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by Gerv Tacadena12 Dec 2019

British Columbia's Speculation and Vacancy Tax will increase from 0.5% to 2% starting 31 December, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The new tax rate will be applied to all foreign owners and satellite families and will be due by July next year.

"Based on the data from the first year, we see the tax is working as it was designed to: capturing speculators, foreign owners and people who own vacant homes, while exempting more than 99.8% of British Columbians," said Finance Minister Carole James.

The tax was introduced last year, with the aim to target homes in the most populated areas in BC that were not declared as a primary residence or were not rented out for at least three months annually.

Since the implementation of the tax, the government has collected $115m, which was used to fund affordable housing projects.

Aside from the tax rate, the changes will provide an exemption for property owners who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces while in active service. Canadians who own properties accessible only through water will also be waived from paying the tax.

Meanwhile, the exemption for rental-restricted strata will now end by 31 December 2021.

On the other hand, the exemption for foreign owners of vacant land will be lifted starting next year.

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by Clayton Jarvis25 Feb 2020

For the last five years, there has been an incessant whisper at the margins of the real estate industry that has kept the idea of crashing markets and popped real estate bubbles in the public consciousness. Overextended buyers, overheated markets, overpriced properties – the reasons for anxiety are real.

Who would have thought that everything would one day come to a screeching halt because of condo insurance?

That is the scenario facing British Columbia, where insurance rates for strata corporations have risen beyond what most can afford to pay.

No lender will finance the purchase of a property lacking insurance, meaning units in uninsured buildings will have to fine either cash buyers or no buyers at all. Condo towers, because of their size and the potential for widespread damage, will be hit especially hard.

The issue first arose in the fall of 2019, when murmurs of the insurance increases were making their way around the province’s real estate industry.

“Back then, I don’t think it was on too many people’s radar,” says investor and Pemberton Homes agent Vanessa Roman. “It’s now on everybody’s radar because more and more buildings have had their insurance come up for renewal. I would say there isn’t a strata corp in BC that isn’t aware of the potential problem.”

According to Darlene Hyde, CEO of the British Columbia Real Estate Association, the scope of the problem remains hard to gauge.

“It’s like the nose of the camel is coming into the tent,” Hyde says. “We don’t know how big this is going to be. We don’t know how much premiums are going to go up. We’ve heard some individual, anecdotal stories that are pretty scary.”

One such story involves a property in Abbotsford where Roman says an unfortunate strata corporation saw its premiums rise by 700 percent.

“Last year, their premiums were $66,000. This year, they’re $588,000 – just for the premium,” she says.

Why are condo insurance rates rising in BC?

When asking about the root of the issue, the phrase “a perfect storm” frequently pops up. There are multiple reasons behind the spike in insurance rates. Any one of them would be relatively innocuous on its own, like a sliver of light underneath your bedroom door at night. But taken on simultaneously, these factors combine to form an eye-melting flash of lightning that has the potential to set the roof on fire.

Part of the blame can be laid on the strata corporations themselves. In an attempt to attract tenants, many stratas have cut their monthly maintenance fees to paltry levels, resulting in empty coffers when the time comes for major cash outlays, like sudden insurance rate hikes.

Roman says many strata corporations have also tried to keep their own costs low by opting to get insurance from companies offering the lowest rates. These companies, operating in a highly competitive environment, have suppressed normal rate increases for years in an attempt to nab and keep stratas as clients.

 “So everybody wants to pay nothing for this strata,” she says. “When you have people on strata councils saying, ‘Okay, we can go with this insurance provider, or this one, which is 20 percent more but gives us more coverage,’ everyone is like, ‘Let’s go with the cheaper one. And by the way, we don’t want our rates to go up either.’”

The insurance industry is also playing its part. The suppression of insurance rate increases means strata corporations, rather than gradually spending more each year, are paying for years of below-market increases all at once. And with the global insurance industry having to pay out for unbelievable catastrophes – the wildfires in Australia alone will cost billions and billions – those funds will need to be replaced.

What happens next?

The current situation is untenable. Its solution remains purely theoretical at this point.

“I think there will be an industry solution or it will be backstopped by the government. It’s too big a problem to ignore,” Hyde says.

Roman suspects that the BC government will either expand the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s mandate to cover condos in addition to automobiles or create a new crown corporation to provide condominium insurance.

“But that’s going to take time to set up. Meanwhile, you’re going to have mortgages that are being renewed, or strata insurance policies that are being renewed and they’re going to have to deal with the ramifications of that,” she says.

