says: "Ask if they can explain in language you understand what each option means for you, not just today but

for the long term. You also need to find someone who will agree to set expectations upfront, including how long

the loan process will take, how often you'll communicate and how you'll communicate -- such as by email or

phone."

One of the most important questions, Martucci says, is about turnaround time because so many mortgage loans

today are delayed.

 

Tessier recommends asking who will service your loan because if your loan will be sold, it might be more difficult

to track someone down later who can help you with any issues.

 

Michael Astorino, field mortgage manager at Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Va., says, "You should ask what

happens if the appraisal comes in too low or your rate lock expires before closing or there are other problems at

the last minute, because your lender should be able to help you set expectations and commit to getting you to

settlement."

 

Astorino says consumers should expect the lender to ask questions in return about long-term plans for

homeownership and overall financial goals. "You want someone who focuses on you, not on your loan," Astorino

says.

Comparing mortgage loans

 

"Every lender handles things slightly differently, but you should be able to get a written statement or spreadsheet

that gives you a side-by-side comparison of different loan programs," Allert says.

 

To simplify loan comparisons, Martucci suggests asking only about the interest rate and points on a loan along

with the lender fees. "You don't need to ask about taxes and insurance because you can do that later, and that isn't

likely to vary from lender to lender," says Martucci.

 

Astorino suggests that consumers focus first on overall goals such as paying off the loan in a certain number of

years or keeping the monthly payments as low as possible, then zeroing in on the lender's fees and the annual

percentage rate, or APR.

 

The ultimate goal, getting to the settlement table with your financing in place, should be met as long as you have

chosen a lender who communicates well and offers a consultative approach, Allert says.

Read

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Read

Prepare for buying a home

 
By Dana Dratch | Bankrate.com
 
Before you make an offer on a house, it pays to ask a handful of questions. While the answers
might scare you off or make you rethink your bid, they could make you feel more confident that
you're making the right move on the right house.
 

As you prepare for buying a home, here are seven questions to ask before you make the offer.

What is this property worth in today's market? 

For ethical reasons, agents can't tell you how much to offer, says C.D. "Chip" Boring,
broker/owner of Re/Max Realty Plus in Sebring, Fla. Instead of asking directly how much the home
is worth, you ask indirectly, by seeking information about comparable sales, or "comps."
 

An agent should arm you with plenty of comparables -- prices of similar, nearby homes that have been sold

recently -- along with high and low ranges for a particular property, Boring says.

 

Your agent can tell you how long homes are staying on the market, and the percentage of the asking price sellers

are getting, says Dick Gaylord, past president of the National Association of Realtors and broker with Re/Max Real

Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. This information tells you how hot the market is where you are looking, he

says.

 

Also ask how long the property has been on the market. If it's been languishing for months with nary an offer, it

could be slow market or it could be overpriced, says Robert Irwin, author of "Tips and Traps When Negotiating

Real Estate."

How flexible is the seller on the asking price? 

If you insult the seller with a lowball offer, you could lose your shot at the house. To avoid
offending the homeowner, ask the seller's agent how firm the seller is on price, Irwin says. You
can have this conversation directly with the seller's agent or have your agent ask the question.
 

Keeping it in terms of "how flexible are they on the price?" instead of "how much less will they take?" allows you to

feel out the situation without offending the seller, Irwin says.

 

Not every seller will be willing to bargain, so if your strategy is to make lowball offers, plan to make "offers on

several properties before you connect with a seller who will deal," Irwin says.

 

A question that often goes hand-in-hand: Is the seller willing to help with the closing costs?

 

On foreclosed homes, a seller's contribution to closing costs "certainly is common with Fannie Mae and Freddie

Mac because they want to sell their properties," Gaylord says. "And sellers who have equity in their property and

want to help are helping."

What's wrong with this house?

"One of the things that's happening now is every house is in 'perfect condition,'" Irwin says. "The sellers really want

to get rid of the properties, so they're failing to disclose any real problems."

 

Take the direct approach, he says. Ask: "Is there a problem with this house?"

 

Irwin recommends reminding sellers that with inspections and disclosures, chances are you'll find any problems.

