26 Apr

"Thrill of Buying A Home"


Posted by: Kimberly Walker

The ‘thrill’ of buying a house

William Hanley, Financial Post · Apr. 21, 2011

You walk into the open house, take one look and say to yourself: This is it. It’s the house I have to live in. Where do I pay? A bidding war? I’m in.

Over my years of buying houses, I never bought one that did not have that frisson moment, that thrill of finding a place so suited to my wants. Indeed, I have in the past decided that I wanted to buy a house in what seems, in retrospect, to be nanoseconds. (By contrast, I’ve taken weeks to decide on the right pair of shoes.)

It is no way to make an “investment,” to be sure. But, as I’ve previously discussed in this space, buying a house is perhaps the most uninvestment-like of investments.

Just about anyone who’s purchased a property or thought about purchasing knows that it is much about gut-feel, in which the senses can conspire to trump sense.

Now, as the major real estate selling season gets under way, along comes a survey commissioned by BMO Bank of Montreal to give statistical weight to the notion that intuition carries a particularly heavy weight in the house-buying process.

The survey by Leger Marketing found that more than two-thirds of Canadians cited a “good feeling” toward the property as a reason to buy. Meantime, though, good sense is not thrown out of that gorgeous bay window and into those manicured flower beds. More than 90% of house-hunters value affordability and location over resale value.

So, the axiom that there are three important things in real estate – location, location and location – might reasonably be replaced by the Three Ps: Price, place and personality.

Nevertheless, that resale value is not a big concern to these surveyed house-hunters – people between 25 and 45 who plan to buy a home within two years – is a telling sign of the real estate times.

With some dips here and there, Canadian house prices have been rising strongly for more than a decade. Indeed, even the recession created just a downward blip in the chart of ever-growing values, with the average national price rising 8.9% last month from the previous March (but just 4.3% excluding Vancouver).

As a result, most of the house-hunters surveyed might never have been aware of a housing market that was not rising. I suspect many in this 25-to-45 demographic believe house prices basically keep going up forever, that though they downplay resale value in the survey, the expectation for solid gains is, well, a given. (Any significant drop in prices would surely shake that belief.)

In recent times, investors have been asked if they are stocks or bonds. If you’re a stock, you are prepared to take on more investment risk. If you’re a bond, you are not.

Perhaps, though, many people are probably houses when it comes to investing. A home is both partly a stock and a bond – and somehow neither.

It is a bond because over the long term it will likely produce modest returns through the enforced savings required by paying down the mortgage. It is a stock because the gains could be outsized if the investor were to buy and sell at propitious entry and exit points for market-timing gains.

And it is neither because it is an “investment” with many moving parts and frictional costs. You don’t live in a stock or a bond, but when the house leaks, it costs money and cuts into the investment. Meantime, the costs associated with buying and selling a property are becoming more daunting in many jurisdictions, with some observers reckoning that a house is often a mediocre investment at best.

But most young first-time buyers and mover-uppers are not fazed by such commentary. Home ownership is a cornerstone of our culture, with 70% of the population owning properties and many of the other 30% looking to join the majority.

And the real estate industry has become far more adept at marketing and selling than in the days decades ago when I was in the market. Today, houses are often professionally “staged” to produce that frisson moment. Prices are sometimes set artificially low to produce that exciting bidding war and that extra frisson of “winning.”

A house, it is said, is not a home. And a home is not strictly an investment. But does a stock have granite counters? Does a bond have stainless steel appliances? http://www.financialpost.com/personal-finance/thrill+buying+house/4655339/story.html


21 Apr

Recommend 3 to 6 Months Wages In Your Savings Account


Posted by: Kimberly Walker

Canadians struggling to save and pay off debt; 38 per cent have no savings

LuAnn LaSalle, The Canadian Press

Many Canadians are finding themselves caught between the struggle to save money and repay their debts, says a survey from TD Bank.

And with interest rates expected to rise this summer, clearing debts probably won’t get any easier. In the report, 38 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they had no savings at all.

“I think it’s worrisome,” said Carrie Russell, senior vice-president of retail banking at TD Canada Trust “The reality is that we are all going to come into unexpected expenses from time to time, be it a car or health or a job loss and this can really derail you and your family if you have no cushion behind you,” Russell said from Toronto.

Russell said the major factor preventing Canadians from saving is that they are using disposable income to pay down debt, whether it be credit cards, car loans or mortgages.

She recommends a cushion of three to six months of income saved to get through unexpected financial shocks.

One-third of Canadians who responded to the recent online survey also said they didn’t have enough money to cover living expenses like rent or food bills.

The survey found that 54 per cent of the 1,003 people who took part in the survey said it was a real struggle or impossible to save.

Repaying those debts will only get harder if the Bank of Canada raises interest rates this summer, as expected. A spike in Canada’s inflation rate in March was driven by higher food and gasoline prices.

Shopping is also taking a toll on tucking money away for a rainy day.

Russell said 12 per cent of those surveyed said they couldn’t save because “they shopped beyond their means.” Nineteen per cent of those surveyed under the age of 35 said they spent too much on shopping, she added. “This really comes down to the age-old question of budgeting, choices and skills required in making plans for a healthy financial future.”

Changing habits starts with children and making sure they understand how much things cost and understanding the difference between a “want” versus a “need,” she said.

“We don’t send our children into the deep end of the ocean without teaching them how to swim. We shouldn’t send our children out into the workforce and independent lives without giving them the basics of financial literacy.”

On the flip side, 30 per cent of respondents said they had enough money saved to cover living expenses for at least four months.