Roman expects a massive drop in the value of condos over the next six to seven months. Prospective owners won’t be able to find financing. Any owner of a newly uninsured property who must renew her mortgage will have to either pay the remaining amount in full or sell – for cash. In a province already plagued by affordability issues, that kind of cash will be in short supply.

“I think you’re going to have a big influx of condos that are selling far, far below market value because they’re not going to be able to be financed. And buyers are going to have to hold onto their properties for a while because we’re going to have the crash, you’re going to have the recovery period and, during that time, you’re probably going to have high monthly strata rates,” Roman explains.

Investors still planning on getting their feet wet in the BC condo space have options for protecting their capital. Roman is advising her clients to get their building’s claims history for the last five years and to find out which claims have gone through the strata corporation’s insurance.

Hyde says the BCREA has already added a clause to the contract of purchase and sale that helps realtors and clients determine the insurance status of the condo they’re looking to buy. The Association is lobbying the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to create a similar law.

“We’re hoping the combined forces of industry can find some solutions,” Hyde says, adding that she is anticipating no shortage of constructive dialogue when the Insurance Bureau of Canada hosts the next roundtable meeting of the IBC Commercial Task Force upcoming summit on St. Patrick’s Day.

By then, we might all be ready for a drink.

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by Steve Randall18 Feb 2020

Federal and provincial policymakers must focus on facilitating greater housing supply rather than further fueling demand according to a leading economist.

RBC Economics senior economist Robert Hogue said Friday that policymakers should think “long and hard” before introducing measures that would ultimately boost demand. He said this would exacerbate the rising heat in the market and increase the level of Canadian household debt.

In his latest housing market outlook, Hogue called instead for more supply of new and existing houses amid the strongest population growth in 30 years, low unemployment, and a slight increase in wages.

The exception to this is the Prairies where housing demand is solid despite softer economic conditions.

Without more supply, Hogue says there is a risk to affordability as prices spike in some of Canada’s largest markets.

While he notes that January home sales data is not a good indicator of market activity, the low level of supply in several major markets suggests that prices are set to keep rising.

Along with Toronto and Vancouver, Hogue sees price growth acceleration in Ottawa, Montreal, Saint John and Halifax. Of these, Ottawa and Montreal are most at risk of overheating with sales-to-new listings ratio rose above 0.80 since October in both markets. The benchmark price in January rose 13.8% year-over-year in Ottawa and 9.8% in Montreal.

 

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage. Click here to get help choosing the best mortgage rate

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by Zee Jeremic 18 Feb 2020

The title of “Canada’s most expensive city” has cycled between Toronto and Vancouver for decades. Though Toronto was reported to have the highest cost of living among all other cities in the country, in 2018, Mercer Canada’s annual cost-of-living survey now suggests that Vancouver has once again claimed the country’s number one spot, effectively bumping Toronto back to number two. But just how much does the cost of living affect the nature of the condo real estate market in both of these cities? Does Toronto’s lower cost of living make for better condo deals?

What About Traditional Housing?
In both Toronto and Vancouver, condominiums have taken sizeable shares of the real estate market. This is largely because traditional single-family housing options have become an unreachable goal for most homebuyers. The housing market is no longer a place for most new investors to plant their feet.

The sky-high rates at which Toronto/Vancouver homes are being sold make housing real estate a game that only current home-owners, or the rich, can play. In Vancouver alone, the average price for a home is currently at $1.3 million, with some three-bedroom homes reaching up to $2.2 Million.

Take a quick look at the average price – this includes all residential property types – in Vancouver.

Chart courtesy of Zolo.

And here’s the average sale price of detached homes in Vancouver:


Figures courtesy of Zolo.

Toronto’s housing market isn’t much better. The selling price of the average Toronto home is $948,000,  with three- to four-bedroom homes reaching prices of nearly $2 million. Slowed housing development in both of these urban areas means that these prices aren’t likely to fall anytime soon. In fact, Vancouver prices will continue to rise.

The Rise of the Condo
Developers have for years been building condominiums all over Toronto and Vancouver. The multitude of available new units and the seemingly competitive pricing are enticing draws for new investors looking to buy. (Not that condo developers have to try too hard to make their product viable. The housing market has done that work already.) But with all these options, in what city would a hopeful investor be able to get the best deal?

