Archive for the ‘opinion’ Category

Vancouver a graveyard for job seekers?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

There’s been some discussion lately about the temporary foreign worker program (TFW) and whether Canada needs to import workers, skilled or unskilled.

This of course brings up the debate: companies say they can’t find people to fill positions, workers say thats just because you aren’t paying enough.

Is there something special about Vancouver that enables lower wages to be paid or are is it not true that Vancouverites tend to be underpaid?

Atomic Frog had this to say:

Here are some of the facts that I know of

Highly skilled and highly in demand workers do not stay in Vancouver. You get paid higher in another city and cost of living is likely lower than living in Vancouver. Local companies ALWAYS have problem hiring qualified applicants and if this snowball, they cannot stay in business for very long or be very competitive in their sector. What kind of industry is doing very well in Vancouver anyway these days? Movie industry? Mining? Tech? I work in the local IT industry for the last 20 yrs. I saw all kind of IT ppl who came to town, found a job and eventually left town after a couple of yrs because they had found a much better paying job in another city.

As a result, Vancouver is considered to be a graveyard for job seekers. Even for those who have a job, local salary has been stagnant for yrs. Without a steady stream of local workers who should see their annual salary go up steadily every yr, it is very difficult for this local property bubble to continue.

There are many cases in other parts of the world where property value goes up and stay there. Main reason being foreign investor, but the locals also keep making more money over the yrs. Prices that were higher five yrs ago may not seem to be that high for those cities. However, can we say the same thing for Vancouver?

Do you know skilled workers that have sought better career opportunities outside of Vancouver or are you and your coworkers properly compensated and happy to stay?

Taxpayers funding condo flippers?

Monday, April 14th, 2014

By now everyone knows about the high cost of the Olympic Village project.

Current estimates are that it will cost taxpayers between $400 – $600 million to pay this off.

There are 68 units still left unsold over the last six years, but over at the ‘Canada House’ building it looks like a number of units have been bought and flipped, at least one for more than $400k profit in a month.

Hat tip to Mac who pointed out this article in the Province.

So whats going on here? Should these units have been priced higher or considering the tough sales across this project were they right to unload them quickly even if there were buyers willing to pay more?

Saving is hard.

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

One of the great things about the Vancouver housing market is that we don’t have subprime lending.  All of our loans are rock solid and even if they weren’t guaranteed by the government banks would still be eager to hand out the same mortgages.

And yet..

If there’s one thing Vancouverites know, it’s that saving money is difficult.

So what are you to do as a responsible first time home buyer who is unable to save up the hefty 5% required to get a CMHC insured mortgage?

Don’t worry, at least one bank has your back: Vancity will match half your downpayment savings on a home priced under $500k.

Still that’s not exactly zero down, since the CMHC scrapped that in 2008, but if saving up 2.5% is still too difficult you may have other options.

But remember, unless you have a poor credit rating this still isn’t subprime.

Apparently it’s gotten harder to get the long term zero down mortgage the CMHC made available in the past, but not impossible.

Renting: The last, best real estate bargain?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Somebody at the Sun has started looking at rent / buy ratios.  

Many Franks posted this in the comment section yesterday:

Barbara Yaffe discovers renting. Contains a few groaners. Renting a place may be the last, best real estate bargain and a majority of the city’s residents are taking full advantage

Vancouver rents have remained reasonable in part because of a 2.2-per-cent limit on annual increases imposed by the provincial government.

NO! Bad Barbara.

In a recent bulletin, [David and Mark Goodman] report Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation numbers that demonstrate it’s 32.5-per-cent cheaper to rent rather than own a one-bedroom unit in Vancouver.

“The gap increases considerably once strata fees, maintenance costs and taxes are taken into account.”

WTF kind of buy/rent comparison EXCLUDES strata/maintenance and tax?

Apartment building owners in Vancouver since 2007 have faced a municipal moratorium on the demolition of rental housing stock, and are reluctant to evict tenants in order to do needed upgrades.

Renoviction. When a phenomenon is popular enough to coin its own term, “reluctant” might be overstating the case.

The Goodmans are predicting that landlords of these older, minimally upgraded buildings soon may find themselves confronting tough new competition.

They report as many as 49 rental buildings, with 5,849 suites, could come on stream in the region within the next three years.

And the popularity of renting in Metro Vancouver may grow, says the Goodman Report, because of an increasing wariness about Canada’s possibly overvalued real estate.