Russell said those who were most successful with savings were “paying themselves first” and using automatic savings programs to put money aside.

Certified financial planner Marta Stiteler had some tough love for Canadians without nest eggs: learn to live with less and start saving every month even if it’s just $50.

“People are using the downturn as an excuse,” said Stiteler, an associate at Pillar Retirement in Hamilton, Ont..

“The reality is you just have to bite the bullet and save. If you don’t save you’re going to spend it because your lifestyle will eat up that money,” she said. “It’s about discipline.”

The Vanier Institute of the Family has said that average family debt in Canada hit $100,000 in 2010.

“I do think many families are behind the eight ball and the public supports really aren’t there where they once were,” said Katherine Scott, director of programs at the Ottawa-based organization.

Scott said local credit and non-profit agencies can provide resources to help families get a financial plan so they can “start to dig themselves out of that hole.”

The online survey, based on a representative sample of Canadian adults, was conducted from Dec. 2 to Dec. 7, 2010, by Environics Research for the bank. http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/Canadians-struggling-save-pay-capress-2491348161.html?x=0

12 Apr

White Rock the New Richmond


Posted by: Kimberly Walker

White Rock the New Richmond?

As anyone who has resided in the Lower Mainland in the past decade or so knows, Richmond has been a favorite desti-nation for real estate buyers from China. Forty-five percent of the Richmond population was of Chinese ethnicity accord-ing to the 2006 Census figures. It was 34% in 1996. While I haven’t been able to find a similar table for South Surrey/White Rock, according to the 2006 census, 81.6% of South Surrey residents identified a single mother tongue as English. Even without statistics it is clearly apparent to anyone who has visited both areas that Richmond has a much larger Chi-nese population than the Peninsula.

However if the current sales trend continues, it won’t be long before our community will have a significant demographic shift, with immigrants from China and the city of Richmond as well.

As you can see from the table above, the number of sales of detached homes soared 150% compared to last March. The average price also vaulted to $960,856, almost a 20% rise from 2010, yet the Benchmark price, which measures the in-crease in the price of a house typical to the area, only rose 3.6%. This is due to a large number of expensive house sales, as in one million plus dollars, to predominantly Chinese buyers.

Why have the Chinese suddenly become so interested in our neck of the woods? For one, our schools have become a major draw. The mainland Chinese want their children to learn English so they send them to English speaking schools. Chinese Richmond parents are moving to our area because our schools are more “English” than those in Richmond.

Another reason that has been put forth for this shift to South Surrey/White Rock has to do with the tragic earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan. Richmond is flat, surrounded by dykes and subject to the danger of liquefaction should a se-vere earthquake happen. Most of our area is much safer looking to potential offshore and Richmond buyers.

Another stimulus for this activity involves restrictive real estate policies in China which prohibit individuals from own-ing more than two properties.

As if the reasons above are not enough, our real estate prices are a bargain in the eyes of the Chinese, especially taking into account what a wonderful place our Peninsula is to live in.

It will be interesting to see if the trend continues at its current torrid pace. Chinese New Year was in February and many feel that this holiday period was the stimulus for the upsurge in activity. My feeling is that we will settle into a less fren-zied but still strong Seller’s market for detached homes. Apartment and townhouse sales have thus far remained stable and it remains to be seen if these categories will also become targets of the offshore buyers.

Len Doray

Managing Partner

HomeLife Benchmark Realty Corp.,

Email: len@lendoray.com

Phone: 604-531-1111


White Rock/South Surrey












New Listings






Active Listings






Benchmark Price






Median Price






Average Price






4 Apr

Fraser Valley Board Press Release April 4 2011


Posted by: Kimberly Walker

News Release: April 4, 2011


March home sale activity reaches 5-year high in Fraser Valley  

(Surrey, BC) – Last month, Fraser Valley REALTORS® experienced their busiest March in terms of sales on the Multiple Listing Service®, since 2006.


The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board processed 1,818 property sales in March, an increase of 16 per cent compared to 1,565 sold during March of last year, and an increase of 42 per cent compared to February’s 1,279 sales. In March of 2006, there were 2,072 sales.


Sukh Sidhu, Board president, explains, “We are seeing strong demand in Fraser Valley but not necessarily for every product type in every community, underlining the importance for consumers to ask their REALTOR® for a detailed, local market analysis.


“For example, sales of single family detached homes in White Rock/South Surrey increased by over 150 per cent in March compared to last year, however in Abbotsford they were down by almost 7 per cent. The property type that saw the largest increase in sales in Abbotsford during the month of March was condominiums.”


Sidhu adds that in addition to sales volumes, the number of new properties being listed for sale also increased by 11 per cent, going from 3,038 new listings in February to 3,376 in March. “Giving buyers more choice during one of the most popular times of the year to house hunt.”


March finished with 6 per cent more active listings on the MLS® than it had in February, 9,228 compared to 8,680, however still 6 per cent fewer compared to the 9,828 listings that were active during March of 2010.  


Regarding prices, in March, the benchmark price for Fraser Valley detached homes was $519,628, an increase of 0.9 per cent from the March 2010 price of $514,787.


The benchmark price of Fraser Valley townhouses in March remained on par year-over-year going from $326,307 in 2010 to $327,328 in 2011. The benchmark price of apartments was $249,463 in March, a 1.1 per cent increase compared to $246,673 in March 2010.  


Information and photos of all Fraser Valley Real Estate Board listings can be found on the national, public web site www.REALTOR.ca. Further market statistics can be found on the Board’s web page at www.fvreb.bc.ca. The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board is an association of 2,919 real estate professionals who live and work in the communities of North Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Abbotsford, and Mission.


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