If you’re looking for a property to live in, Vancouver’s condominium prices will certainly pique your interest.

At first. But let’s take a second glance…

Plenty of news outlets over the past year have reported Vancouver’s condo prices are illustrating sizeable decreases. It’s true: Vancouver’s average per-square-foot price has fallen far further than any other major real estate market in Canada this year. Condos at the heart of the city have dropped by roughly 6.3% and are selling for approximately $1,044 per square foot. Unfortunately, this is not as exciting as the media makes it sound.

Though there has been a notable dip in Vancouver condo pricing, the city’s units are still the most expensive in the country.

But what about Toronto? Well, Toronto condominiums have been in extremely high demand thanks to the city’s large population of millennial buyers, who can’t afford much else. If the country’s largest generation wasn’t enough to get developers building at hyper-speed, Toronto’s similarly large cohort of baby boomers are also interested in buying a condo in order to downsize.

All this demand has spiked the average listing price for condo units in Toronto. The average price per square foot in the GTA rose by roughly 9.1% percent as of August last year, meaning the average square foot for Toronto condos is now at about $743. Despite their opposite pricing trends, Toronto condominiums remain the more affordable buying option.

Comparing the Vancouver and Toronto rental markets
You may assume that if you’re buying a condo purely as a rental property, Vancouver would be the right choice. And why not? After all, Vancouver has the highest unit prices in the country. Shouldn’t owning a rental property give you a quicker return on investment?

Not necessarily.

A recent report by Padmapper shows that Toronto has the most expensive rental market in the country. In fact, Toronto’s average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment trumps Vancouver’s average one-bedroom price by $130.
Graphic courtesy of Padmapper

In Toronto, you can buy a condo for less money and collect over $1,500 more annually in rent. There are many reasons for this. The first is cost of living. Vancouver’s high cost of living means that its products and services cost more than they do in other Canadian cities. Vancouver renters are more careful to consider the amount they’ll spend on monthly rent when they have other high monthly costs to think of.

Toronto condos also allow their residents more access to fine goods and services. The city has an abundance of restaurants, entertainment attractions, and shopping centers that provide a convenient living for Torontonians. The closer to the city you are, the more amenities you have easy access to. Landlords include the price of convenience in their rent prices. Is your property near the city’s subway system? All the more reason to increase your monthly rent.

The verdict: Should I buy in Vancouver or Toronto?
If you’re looking to turn a profit, or at the very least, find the best deal on a condominium, you should turn to Toronto’s available unit options. The numbers don’t lie: despite the price increases, Toronto’s condo units are more affordable than condos on the west coast. If you’re looking to become a landlord, Toronto’s average monthly rents will allow you to turn more of an annual profit.

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Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians are distracted by colleagues and poorly designed workspaces, losing up to two hours a day, according to co-working firm iQ Offices

 

WI Staff Western Investor
February 10, 2020
 
 
short-term leases

Open-concept offices and unassigned "hot desks" may be all the rage, but they could be costing your firm or office tenants up to two hours a day in productivity per employee, according to a poll released February 10.

A Canada-wide survey commissioning by co-working firm iQ Offices found that 57 per cent of Canadians said they have to fight distraction at work every day, which affects their productivity. This figure rises to 68 per cent among Millennial workers aged 35 and under.

When asked what affected productivity the most, respondents cited overhearing loud talkers and overly chatty colleagues as the biggest drain (54 per cent of respondents).

The physical workspace ranked second on the list, with nearly half of Canadians (49 per cent) agreeing that “noisy recreation areas within the space” and a “distracting open concept work environment” were reducing their productivity.

Rounding out the top three drains on productivity, 43 per cent of Canadians identified “unassigned workspaces where I don’t have a permanent desk or office” as a key complaint.

These three factors, all related to physical environment, beat out even “time-wasting meetings,” which were identified by 38 per cent of Canadians as a major drain on productivity.

Kane Willmott, CEO and co-founder of iQ Offices, said, “Canadians overwhelmingly highlight design, physical environment productivity challenges like nomad seating arrangements, noise and distracting open-concept design, ahead of workload-related challenges, such as excessive email (17 per cent) or unexpected extra work (19 per cent).”

The survey found that office environment was so important that 64 per cent of respondents said they would agree to earn “slightly less money to work in a conveniently located… beautiful workspace designed for productivity and employee satisfaction.”

