Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

If i had $100,000.

We used to be able to sing..." if i had a million dollars....i'd be rich!"

Not so anymore. The Financial Post ran a story on a couple who were worth  $ 2.5 million  ( net worth) but when they looked at the numbers they couldnt retire early or cut back work to travel. The reason being the investments that made them worth 2.5 generated cash flow that they lived on. Sell the investment and although they realize a windfall- that would be burned through quickly with no income coming in and needing a place to live.
The problem was if your house is worth so much and you sell it- Where do you live? Well I have long been a fan and supporter of Smallworks Laneway housing. Some of you may have met me on the laneway tours. One thing I often heard is" I cant afford  to build one yet".Well , now they have come up with a wonderful DIY solution.
The Smallworks Builder - a starter model that you finish yourself.
If you or members of your circle have construction skills or contacts in the building trades, The Smallworks Builder is the perfect DIY project: an award-winning Smallworks-designed laneway house delivered with the essentials in place – building permit, site preparation, underground services, insulated foundation and slab, walls, doors, windows and roof. The rest – electrical wiring, plumbing and finishing – is up to you.

The starting price of The Smallworks Builder is $100,000. Smallworks performs all the heavy lifting: excavating, pouring the concrete, erecting the building, and cutting through the red tape.( yes even dealing witjh City Hall!)  Delivery – from permit to lock-up – takes only 4 to 6 weeks.

Great savings can be achieved when you have the opportunity to complete the house yourself. It also allows you to transform Smallwork’s well-crafted house into a finished home you can be proud of, on your own terms and your own budget.

So the couple that wanted to travel? they could build their home, rent out the main house and travel on the surplus....

If you have the money ,or if you have the equity- Smallworks can put you in the direction to get your financing at  100% of the laneway cost, and build the whole house to the point you walk in with groceries. But if you would rather finish it yourself overtime this is a great option to get started.
Disclosure- I have worked in sales for Smallworks in the past. Feel free to call me if you have any questions.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vancouvers money pyramid

I have been increasingly concerned with the escalating property values in very select neighborhoods.West Vancouver in particular.
 Difficult since my bread and butter comes from selling and reselling of Real estate, but my allegiance lies with the liveability, sustainablity of our neighborhood- our city. I am here for the long haul. So any fleeting financial gain in commission is wholly offset by the deterioration of what works in a neighborhood.
The current situation I find alarming.
We are pawns in very global game of chess where people with big money are coming in and buying up our property and then telling other people what a great spot this is to invest, they in turn are then selling that great property for hugely inflated prices to the next person and on it goes. The province is laughing as it reaps in the PTT over and over. But our citys , that are bearing the brunt of this localized issue are not getting any piece of the pie. It will be the City ( or in West vans case the District..) that has to deal with closed shops and bistros since many of these homes are not even lived in. Perhaps a mom and child move in, but not a whole household of contributing citizens.
here are a few examples, and this is just todays sampling.

800 block Pyrford. tax assessed at $1.982,000
sold in August 2011 for $3.288,000
Listed now at $4.180,000

1400 blk Nelson tax assessed at $1.200,000
sold in March 2010 for $1.200,000
listed  now at $2.199,000

1400 blk of Sandhust tax value$ 2.088,000
sold July 2011 for $2.088,000
listed $2.998,000

1800 blk  Queens tax assessed $1.551,000
sold May 1st 2011$ 1.728
listed now $2.398

and the best one
3100 Blk Thompson Cr
tax assessed $4.143,000
sold in 2009 for $4.142,000
listed now for $7.5 million

maybe everyone is just cashing out. maybe everyone wants to downsize. But if this keeps up where will you downsize to? When a starter home is now 1.8 million we have some serious problems. Who will live here that works here? Our nurses and firemen and teachers, and restaurantuers dont make this kind of money.Soon they will have to charge $10 for a coffee! If employees move to the suburbs,with soaring gas prices soon the commute will cost too much and we will find ourselves with a lovely area that can"t  find people to work here. Most people tend to want to live close to where they work.
It goes back to us needing a supply of smaller housing. Not more $8 million mansions on our mountains, but more small little cottages where families can start and single young people can live and enjoy our community too. This doesnt solve the problem, but perhaps it can mitigate one of its symptoms.
I am glad laneway housing and coach houses are at the forefront of this civic campaign. We have the ability to vote in people that bring this forward in a sensible way that wont overcrowd or over densify our neighborhood. But who will deal with the  Real Estate speculation?Politically, no one wants to touch it.

I dont have the answers . I just think someone has to start asking the questions.