"So if the sellers just get it out in the open, they'll avoid wasting your time and theirs," he says.

 

Some sellers' agents recommend a home inspection before putting the home on the market, Boring says. If one

has been done, ask to read it.

 

Some states, such as Texas, mandate disclosure forms in which sellers have to reveal any issues or problems

with the house, says James Foltz, who recently bought a home there.

 

In his case, the disclosure not only provided information, but it also started a dialogue with the seller. Foltz learned

that there had been a problem and that it had been fixed. In the end, Foltz says, "It wasn't that big a deal."

Is this home in a flood plain? 

Living in a flood plain can require flood insurance, which can affect the cost of living in the house,
Foltz says. Be sure to ask if the home is in a flood plain.
 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, posts free online maps that show if your home-to-be is in

a flood plain. It doesn't hurt to double-check with the county, and talk with your property agent, too.

 

If you discover that the home you want is in a flood plain, you need to know what type of flood plain (some ratings

indicate higher risks than others), and how much flood insurance will cost. (One way to find out: Ask to see the

seller's flood insurance bills.)

 

Once you have some information, you can weigh your options. Can you afford any additional costs that might be

associated with this type of flood plain? And are you still comfortable with the property?

 

"In most cases it is possible to assume the seller's flood policy," says Graham Stiles, senior vice president with

Alexander Chandler Realty and partner at Highrises.com, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Will the lender allow a short sale?

In a short sale, the bank allows the property to be sold for less than the amount of the
outstanding mortgage. If the seller's bank doesn't give its consent, the short sale can't happen.
 

But some sellers simply decide to list their properties as "short sales" before even talking with their lenders,

Gaylord says. These sellers don't realize that their financial situations might not meet the lender's criteria for short

sales. So even if the buyer and seller settle on a price, without the bank's permission there won't be a deal.

 

That's why, when a home is advertised as a short sale, the buyer should ask whether the lender has agreed to

allow the home to be sold for less than the outstanding mortgage amount. "Find out if there has been

communication with the lender," Gaylord says.

 

Do a little investigation, too, he urges. If the buyer has gotten permission for a short sale, what was the bank's

reason for granting it? Does that reason sound plausible (divorce, job loss, transfer)? And are banks typically

granting short sale requests in that situation?

Are foreclosures in your neighborhood?

It's the question sellers (and their agents) hate: Are foreclosed homes for sale nearby?
Foreclosures usually cost less, and that has to figure into your buying decision.
 

"It always makes sense to ask if there are other houses for sale in the neighborhood," says William Poorvu,

professor emeritus of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School and co-author of "The Real Estate Game." "In

today's world, you should also ask if any of these sales are as a result of foreclosures."

 

With foreclosures in the neighborhood, "you can assume there will be a lot of price competition, and you may offer

less money," Poorvu says.

Do you have the paperwork for the mechanical systems?

Foltz says he should have asked more persistently for receipts and documentation about his new home's

appliances and mechanical systems. "But it's something you don't have that much control over," he says.

 

The seller replaced the air conditioner shortly before putting the home on the market, but didn't save the

paperwork. Without documentation, the new buyers didn't have a lot of options when the unit malfunctioned.

 

Foltz says he didn't know who sold the air conditioner or if it was under warranty. "So we paid out of pocket."

 

The seller did pass along all the documentation on the home's hardwood floors. So when the new owners wanted

to install that same hardwood in the hallway and office, they had the information they needed to get an exact

match.

Read

Six hotels and a trade and exhibition centre

An artists impression of the proposed Richmond development at Duck Island in Richmond, The development will include six hotels and a exhibition centre

 

BY ANDY IVENS, THE PROVINCE


Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie unveiled $4 billion in development projects Tuesday that will add density to the

city centre and transform the northwest waterfront into a destination for international travellers.

 

The centrepiece, although still on the drawing board, is a propos-al called Vancouver International Plaza at Duck

Island.

 

If it gains approval, it will rejuvenate a large tract of industrial land on Duck Island that formerly was the site of

Lehigh Cement Ltd., walking distance from the Bridge-port Canada Line station and bordering the River Rock

Casino.