More than two-third (73 per cent) of respondents estimated they could save one to two hours a day if they worked in an office designed to minimize distraction. This breaks down to more than one-third (35 per cent) reporting they could boost productivity by a full two hours each day, with 38 per cent estimating they could get their daily seven hours of work completed in six hours.

Willmott said, “Imagine what your business could accomplish if you gave the one to two hours of daily lost productivity back to your team. Better work-life balance, better business performance. My top productivity hacks are white noise systems, extra sound deadening materials, private work areas and office management support services. Wellness features like sit stand desks and nap rooms are a much better investment than a noisy recreation area when trying to improve productivity of teams and business performance. A mix of closed and open areas is optimal. The reality is people generally prefer this to open-concept workplaces.”

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by Steve Randall11 Feb 2020

Urban living in an age where the environment is a key focus means amenities on your doorstep but some cities are doing it better than others.

A new report highlights Canada’s most walkable cities using data from Redfin company Walk Score.

Cities where daily errands do not require a car score 90 points and above, a score of 70 to 89 points means most errands can be accomplished on foot and a score of 50 to 69 indicates that some errands can be completed on foot.

None of Canada’s cities of 200K+ population achieve full walkability but Vancouver is the closest, with a Walk Score of 79.8.

"Over the past 10 years, Vancouver has placed a strong emphasis on development that supports walkability. Many of the new developments are focused on areas that are close to transit—specifically our monorail system," said Redfin Vancouver market manager Brooks Findlay. "The city itself has also been very focused on building new walking and bike paths, allowing for a green commute and discouraging single-driver vehicles. Many young professionals in Vancouver don't even consider owning a car. Developers have created mini villages in high-traffic areas, meaning you don't have to travel more than five or six blocks to get anything you need."

Toronto waterfront, underground
Montreal is placed second in the national ranking with a score of 65.4 while Toronto has a score of 61.

"A lot of Toronto is connected underground, so when it gets cold in the winter, there are still ways to get around. Then there's the boardwalk, which allows people to walk across much of the city right on the waterfront," Redfin Toronto market manager Blair Anderson said. "One thing people don't always realize about Toronto is that there are lots of nature walks and trails right in the city. If it was just a concrete jungle, people wouldn't be so inclined to walk places, but since it's so beautiful, walking is appealing. Plus, city traffic is less than desirable these days, so being able to get around on foot is very advantageous."

Rank City Walk Score
1 Vancouver 79.8
2 Montréal 65.4
3 Toronto 61.0
4 Burnaby 60.1
5 Longueuil 54.4


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by Gerv Tacadena11 Feb 2020

Toronto's house prices are likely to continue their upward trajectory this year due to a supply crunch, pushing potential homebuyers to go for more affordable options, according to the latest market outlook by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB).

The overall average selling price in the region is expected to jump by 10% to $900,000 this year. TRREB said there is a high chance that the prices will keep inflating given the limited growth in new listings.

"The end result will be an acceleration in price growth over the next year, as an increasing number of homebuyers compete for a pool of listings that could be the same size or smaller than in 2019," TRREB said.

Also read: Toronto condo apartment sales gained at the end of 2019

Home sales are slated to increase by 10% this year, hitting 97,000 from the 87,825 reported last year. This growth will be driven by the demand for condominiums, apartments, and higher density low-rise segments like semi-detached homes and townhouses.

"These home types are more affordable, on average, and will remain popular as the mortgage stress test, although under review by the federal government, appears to be remaining in place for the foreseeable future," TRREB said.

The stress test has influenced the options of would-be homebuyers in the region in terms of price, dwelling type, and location. TRREB said while the detached house used to be the most popular type of home, the share of intending buyers who ended up seeking for such dropped from 54% in 2015 to 42% last year.

"This decline was evident both in the City of Toronto and surrounding regions. An increase in buying intentions for condominium apartments and semi-detached homes has accounted for the dip in detached buying intentions," TRREB said.

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by Gerv Tacadena11 Feb 2020

Montreal's housing market remained favourable to sellers in January, as selling times for single-family homes and condominiums shrank to their shortest since 2005, according to the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB).

The selling times in the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) went down to 69 days for single-family homes, 74 days for condominiums, and 73 days for plexes.

"Selling times continue to reflect particularly tight market conditions that are extremely favourable to sellers, for all property categories combined," QPAREB said.

The region witnessed 3,429 residential sales in January, up 16% from last year. Excluding Vaudreuil-Soulanges, where sales fell significantly by 17%, the five other main areas of the Montreal CMA reported robust increases in sales activity. Laval clocked the highest growth at 37%, followed by Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (33%) the Island of Montreal (18%), the North Shore (17%), and the South Shore (10%).