Monday, September 19, 2011

canadian culture

I was fortunate to participate in the Global Buyers Mission a couple weeks ago. Groups from Taiwan, Japan, Korea and many others came to see what forestry/wood building products we are making/creating.
I was hosting the tour at a lovely laneway house which garnered plenty of interest. They were amazed we dared to build with so much wood in a landscape of forest and bugs!

The wonderful people Imet from Korea and Taiwan came bearing gifts and It reminded me  that in their culture that is very typical. I lived in Manila for 7 years and started to recognize different cultural traits when I was there.

But what about Canadians? Whats our " culture"?

 I have heard some people say its the culture of " sorry"

as in... "sorry"  you go first when merging,
" sorry" i took your spot in line
 and maybe soon to be ...
"sorry" i overcharged you on the price of my home....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Canucks Stanley Cup run, and reminiscing

wow, I just listed a home that reminds me of times gone by. A beautiful .8 acre estate in lower  properties that has the wonderful feel of an english country estate. 1165 Chartwell. I should be thrilled but I am nervous. Not for the Canucks tonite  as i believe they deserve this win ( not just because i was an old Rota router in the 82 series, and thanks to Bob and Tom Larsheid got to see some playoff games- but because the ones sided calls, the honorable Sedins and young Mason all deserve it!)
 I am nervous because this beautiful immaculately maintained and lovingly cared for home has people calling every few hours about how big a house can they build on this lot.35,000 sq ft is big and the flat buildable area is probably about 18,000 sq ft. But somehow I really want a family to continue to love this home and make it their own. Maybe renovate the kicthen and bathrooms and fix up the lovely cottage on the knoll that would have a nice view! and it has power and water - what a great doghouse when hubby comes home late. ok just kidding, how about a wandering teen. Anyway, the property is worth seeing, even if just to remember the type of homes we dreamed about when we were young. ill be there thursday 10 to 12 and saturday and sunday 2 to 4.   oh the price you ask?  $ 2.28

Monday, May 16, 2011

I see a dark cloud on the Real Estate horizon

It takes a little agent to notice trends that are earning big agents alot of money ( excuse the pun) If I was a big agent  listing and selling tons of houses for way over market value why would i question my food trough?
It took a couple  of recent sales to sound the alarm for me.

A small kerisdale home sold in Sept for 1.489, new owner  puts it back on market for 6 days in end of march for 1.598 but very soon realizes the market since Sept is way up, and changes the price on day 6 to $2.190 and sells it within a couple weeks for $2.1. The house was the same as it was in September.

Upper dundarave view bungalow with assessed value of 1.3 ish goes on market for $1.990.000 Local agents thought actual value was probably more like 1.7, it sells over asking with a clean -no subject -offer at $2.3 mill. At least one offer was an overseas buyer who is a non resident.

Did you know as a non resident most banks will give you a mortgage with no checking on your income if you put 50% down? National bank will loan you without asking proof of income for only 35% down. However the down payment money has had to have a trail and be in an account for 3 months.

Did we learn nothing from the fiasco in the USA?
If the market keeps going up, they flip and get their money out. If it tanks, who is footing the bill? Will we really be able to find these people?
It gets worse.

Banks sell those mortgages. I have heard CMHC  owns billions of dollars of them. What happens when the property values go down?... hmm... this is all eerily reminiscent of the sub prime chaos. Who is checking into this?

FINTRAC is getting reports of supposedly all wired money through a financial institution. ( EFT is electronic funds transfer)
SWIFT reporting only applies if you send EFTs by transmission of a SWIFT MT 103 message, as a SWIFT member, through the SWIFT network. (SWIFT means the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It is a co-operative owned by the international banking community that operates a global data processing system for the transmission of financial messages.)

Real Estate agents are required to report any suspicious transactions. They are also required to fill in identification forms when they are dealing with people they do not know. These files are sent to the brokerage and then  sent off to the Real Estate Board. They are kept in case FINTRAC requests them. But who is checking?

Here is a far fetched example of what could happen

What if person X and person Y are friends. x buys a property for $1 mill

Now x gets his friend to buy his property for $2.5 
Y  putting down  35%  or $875,000.
the rest borrowed from the bank.
X has made 1.5 million and heads back home waiting for Y who disappears from Canada ,leaving the bank to foreclose.
X and Y split the $625,000 profit.( ok ...less 10 % witholding tax, PTT and commissions)
 At that time the house is no longer worth - because it never was - 2.5 million
So whoever bought the mortgage is on the hook.
Far fetched ? Yes but is this possible? yes. "Oh! The bank would never loan them on the inflated 2.5 value" you say? In speaking with appraisers they look at CURRENT market value, so since many homes in very specific areas have gone up ridiculous amounts, the appraisals will show the market value at that inflated amount. Not that this is happening but the fact that I imagine it could is scary enough for me.