 

The concept calls for six luxurious hotels and a total of four mil-lion square feet of development, which Jingon

International Development Group calls a "major entertainment and commercial destination for the region."

 

Public amenities will include a riverfront walkway and plaza, and piers reaching into the Fraser River, as well as a

park, sports courts and gardens, a dock for ferries running to destinations up the Fraser River and a 450,000-

square-foot trade and convention centre.

 

"It's a spectacular location," said Gary Pooni, president of Brook Poo-ni Associates, the Vancouver-based project

manager and planning consultant for Jingon's proposal.

 

"It really comes out of the City of Richmond and its post-Olympic legacy," said Pooni.

 

"Richmond is now known as an international city and an international destination.

 

"The infrastructure through the airport and the Canada Line and an international local population, for us, makes

the timing right."

 

Pooni compared the concept with developments in Los Angeles, Australia and Singapore, adding there's nothing

like it in Canada.

 

"They become office, hotel, entertainment, retail, restaurant and a convention centre . . . an international

destination," he said.

 

"It becomes another reason to visit Metro Vancouver and Richmond.

 

"It will also be for the local people of Richmond who just want some-thing to do," he said.

 

It's early in the planning process, he noted. If all goes smoothly, construction could begin in late 2013 and take

years to build out.

 

Brodie also revealed an innovative way to get a station built on the Canada Line without any money coming from

TransLink, the cash-strapped regional transit authority.

 

"We do need the station, but TransLink has no money to build it," he told a luncheon gathering of the Richmond

Chamber of Commerce.

 

His plan involves buyers of the 6,600 units of housing to be built in the area around Capstan and No. 3 Road to

deposit $7,800 each into a fund for the station.

 

From that money, $25 million would be used to build the station.

Read

 

- Affordable housing is a priority for Vancouver residents according to annual TD Canada Trust Condo Poll -

 

VANCOUVERApril 18, 2012 /CNW/ 

 

Attracted to an urban lifestyle in one of Canada's most expensive real estate markets, nearly two-thirds (62%)

of Vancouver condo buyers say their main reason for buying a condo is that it's more affordable than a house.

Another third (34%) say they believe owning a condo may be cheaper than paying rent according to the 2012

TD Canada Trust Condo Poll, which surveyed Vancouver residents who recently bought or intend to buy a condo.

 

More than one-quarter (28%) of Vancouver condo dwellers say that their monthly strata fees make it feel like they

are still paying rent, so they are saving up to buy a home without set monthly maintenance fees.

 

"Purchasing a condo allows you to build equity rather than continuing to pay rent as you save for a house," says

Brett Currah, District Vice President, TD Canada Trust. "At the same time, determining what makes the most

sense financially is not just a straight comparison of your monthly rent and some utilities to a monthly mortgage

payment and condo fees, so it's important you talk to a mortgage expert before making the decision to buy a

condo."

 

According to the poll, Vancouverites tend to be conscious of monthly maintenance fees. Vancouver condo buyers

say they understand that monthly fees can increase at any time and have a plan: 28% have a buffer built into their

current budget and 36% say they could cut back in other areas in the event of an increase.

 

Vancouver condo dwellers may be wise to prepare their finances for the possibility of a maintenance fee increase.

New regulations announced last year under the Strata Property Act will impact depreciation reports and

contingency reserve funds. Some corporations may need to contribute more to their contingency reserve fund to

better manage the future maintenance of common property and it is possible that this could result in higher strata

fees for their residents. For people buying condos, these changes may help to budget - as it will help predict the

likelihood of a strata fee increase if they're considering a strata unit that is older or currently has unusually low

fees.

 

"The possibility of a fee increase can be a little unnerving," says Currah. "While there's no way to 'lock-in' to a

monthly fee like you can with a mortgage, you can prepare for a fee increase by building a buffer into your monthly

housing budget, as some Vancouverites have wisely done. That way if fees go up, it won't be a major shock to

your cash flow. If they don't increase, you have extra money to put aside in savings or towards your mortgage. You

can also explore flexible mortgage options that allow you to pay more towards your mortgage when you can, then,

upon an approved application, ease off on payments when you need to. This can be a useful feature in the first few

months of transition to a fee increase."