Also read: Montreal poised to hit new sales record

In terms of property type, plexes recorded the highest jump in transactions, hitting a sales growth of 36% to 335 sales. QPAREB said the low vacancy rates for rental properties in the region were the reason behind the renewed interest in this property category.

Condominium sales also increased considerably during the month, up 23% to 1,290 transactions. Single-family homes, on the other hand, recorded the highest number of transactions in the month at 1,800, reflecting an 8% growth.

The supply of residential properties for sale was not able to keep up with the increasing demand. Over the month, the number of homes up for grabs fell by 28% to 15,073 active listings. This rate of decline has not been seen in the month of January since 2000, according to QPAREB.

As a result of the stellar gains in sales and the limited supply, property prices across the Montreal CMA shot up, with all three property categories hitting new records. The table below shows the changes in prices across property types:

Montreal Changes in Median Prices – January 2020

Housing Type

Median Price

Price in the Island of Montreal

Single-family homes

353,000 (+12%)

526,800

Condominiums

275,000 (+11%)

369,000

Plexes

570,000 (+11%)

647,000

 

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage. Click here to get help choosing the best mortgage rate

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by Steve Randall05 Feb 2020

Home sales activity in the Metro Vancouver housing market continue to improve on 2019’s slump.

Data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver shows a 42.4% increase in sales year-over-year with 1,571 homes sold. This is also up 22.1% from December.

Although sales remain weak by historic standards – missing the 10-year average for January by 7.3% - the significant improvement from last year sets up a better year ahead.

“We’ve begun 2020 with steady home buyer demand that tracks close to the region’s long-term average,” Ashley Smith, REBGV president said. “Looking at supply, we’re seeing fewer homes listed for sale than is typical for this time of year. As we approach the traditionally more active spring market, we’ll keep a close eye on supply to see if the number of homes being listed is keeping pace with demand.”

Although new supply in January improved on the previous month - with 3,872 listings representing a 143.8% increase from December – it is a 20.1% decrease from January 2019 and new listings were 17.4% below the 10-year January average.

Total inventory was also down more than 20% year-over-year and more than 13% below the long-term average for the month. There were 8,617 homes available to buy listed on the MLS in January.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,008,700, 1.2% below January 2019, but up 1.4% over the past six months, and up 0.8% from December.

Stats by property type
Sales of detached homes in January 2020 reached 439, a 29.5% increase from the 339 detached sales recorded in January 2019. The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,431,200. This represents a 1.7% decrease from January 2019, a 1% increase over the past six months, and a 0.5% increase compared to December 2019.

Sales of apartment homes reached 814 in January 2020, a 45.6% increase compared to the 559 sales in January 2019. The benchmark price of an apartment property is $663,200. This represents a 1% decrease from January 2019, a 1.5% increase over the past six months, and a 1% increase compared to December 2019.

Attached home sales in January 2020 totalled 318, a 55.1% increase compared to the 205 sales in January 2019. The benchmark price of an attached unit is $782,500. This represents a 0.7% decrease from January 2019, a 1.6% increase over the past six months, and a 0.5% increase compared to December 2019.

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by Steve Randall05 Feb 2020

British Columbian homeowners who want to apply for deferment of property tax will soon be able to do so online.

The property tax deferment program provides low-interest loans that allow qualifying BC homeowners to defer their property taxes until they sell or transfer ownership of their home. The taxes can be deferred for any year the homeowner lives in the home and meets the criteria for the program.

The provincial government says that the new process, launching in May 2020, will lead to quicker application reviews and, for the first time, allow for automatic renewals.

This will be a significant improvement on the current system where application reviews can take up to 5 months, sometimes meaning late penalties and fees.

The new system means that eligible homeowners will be able to opt in to annual renewal if they continue to meet program requirements.

Municipalities will no longer be responsible for collecting applications although they will continue to handle homeowner grants and utility payments.

For those homeowners who need more support there is information at www.gov.bc.ca/propertytaxdeferment and by phone: 1 888 355-2700 (toll-free within Canada) or 250 387-0555 (outside Canada). They can also visit any ServiceBC Centre.