Another scary thought-

Lets look at rent ratios.
Take a homes cost and divide that by its yearly rent.
 10 used to be a good market return in years past. A $400,000 home renting for $3300 a month. Thats a rent ratio of 10.
Las Vegas has property values with a rent ratio of 6 now so thats would be seen as a good buy.
Vancouver? Try 36- 42!
 That $2.5 Million  home might rent for $5000 a month, that means its cost is almost 42 times its yearly rent.
Its unfortunate I am working with many buyers right now.
 If I advised any sellers? Take the money and run...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boomers and Boomerangs

Technically they say all of us born the generation before 1964 are boomers. I used to wonder if we are so easily catargorized , what will my kids generation be? We have heard Gen x and  GenY but I think the most aptly put would be" Boomerangs". As the desireable places to live become unaffordable, our kids have a choice- Live somewhere no one else wants to, and you can afford, or move back in with mom and dad. Boomerangs will be the next trend. Kids that wander for a short while and then come back to camp out at mom and dads - where its safe, comfortable, familiar and affordable.
So we need to prepare. The asian families have long searched for large homes where multigenerational families can stay and call home. But our kids are coming and going. It is enviromentally, and financially not a good idea to build, manage, upkeep and heat!  a massive home that may end up very empty for some years.
Hence back to sensitive density, flexible homes, laneway houses.
Take that square footage and divide it into a home for mom and dad, a suite that can be a rental ( sometimes) or for a teen starting out and a laneway house for a returning older child or elder parent needing some attention. Why is it so easy to build a 6000 sq ft home in West Van but heaven forbid we had a 2000 sq ft home and applied for a small 1000 sq ft lanehouse.
Why is this so difficult ?
I am so happy to hear that  West Vancouver Council has approved - for public consultation- a great proposal by Michael Geller to take 3 lots -smack in the middle of all kinds of amenities in West Van- and create 3 duplexes with 3 laneway cottages. It is a beautiful quaint design that resembles the cottages of old here along the West Van coast. I really hope this community can see the benefit of this and come and support it. For more information contact me Kim@ We dont need more high rise towers, we do need density and this is exactly the way West Vancouver can do it, in its own unique style. Kudos to Mr. Geller!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

West Vancouver Development/real estate  This is a quick video of West Vancouvers past 100 years. What we need to decide now is which direction we will go for the next 100.

Do we want high rise towers to increase the tax base and supply smaller scale housing? Or perhaps we want to keep developing up the mountain until the wilderness is gone? Personally I would rather go to sensitive density increase. We can build smaller homes, we can build even smaller laneway cottages in our backyards. Not every yard , but some.

 I am very excited to see a local developer proposing a small scale development at Esquimalt and 20th. At first glance the homes look like cottages that once graced the north shore. This will be coming to Council on April 4th.

 These type of small scale developments have little impact on our traffic. They encourage our residents to stay in the area when the time comes to downsize, and they allow for small families to move into a beautiful new home for the price of a  tear down. Not everyone is a good handyman, and some will take a smaller space fully finished rather than a bigger home that needs work.

The bottom line is that the status quo is not working. Yes we live in a wonderful, quaint , quiet seaside village but we have our head in the sand. We are currently pumping sewage into the bay right out front of us, our antiquated system has been in need of an upgrade for a long time. We need funds to deal with this and unless we are prepared to pay thousands of dollars  more in tax on our property then we need to address this density issue. We can go up, out or think little for a change!  We certainly dont want to go the way of the Omaha Mayor who has just proposed a toilet paper tax!!!
If you like my ideas, more info at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vancouver- a bike city?

It was so exciting when the bike lanes went it. I imagined life like back in my home country with masses of bikes everywhere. Going out for dinner with 2 or 3 of us on a bike- ok we aren't in Amsterdam but it sounded so good. Now, driving across the Burrard bridge or Downtown streets I see an empty lane with planters alongside. At most I have counted 3 bicycles. " If you build it they will come" hmmmm .....second part of that is......
 " if its not raining, hailing or snowing"
which... doesn't leave alot of free days to ride. But the idea was right and the direction was right so how can  we fix it. Whats part 2?
Perhaps they could be convertible  lanes with winter driving use and summer  full bike lane. People will argue that its dangerous and drivers will get confused but we have championed the mixed use lane with counterflow on our Lions Gate bridge and tunnel. Its not ideal but maybe an option.