 

Top features Vancouver residents look for in condos


According to the poll, condo buyers think the most important features when deciding on a condo to buy are:

  1. Low condo fees (97%)
  2. Good building security (96%)
  3. Attractive interior design (95%)
  4. Energy-efficient building features (93%)
  5. A balcony (92%)

Nationally, women are more likely than men to look for a building with a balcony (92% versus 87% of men) and

environmentally-friendly features (86% versus 79% of men), while men are more likely to say finding a brand new

condo - not a resale (56% versus 46% of women) - is important to them.

 

Condos as investments


Almost one-third of condo buyers (31%) in Vancouver say the main reason for their condo purchase is that it is a

good investment. Recent housing forecasts do not seem to have fazed most buyers. Only 21% of condo buyers

inVancouver say recent forecasts have made them less likely to buy a condo.

 

"Recent housing forecasts have predicted that an over-supply of condos will cause a drop in prices. How this

affects your decision to purchase a condo comes down to your goals at that time" says Currah. "If you are buying a

condo and see it as a source of rental income that you'll move into when you are ready to downsize, this drop in

value will likely not have a big effect. On the other hand, if you see a condo purchase as a way to build equity as

you save up to buy a home, you need to consider the potential effect of a decreased price when you sell on the

money you will have towards a down payment for a house."

 

Of those who are buying condos that will not be their primary residence, 39% think they are a good investment to

buy and sell at a profit when prices have gone up. But - that is not the only way Vancouver residents see a condo

purchase as an investment. More than half (55%) see them as a long-term source of rental income and 37% see

them as a source of rental income for now that they will move into later when they are ready to downsize.

 

TD hosts an online community for homebuyers at www.tdcanadatrust.com/homeownership. The online

community allows home buyers to learn from each other's experiences, share stories on a wide range of home

financing topics and pose questions to TD expert, Farhaneh Haque, Director of Mortgage Advice.

Read

About 7,800 new units will be launched in first six months of year, says MPC Intelligence

Of 3,800 new concrete condos across 19 projects that have started presales, about 60-65 per cent have sold, says MPC Intelligence.


BY BRIAN MORTON, VANCOUVER SUN

 

Concrete condo sales are heating up in Metro Vancouver, but only for the right projects in the right location - near

rapid transit.

 

That's the word from Jeff Han-cock, a senior manager with real estate market firm MPC Intelligence, who said

presales of concrete condos in the right location and at the right price point continue to escalate with Asian

investors largely driving the market.

 

"It's not market-wide," he said. "It's more spotty. If you are 10 out of 10, you'll do well. That means a great location,

welldesigned, priced appropriately and definitely [served] by transit. Other projects are having to struggle a bit."

 

Hancock said an MPC forecast earlier this year that 8,000 new units in concrete towers would be launched in the

first six months of 2012 has been down-graded to about 7,800.

 

He said about 3,800 new concrete condominiums across 19 projects have started presales since Jan. 1 and that

60 to 65 per cent have been sold, "an impressive metric."

 

Hancock cited last month's sellout of 415 homes at Marine Gateway and the Telus Gar-den's 428 condos as

examples of strong sales in the sector. Two other condo towers in Burnaby - Silver by Intracorp and The Met by

Concord Pacific - also sold extremely well in presales over the past two weeks, he added.

 

Hancock noted that the market has been driven by Asian investment segments, most for long-term investments

but also for family use. "End user groups have also been active, specifically in North Vancouver, New

Westminster, Burnaby North and downtown Vancouver."

 

He said the resale market for concrete condos has not been as strong as the market for new units, possibly

because investors buying a presale unit like the idea of having a year or two to complete the purchase.

 

Cameron Muir, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, characterized overall condo sales in Metro

Vancouver as "moderate," with no significant change in activity over last year and little pressure on prices.

 

He said some areas are under-supplied, while some areas, like Langley and Surrey, have a significant amount of

inventory.