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| Jan 27, 2020
 
tidy-living-room Yuri_Arcurs/iStock

Anyone else’s living room feeling like a post-apocalyptic nightmare right about now? If it looks anything like ours, piles of laundry, stacks of unread magazines from last year, and even the Secret Santa gift you received from your co-worker (the one you’re still deciding whether to keep) are probably majorly clogging things up.

And that's not OK! Our living rooms should be spaces where we can unwind from the stress of the day—not feel like magnetic fields for mountains of crap.

That’s why we’re dedicating this edition of our “New Year, Clean House” series to making that happen. Ready to reclaim your living room? Keep reading for the four most essential things to focus on for a decluttered space in the new year.

1. Conquer your coffee table


Photo by Loaf 
The first place to start in decluttering the living room is your coffee table, says Melissa Groff, owner of Namastay Organized.

“When you sit down at the end of a long day, the last thing you want to look at are your bills," she says. "Create a spot for important mail elsewhere in the home where you tend to get things done, then stage remotes, a candle, and a small plant on a serving tray—so you can truly relax at the end of the day.”

When it comes to what to do with all that mail, Ali Wenzke, author of “The Art of Happy Moving,” has a few ideas.

“For old mail, make two piles: recycle or scan,” Wenzke says. “As you go through the mail, toss any envelopes or additional junk mail, then scan the documents you want to keep or take a photo of them, and toss whatever you don’t need.”

How about old magazines? Nonnahs Driskill, owner of Get Organized Already!, has some solid advice: Throw them away.

“This can feel wasteful because you may not have read the magazine, but life keeps moving forward and having an old magazine on the coffee table is more likely to make you feel guilty or late, than accomplished and on top of things," she says. "Try it. Throw away all the old magazines. What’s the worst that could happen?”

2. Banish all the things that belong elsewhere

We know you know what we’re talking about, but we’ll say it anyway: slippers, bathrobes, sweaters, kids toys, abandoned projects—and the list goes on.

So what should you do with all this crap coming between you and your chill living room vibes? Amy Bloomer, owner of Let Your Space Bloom, fills us in.

“A well-placed bin can help to contain items so they don’t take over,” she says. “For example, I encourage clients to keep a basket at the bottom of their stairs. This becomes the catchall for things that have migrated out of place. Once a day, preferably in the evening, make it a habit to put back everything you’ve accumulated in the basket. It won’t take long, and it will help to maintain clear, calm spaces before retiring for the night.”

3. Edit out excess blankets and pillows

Photo by Kate Jackson Design

Having a lot of blankets and pillows on your couch makes it cozy, but having every single throw pillow and blanket you’ve ever owned (including the ones that are falling apart) strewed across the living room? Let’s just say it’s a bit much.

“Anything that’s showing signs of wear, has holes, or doesn’t match your current aesthetic should be decluttered,” Groff says. “Items in good shape can be donated, and the rest should be trashed.”

4. Make over your (out-of-control) media center

Once upon a time, having a huge collection of DVDs and CDs was a thing to be proud of. But now? It sort of just makes you a hoarder.

“If you find yourself bingeing on Netflix every weekend, then you can say goodbye to that old DVD collection," Wenzke says. "Keep up to 10 DVDs for sentimental reasons, but allow yourself to part with the rest. Donate the unwanted ones to your local library.”

And since we’re on the topic of unruly media centers, let’s not forget about the rat’s nest of cords behind the TV or in the junk drawer.

“The key to this space is your cords,” says Emma J. Carter of It’s a Lifestyle. “Once you have cords tucked away, this piece of furniture starts serving its specific purpose.”

To tackle cord overload, Carter recommends unplugging everything, untangling them, and investing in some velcro ties to keep things organized. Have some extra unwanted cords? Donate them to your nearest Goodwill.

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by Steve Randall03 Feb 2020

The deadline for homeowners in Vancouver to file their Empty Homes Tax declaration is almost here.

Owners have until February 4 to tell the City or face a $250 fine – or dispute the ticket - before they can file late.

Those homes that are subject to EHT are those that are declared vacant by the property owner without qualifying for one of the eight exemptions. Principal residences and those homes that are rented out for at least 6 months of the year in blocks of at least 30 days.

If no declaration is made by the deadline, the City will assume the property is subject to EHT and bill the owner accordingly. However, this will be cancelled is a late declaration shows that no tax is due.

The City of Vancouver says that 84% of owners had made a declaration as of January 27.

For those that do need to pay the tax, the deadline for payment is April 16, 2020, otherwise an additional 5% will be added.