Perhaps we could have bikes at various positions in the city that you rent and take out of the rack with your credit card and can return anywhere else into another secure rack. This way if it poured in the morning you could jump on a bus and when the sun came out you could do your errands and afternoon commute on a bike. These systems already exist in other Cities.
 But the darn helmet. If we could make the lanes safer with less juxtipositioning with vehicles maybe helmets wouldnt be necessary? I am hearing the backlash from paramedics already..... but sometimes we have to get out of our paradigm of thinking and go WAY out, to be able to come back in and think of solutions.

On the North Shore Mayor Mussatto tried in vain to get a bike elevator approved so that people cycling lower North Van could easily access central and upper Lonsdale, lets just say he is still trying. The system was from Denmark I believe,  an innovative track that carried your bike up hill - with a little swipe of your CC of course.

The coolest new option to get people on a bike  a foldable electric bike. The question is will they let us ride this in the bike lane? I hope so.You will get there faster so you wont get as wet!. The exercise will come from carting it around. And the bonus is, that at approximately $3600 USD its way cheaper than a car and now you can convert that 2 car garage into..... a laneway house!
hows that for a segway... hey, Segwey thats another option and another story.......

Thursday, February 24, 2011

vancouver real estate update

affordability shrinking again

New lending rules scheduled to take effect next month are stimulating housing sales, according to local mortgage brokers.  first-time home buyers are trying to arrange financing for 35-year mortgages.
The federal government’s decision to reduce the maximum amortization period for government-insured mortgages from 35 to 30 years, effective March 18  will reduce affordability, particularly for first-time buyers, because monthly payments increase when the lending period shrinks.
If the average person earns around $50,000 per year. With a five-percent down payment, they can generally afford a $280,000 home at a four-percent interest rate and with a 35-year amortization period.
 If the mortgage is reduced to 30 years, the same buyer can only afford a $260,000 home( and if interest rates rise, as many observers predict, they’ll put an even greater squeeze on first-time buyers.)
 At 30 years with a five-percent rate, this same buyer would only be able to buy a home worth $230,000.

That could buy you a small closet in the sky, or a nice little laneway home if someone can give you their backyard.

And speaking of the closet in the sky. There is alot of hype about pre sales and entire developements selling out. But sometimes this is all a facade.Be careful of falling prey to the hype that surrounds some presales.
note here  a supposed craigslist ad
CraigsList ad:

Just as the title says, we need people to hold spots and line up for a new condo project located in Burnaby (Kingsway/Willingdon Ave). Line up may start as early as weds/thurs night. Grand opening is Saturday February 19, 2011.

Warm beverages and washrooms will be provided by the developer.

Shifts are determined on how long you would like to stay. (preferably 8hours+)

Get paid cash quickly for sitting in a line up!

E-mail me your phone number + e-mail for more details.

The question is did they really want the spots held for overseas buyers or did they already sell units over there and wanted it to look like it was in demand?

Presales often come with a cutom designed contract- favouring the developer. There are so many things to lookout for - always hire your own agent and always get some legal advice on the contract.

for example. In a phased developement, did you know that if phase 1 was built before new home warranties and you buy in phase 4 with full warranty- you will be required to pay for any remediation required in phase 1 as you are all 1 strata! Or what if you buy phase 1 and phase 3 will have a great pool, rec centre etc.. but developer elects not to build anymore phases,  what recourse do you have?
Always get independant advice. Here is Wendy Mesley learning how they create the hype in presales and learning to get sober second advice:

Feel free to follow my real estate blog at as well

Friday, January 28, 2011


 You have all heard the saying at your local burger joint " would you like fries with that?" Well get ready to use that idea in your real estate career. Now you can get a new home for $150,000! on any existing RS1 or RS5 property in City of Vancouver, and soon in North Van City. These beautiful state of the art mini homes are back yard cottages that can be built in a few months on your back lane.( for info) So the next time you show a buyer a nice place for sale ask if they want a laneway house with that.
 RBC and Vancity currently have programs in place to pay for the cost of building your laneway -so a little extra mortgage upfront and you can get a great rental, or home for aging parent or footloose teenager. Smallworks has 3 plans from contemporary, midcentury modern to traditional exterior. The interior can be a studio, 1 bedroom or a flex between the two.Heated floors, fire sprinkler, full kitchen and bathroom are all included and for $150k that covers HST too.
Big houses are so yesterday.