 

"In certain areas, particularly close to downtown, the inventory has been drawn down. And condo projects well

located to transit are doing well to date.

 

"But that's the exception rather than the rule. We're still facing headwinds due to the overall economy."

 

bmorton@vancouversun.com

Read

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Read

As wheels continue to come off the TransLink bus, Vancouver’s mayors have voted to suggest cancelling transit

improvements that had been planned for 2013 and 2014 until there’s a way to pay for them.

 

A letter issued late Thursday by TransLink mayors’ council chair Richard Walton said the mayors voted at their

monthly meeting this week “for the two-year, $30-million in property tax funding for TransLink’s latest expansion

plans to be cancelled, until alternative funding sources are determined.”

 

Those improvements – a rapid bus along Highway 1 and the new Port Mann Bridge, another rapid bus down King

George Boulevard in Surrey, 615,000 extra hours of service throughout the region, and some station upgrades –

were meant to assure taxpayers that everyone was getting something out of TransLink’s three-year plan for

expansions.

 

If the plans to cancel go through, the Evergreen Line – funded by a two-cent-a-litre gas tax increase that kicked in

April 1 – will be the only part of the improvements package. That was their response to a letter earlier in the week

from Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom, turning down all three suggestions the mayors had made for

alternatives – a vehicle levy, another gas-tax increase, or a regional carbon tax.

 

The vote was not unanimous.

 

City of Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender said three mayors from south of the Fraser, where most of the

improvements would have occurred, voted against the call to cancel.

 

“It took us a long time to get these enhancements,” he said. “It would be ludicrous not to have buses on the new

Port Mann Bridge. We are adamant.”

 

The mayors of the Township of Langley and of White Rock were also opposed to any cancellation. Surrey Mayor

Dianne Watts was out of town, and Councillor Marvin Hunt voted to support the cancellation in her absence.

 

The motion was another blow for TransLink management in a series of them this year.

 

It has already in the past two months seen some mayors lead a charge to have an audit, heard Premier Christy

Clark order one while turning down any possibility of a vehicle levy to pay for new services, gone through a media

grilling about bonuses for managers, and received the news Tuesday that Transportation Commissioner Martin

Crilly would not allow fares to be raised more than the inflationary rate allowed.

 

All of that has meant the agency is being asked to come up with $45-million a year by running the billion-dollar

service more efficiently – something that its planners are not sure is possible.

 

While they’ve said they believe TransLink is already on track to improvements, as a result of ongoing work to

reduce less productive bus routes, tighten up administration costs, and streamline other services, they say there

might not be $45-million worth of savings. That would mean cutting services to make up the differences.

 

In a statement released an hour after Mr. Walton’s letter, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said: “In the past few days, we

received two decisions that impact our business: the Commissioner’s decision to reduce our proposed fare

increase and the recent Mayors’ Council motion to eliminate reliance on property tax to fulfill the Moving Forward

Plan. We need time to review the information and understand what these decisions mean for TransLink, our

customers and the public we serve.”

 

It’s still unclear how part of the transit-improvement plan could be cancelled legally.

 

The mayors’ council also asked for a new audit on the agency, but quite a different kind from those previously

suggested.

 

Instead, they would like to see one done on whether the efficacy of TransLink’s new governance model introduced

by then-transportation minister Kevin Falcon in 2007, which took away the mayors’ power to control the agency

and gave it to an appointed board.

 

TransLink was the first regional transportation authority to be created in North America with the power to plan

finance and manage all transit, as well as regional roads and bridges.

Read

  
BY FIONA ANDERSON, POSTMEDIA NEWS; VANCOUVER SUN
 

To become a real estate mogul you have to love what you do, be able to make quick decisions and have a good

relationship with your banker, the Vancouver Real Estate Forum heard from local real estate legends Joe Segal

and Natale Bosa this week.

 

Segal is best known for starting Fields Stores and then taking over the much bigger Zellers, which was

subsequently bought by Hudson's Bay Company.

 

It was a deal that people called the mouse swallowing the elephant, the 87-year-old said. At the time, one of his

stores - which was 6,000 square feet - was beside a Zellers.