Declarations can be made online, in person, or by phone.

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by Steve Randall29 Jan 2020

The Mayor of Vancouver says he is committed to protecting and expanding co-ops on city-owned land, a popular housing option over the past 40 years.

Kennedy Stewart is asking for feedback on the best way to renew leases to ensure stability for residents and optimize the provision of affordable housing in the city.

“Over the last 40 years, co-ops on City-owned land have provided a vital source of affordable housing and I am committed to not only preserving the existing co-ops but expanding on them with the help of the federal government,” the mayor said.

The City has produced a paper detailing four potential lease renewal scenarios that address the concerns of the co-ops. The scenarios aim to ensure that residents do not pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

“The lack of affordable housing in our city continues to be a critical challenge and the scenarios proposed would allow the City to both protect existing homes and generate funding for more stable, high quality and affordable units for people in need,” added Sandra Singh, General Manager of Arts, Culture and Community Services.

The four scenarios

  • Basic renewal: A co-op pays the City a ground rent linked to Vancouver incomes on an annual basis with limited reporting requirements. 
  • Renewal with additional grant: Similar to the basic renewal scenario but the co-op provides more in-depth reporting to the City regarding income levels and receives an additional grant to ensure affordability for co-op members with demonstrated need. 
  • Redevelopment: The City has a strong interest in working with co-op housing partners to increase the number of co-op homes on City-land. In certain circumstances – including the poor building conditions / unused development potential – the City will determine whether there may be an opportunity to work with an individual co-op to explore potential redevelopment of the site.
  • End of lease: As a last resort and the City’s least preferred scenario, a co-op may opt not to renew its lease. Should this be the option pursued by the co-op, the City will work with that co-op to protect its members and work to identify a new building operator as quickly as possible.

Feedback can be submitted via an online form on the City website.

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Desirable mountainside and waterfront city sees nation's highest rate of U-Haul trucks coming in versus going out, reports U-Haul

 

WI Staff Western Investor
January 27, 2020
 
 
U-Haul moves

North Vancouver is the No. 1 "growth city" in Canada, according to U-Haul data analyzing Canadian migration trends for 2019.

Growth cities are calculated by the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a city versus leaving that city during a calendar year. Migration trends figures are compiled from more than two million one-way U-Haul truck sharing transactions that occur annually in the U.S. and Canada.

In North Vancouver, arrivals of one-way U-Haul trucks in 2019 increased nearly 30 per cent while departures were up less than 20 per cent from the community’s 2018 numbers. Amid the overall spike in moving traffic, arrivals accounted for 55.2 per cent of all one-way U-Haul traffic through North Vancouver.

The other top five growth cities were in Ontario, led by Trenton. Other B.C. towns with strong inbound U-Haul traffic in 2019 were Salmon Arm,  ranked at No. 11; Merritt, at No. 20; and Victoria, which U-Haul placed at No. 22 of the top 25 growth cities in Canada.

U-Haul data is considered important because it captures middle-class household movements across North America. U-Haul has facilities in all 10 Canadian provinces and 50 U.S. states.

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by Gerv Tacadena21 Nov 2019

Property investors looking for bright spots in Western Canada should place their bets in cities such as Kelowna, Prince George, Chilliwack, Lethbridge, and Moose Jaw.

According to an analysis by Western Investor, British Columbia's Kelowna is the best city to invest in next year. The city is currently experiencing a development boom, making it a viable spot for property investment.

The city's residential vacancy rate is at 1.9%, with rents costing over $2 per square foot for apartments. Kelowna's office vacancy rate is just as promising, with a vacancy rate of 4.9%, down from 6.5% a year ago. Class A spaces lease for up to $26 per square foot.

"It's gratifying to see the city's long-term vision for this area becoming a reality. The mixture of commercial, industrial and residential properties create a dynamic and attractive hub of development where people can work, live and enjoy leisure time all in one spot," Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran told Western Investor.

Prince George, another British Columbia city, also boasts positive investment prospects. The city is expected to post economic growth of 1.5% this year and 1.7% next year.

The Conference Board of Canada named Prince George one of the mid-size cities for best economic growth.

"Thanks to a healthy real estate market, finance, insurance, and real estate will be Prince George's fastest-growing industry over this year and next. This sector is forecast to expand by 2.6% this year, and 2.7% in 2020," market watcher Frank O'Brien said in a think piece in Western Investor.