 

Fields was doing $1 million a year in that spot while Zellers, which was occupying 24,000 square feet, was doing

only $400,000. "So I figured there must something wrong here," Segal said.

 

So he talked to his banker and asked him for $50 million to buy Zellers, which was a lot of money in 1976.

 

"And I was shocked. He gave it to me," Segal said.

 

But his first foray into real estate came earlier - when he had a surplus $100,000 from his retail business that he

used to buy a building.

 

And from there he's developed a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio. One property he bought for $600,000 is

now worth $150 million, he said.

 

Segal looks at each project and measures the risk/reward ratio. "If I can digest the risk I'll take a shot and I'm

entitled to the reward," he said.

 

But you have to be able to make a decision, he said.

 

Bosa, the president of Bosa Development Corporation, the company behind projects like Citygate near the Telus

World of Science and Newport Village in Port Moody - jumped at the chance to get involved in Citygate, buying one

of the parcels in 1988.

 

He then bought a second piece before being offered the rest of the development.

 

"It was a big gamble at the time but at the time I had more guts than brains," Bosa said.

 

And he was able to find a banker who would lend him the money on short notice.

 

"You've got to have a nose for it," the 68-year-old Bosa said. "You've got to really believe in what you're doing.

You've got to feel it's going to work. And fortunately it's worked for me."

 

And a little ignorance can be a good thing.

 

"Sometimes being too smart is not going to get you there," he said. "If you study things too much you're going to

miss out. Because if you know too much about a deal chances are you aren't going to buy it."

Read

 

By Michele Lerner | Bankrate.com

 

First-time homebuyers almost always make a few mistakes when buying their home. Perhaps they pay too much,

choose the wrong type of mortgage or neglect to budget for needed home improvements.

 

Working with a trustworthy, experienced lender can help prevent such mistakes. But consumers also need to take

responsibility for their budgets and choices.

 

"Before buying a home, consumers need to develop a short- and long-term perspective on their purchase," says

Michael Harrison, area director for MetLife Home Loans in Southwest Ohio.

 

Following are the four biggest financial mistakes of first-time homebuyers:

 

Spending the maximum on housing

Lenders qualify buyers based on their incomes and debt-to-income ratios without considering how much the

borrowers spend on items such as transportation,savings, food and other necessities.

 

"A lot of first-time buyers are optimistic about the future and excited about buying a home, so they borrow the

absolute maximum they can afford instead of allowing themselves wiggle room for a partial loss of income or for

future expenses such as children," Harrison says.

 

Financial experts recommend that consumers decide how much they want to spend each month on housing

before meeting with a lender.

 

"Every buyer should create their own budget and know their limits," says Stephen Adamo, president of Weichert

Financial Services in Morris Plains, N.J.

 

Adamo says many first-time homebuyers experience a sizable change in their housing payments. Some new

owners may go from $500 per month in rent to a monthly mortgage payment of $2,000, he says.

 

"You need to deal with payment shock," Adamo says.

 

Not getting prequalified early enough

Meeting with a lender for a buyer consultation and prequalification for a mortgage should be the first step toward

homeownership. Yet many first-time homebuyers wait until they are ready to start house hunting before contacting

a lender.

 

"It's never too early to set up a free buyer consultation with a lender," Adamo says. "Every buyer needs to get

prequalified early enough in the process so that they can make some changes if they need to or correct errors on

their credit report."

 

Some buyers may need to spend up to a year saving more money, increasing their incomes or cleaning up their

credit before making an offer on a home.

 

A buyer consultation should include creating long-term financial goals and strategies for buying property, Adamo

says.

 

Misunderstanding the importance of a high credit score

While most consumers know it's important to have a high credit score, not everyone understands how costly a

low score can be.

 

"All mortgage lending is done with a tier of interest rates and terms based on consumer credit scores," Harrison

says. "A credit score of 720 or above will earn you the best rates and can potentially save you thousands of

dollars."

 

A score of 680 to 720 can get you good mortgage rates, while a FICO score of 620 is usually about the lowest

score to qualify for most loans, Harrison says.

 

Consumers should learn about credit scores the minute they start working, Harrison says.

 

Websites such as Bankrate provide information about how to improve your credit score.

 

Even after a mortgage approval, consumers must avoid applying for new credit or taking on new debt, Adamo

says, because a second credit check is often required before settlement.


Choosing the wrong mortgage product

First-time homebuyers today typically opt for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Their conservatism is a reaction to

stories about the dangers of interest-only mortgages andadjustable-rate mortgages.

 

But Harrison says home loan alternatives to a 30-year-fixed sometimes make more sense. For example, buyers

certain they will be relocated by their companies within five years may find a 5/1 ARM "could be a much better

mortgage," he says.

 

"There's no reason to pay a premium for a product you don't need like a 30-year loan," Harrison says.

 

Homebuyers eager to build equity in their homes or who are older and want to live mortgage-free in retirement

should consider a 15-year fixed-rate loan or, if they can afford it, even a 10-year mortgage to reach their goals.

 

Read

Suggestions include help from the parents, reining in personal spending, taking advantage of a new $10,000 bonus, or borrowing from your RRSP

 
 

Saving money for a down payment, especially in British Columbia’s high-priced housing markets, is one of the

biggest challenges that homeowners face, but mortgage experts say, it’s not impossible.

 

The minimum down payment new homeowners need is five per cent of a home’s purchase price, which can be

particularly difficult to accumulate for those in the most need: young people, often with student debt and lifestyles

that involve a lot of restaurant meals and going to movies once or twice a week.

 

“There are options,” said Chris Pughe, a mortgage broker with Verico Complete Mortgage Services.

 

For starters, there’s always Mom and Pop to help you on your way — Pughe said gifts from family members are

one alternative.

 

She added buyers can borrow the down payment through a line of credit, personal loan or possibly cash

advances against a credit card.

 

The caveat, she said, is the buyer would have to be able to afford to service the mortgage debt, pay property taxes

and heating costs plus an additional payment on the borrowed funds.

 

As well, first-time buyers can tap into their RRSPs — an option not available to investors — as a way to get the

necessary cash in hand.

 

Pughe said this is a popular option. Borrowers can withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSP under the federal

Home Buyers’ Plan without any tax being withheld, noting that it’s not just for first-time buyers.

 

“It’s as long as you haven’t been on title to anything for the last five years,” she said. “If it’s you and your spouse,

it’s $50,000.

 

“But you have to repay it [in yearly instalments] into your RRSP over 15 years. If not, you pay tax on it.”

 

Pughe noted that purchasers can borrow money for the RRSP and get the tax saving for a down payment the

same year, provided it stays as an RRSP for 90 days.

 

The provincial government’s new bonus for first-time buyers of new homes, which is a one-time refundable

personal tax credit equal to five per cent of the purchase price of a home to a maximum of $10,000, can also be

used to help with a down payment.

 

Pughe said some lenders have a cashback option that can be used against a down payment. “The clients have to

take posted rates [not discounted] and some lenders will give you five per cent of the mortgage amount as cash

back. On $400,000 that would be $20,000, the five-per-cent down payment that is required.”

 

However, she recommends against that option because borrowing costs are much higher than discounted rates.

 

One thing worth remembering, Pughe said, is that if clients have less than 20 per cent as a down payment, they

have to prove that they have the five-per-cent down payment plus 1.5 per cent in closing costs.

 

Meanwhile, Ryan McKinley, mortgage development manager at Vancity in Vancouver, said “it would be nice to have

a magic bullet,” but that the classic approach to saving up the down payment can “definitely be a challenge.”

 

McKinley believes one approach could be to set up an automatic transfer into a high interest savings account

every month or every paycheque to save for a deposit.

 

Regarding parental help, McKinley said parents can use their own savings, investments or potentially the equity in

their own home to help a child with a down payment.

 

They could also co-purchase a home with their children, he said, allowing the child “to get into the market, while

concurrently being an investment for the parents.”

Read

 

Inman News®

 

The sun is peeking out and the plants are starting to blossom, so it must be about time for spring chores again.