The third-best city for investment is Chilliwack, BC. The recent opening of the $200m Molson Coors brewery is one of the major selling points of the city, which is poised to become an industrial real-estate hotspot.

Coming in fourth place is Alberta's Lethbridge. Amid the province's slowing economy, Lethbridge managed to record growth over the past two years. The city's diverse economy helps keep its steady growth.

Saskatchewan's Moose Jaw is another city to watch out for. It recently welcomed agricultural powerhouse Carpere Canada, which plans to develop a high-tech industrial park in the city to partner with local producers.

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by Clayton Jarvis28 Jan 2020

In its first quarter forecast, the British Columbia Real Estate Association projects moderate growth for the provincial housing market in 2020. Led by returns to average levels of activity for Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, sales in BC are expected to increase a robust 10.3 percent this year, coinciding with a 4.8 percent improvement in the average MLS sales price.

While sales in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are expected to rise by 18.8 and 12.4 percent, respectively, only one other real estate board, Victoria, is predicted to see an improvement of more than 5 percent. Price growth in most areas of the province is forecast to be modest, with only three – Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and BC Northern – showing the potential for an increase of more than three percent.

The numbers don’t jump off the page, but their upward trajectory points to the enduring appeal of B.C. real estate and the strong fundamentals supporting the provincial economy, a fact many in the province are quick to point out. A commonly held belief in British Columbia is that it wasn’t a lack of economic activity or population growth that slowed the BC housing market; it was a bevy of new taxes and lending restrictions that shocked the market into paralysis.

The effects of those changes are now fading, only slightly behind schedule.

“We did quite a bit of research on what happens when the CMHC or the Department of Finance changes mortgage rules or makes mortgage regulations more strict,” says BCREA chief economist Brendon Ogmundson. “In the past, it’s had a pretty immediate impact: the peak of the impact is three to six months and by 12 to 15 months it’s faded away. We got that to a certain extent with B-20 [aka the mortgage “stress test”], except it was much deeper than any of those other policies and it took a lot longer to turn the corner.”

Now that consumers have had a chance to adjust to the new landscape, Sam Hanson, CEO of South Street Property Group, says they are more than ready to get back into the market.

“We’re very optimistic about the next two to three years in the residential markets in B.C.,” Hanson says. “People are moving here. People are creating jobs here. People are setting up high tech businesses here. Prices are more attractive than they were a year ago and people are now able to step up and justify their purchases.”

Most economic indicators are pointing in the right direction. BCREA projects GDP growth of 2.4 percent in 2020, along with strong growth in wages, employment and retail sales. But housing supply will continue to be an issue. Housing starts were at a record high in 2019, but they are expected to shed 16.1 percent in 2020 and a further 8.5 percent in 2021.

“I think the province will always play catch-up,” in terms of housing supply Hanson says. The natural bounty that makes B.C. such a desirable place to live – the ocean, the lakes, the mountains, fertile agricultural land, etc. – also limits the amount of available real estate. “We see development, of course, but it’s basically infill development within the confines of an area.”

“We’re going to be somewhat undersupplied as long as demand continues to recover,” says Ogmundson, “especially over the next five to 10 years, with a lot of the millennial cohort aging into their prime household forming years. There’s not going to be a lot of supply to match demand, so I think we could have some tightening of markets.”

Shrinking supply, growing demand and a healthy economy fuelled the last housing boom in B.C. No one appears to have the appetite for another one, but if that’s all that’s being served up in 2020, investors may have no choice but to dig in. 

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by Steve Randall16 Dec 2019

Canadian households should start to see a lower trend for the debt service ratio in 2020 according to a new report from TD Economics.

Economists have been looking back over 2019 and made predictions for the new year and note that interest rates were the biggest surprise of the past year.

Rates had been rising in 2018 but reversed in 2019. Also, the yield on 5-year bonds fell by almost a full percentage point from their late 2018 peak, with mortgage rates following the lead.

While the lower mortgage rates helped boost homeownership, TD’s report notes that most households haven’t felt much relief from their debt servicing costs with a debt service ratio (DSR) of 15% in the third quarter, the highest level on record, compared to 14.7% a year earlier.

However, 2020 is expected to see the DSR decline amid lower rates which will start to reach homeowners, while unsecured debt should also see lower rates if the Bank of Canada makes an expected cut.

This won’t of course impact every household with only a few refinancing mortgages or other loans in any given year, but the forecast calls for an average $300 saving per household, relief that was not expected a year ago.

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