Here's my annual spring checklist of important issues to tend to around the house.

 

1. Roofing repairs:

 

If you suspect winter storms may have damaged your roof, it needs to be inspected. (If you're

not comfortable with the height or steepness of your roof, hire a licensed roofing contractor for the inspection.)

Look for missing or loose shingles, including ridge-cap shingles.

 

Examine the condition of the flashings around chimneys, flue pipes, vent caps, and anyplace where the roof and

walls intersect. Look for overhanging trees that could damage the roof in a wind storm, as well as buildups of

leaves and other debris.

 

If you have roof damage in a number of areas, or if older shingles makes patching impractical, consider having

the entire roof redone. Also, remember that if the shingles have been damaged by wind or by impact from falling

tree limbs, the damage may be covered by your homeowners insurance.

 

2. Check gutters and downspouts:

 

Look for areas where the fasteners may have pulled loose, and for any sags in the gutter run. Also, check for water

stains that may indicate joints that have worked loose and are leaking. Clean leaves and debris to be ready for

spring and summer rains.

 

3. Fences and gates:

 

Fence posts are especially susceptible to groundwater saturation, and will loosen up and tilt if the soil around

them gets soaked too deeply. Check fence posts in various areas by wiggling them to see how solidly embedded

they are.

 

If any are loose, wait until the surrounding soil has dried out, then excavate around the bottom of the posts and

pour additional concrete to stabilize them. Replace any posts that have rotted.

 

4. Clear yard debris:

 

Inspect landscaping for damage, especially trees. If you see any cracked, leaning or otherwise dangerous

conditions with any of your trees, have a licensed, insured tree company inspect and trim or remove them as

needed.

 

Clean up leaves, needles, small limbs and other material that has accumulated. Do any spring pruning that's

necessary. Remove and dispose of all dead plant material so it won't become a fire hazard as it dries.

 

5. Fans and air conditioners:

 

Clean and check the operation of cooling fans, air conditioners and whole-house fans. Shut the power to the fan,

remove the cover and wash with mild soapy water, then clean out dust from inside the fan with a shop vacuum --

do not operate the fan with the cover removed.

 

Check outdoor central air conditioning units for damage or debris buildup, and clean or replace any filters. Check

the roof or wall caps where the fan ducts terminate to make sure they are undamaged and well sealed. Check

dampers for smooth operation.

 

6. Check and adjust sprinklers:

 

Run each set of in-ground sprinklers through a cycle, and watch how and where the water is hitting. Adjust or

replace any sprinklers that are hitting your siding, washing out loose soil areas, spraying over foundation vents, or

in any other way wetting areas on and around your house that shouldn't be getting wet.

 

7. Check vent blocks and faucet covers: As soon as you're comfortable that the danger of winter freezing is over,

remove foundation vent blocks or open vent covers to allow air circulation in the crawl space.

 

While removing the vent covers, check the grade level around the foundation vents. Winter weather can move soil

and create buildups or grade problems that will allow groundwater to drain through the vents into the crawl space,

so regrade as necessary. Remove outdoor faucet covers. Turn on the water supply to outdoor faucets if it's been

shut off.

 

8. Prepare yard tools:

 

Replace broken or damaged handles, and clean and condition metal parts. Tighten fittings and fasteners,

sharpen cutting tools and mower blades, and service engines and belts in lawn mowers and other power

equipment.

 

9. Change furnace filters:

 

Now is the time to replace furnace filters that have become choked with dust from the winter heating season. This

is especially important if you have central air conditioning, or if you utilize your heating system's fan to circulate air

during the summer.

 

10. Check smoke detectors:

 

Daylight Savings Time snuck up early again this year, and that's usually the semi-annual reminder to check your

smoke alarms. So if you haven't already done it, now's the time. Replace the batteries, clean the covers, and test

the detector's operation before it's too late.

 

If you have gas-fired appliances in the house, add a carbon monoxide detector as well (or check the operation of

your existing one). CO2 detectors are inexpensive and easy to install, and are available at most home centers and

other retailers of electrical parts and supplies.

Read
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