“We live in a very special place with abundant resources and continuing investment from abroad,” says the newsletter. But with all the housing-bubble talk, “as a B.C. real-estate owner you’re wise to be cautious.”

Where are the 3 bedroom condos?

Monday, March 24th, 2014

M- and MarKoz brought up this topic – Vancouver seems to be seriously lacking in affordable family housing.

There are lots of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, but not much available for 3-4 bedrooms until you go to houses.  M- suggest the city requires more large units to be built to provide future homes for Vancouver families:

CoV could require condo developers to include a much larger percentage of 2-bed and 3-bed units in the towers that they’re approving, and require some of those units to have a more family-sized square footage. Maybe in exchange for higher density, to make it less controversial.

It won’t help much of anything today, but it will prevent today’s towers from becoming tomorrow’s ghettos.

My wife and I used to have an 800 sq.ft condo. It was too small for the two of us. Then we got a 1000 sq.ft apartment, and it was enough space for the two of us (we would have liked more, but it was good enough).

Then we had a kid.

The 1000 sq.ft unit slowly became too small for our family, so we’ve upgraded to a house (rental, of course).

We keep an eye on the condo/house markets, and there’s not much selection of 3-bed units out there, until you get into houses.

MarKoz adds:

When I went condo hunting I could find nothing similar. You would have marginal master bedrooms and second bedrooms the size of a closet. The master bathroom was usually huge at the cost of a smaller living room etc. All had fireplaces – a waste of precious wall space in a small unit. Stainless and granite with barely enough counter space to lay a pizza box. Closets were minimal as was out of suite storage.

I moved on to townhouses. 1200 square feet spread over 3 floors is worse than 800 square feet on one floor. So much space given over to stairs and landings.

Who wants these places? Apparently everyone but me. They sure are selling. In the US they have plenty of 3 bedroom units but I guess those don’t attract specuvestors like 565 sq ft one bedrooms.

 

REDMA changes, is this a big deal?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Ex-kitsie pointed out this story:

Justice Minister Susan Anton has introduced Bill 17 (Miscellaneous Amendment Act, 2014) which includes a proposed amendment to Section 23 of the Real Estate Development Marketing Act (REDMA).

Ex-kitsie explains:

This is the legislation that governs the marketing of real estate by developers to consumers. The amendment would make a purchase agreement enforceable against a purchaser where the developer’s disclosure agreement included misrepresentation of a material fact and the developer was not aware of the misrepresentation at the time the agreement was entered into. This amendment would remove the ability of the purchaser to terminate or renegotiate the agreement upon discovery of the misrepresentation. So… the developer can include unsubstantiated inaccuracies while still enforcing the purchase agreement against the purchaser who relied upon the misrepresentation. Of course, we all know developers would never lie.

We’re not sure if this is a big deal or not, here’s a link to the amendment, you’ll have to scroll down about half way to find the relevant section.  Any comments on whether this is a dramatic change to the Real Estate Development Marketing Act or just a minor adjustment?

 

Does density make people happy?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Is there a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ kind of density?

Is density for its own sake an improvement to a city?

Gordon Clark has an opinion piece over at the Vancouver Province about density and it’s effect on people in the city.

Perhaps I’d feel better about all the growth if someone could point to some positives. But where are all the natural history museums, art galleries and other great cultural features common to other large cities? Despite the growth, we’re not acquiring any of the cultural attributes of large cities that at least provide some trade-off to a hectic life in an urban jungle. Let’s face it, we’re an artistic wasteland compared with truly great cities. How are all those condo towers blocking the spectacular views of the North Shore mountains and the ocean making us more interesting?

What do you think? Are community and culture getting shafted in the race to density and growth or are long term Vancouverites just grouchy and looking at the past through rose coloured glasses?

 

Pimco talking down Canada again

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

The worlds biggest bond fund seems to think there’s some sort of an issue with the Canadian real estate market.

Ed Devlin sees a decline somewhere in the range of 10-20 percent for home prices across the nation.

“And if you get that kind of 10-, 20-per-cent real correction, that should alleviate some of the stresses,” he added in an interview with our real estate reporter.

“And so that’s kind of what what we’re seeing. It will start this year, it could be bumpy along the way.”

To be clear, Mr. Devlin is not forecasting a sudden crash, but he joins a chorus of voices, from Deutsche Bank to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in raising red flags.

Deutsche Bank, for example, believes the Canadian housing market is the most overvalued in the world.

Read the full article here.

What will the CMHC announce?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Who wants to play ‘guess the future’?

Apparently the CMHC is holding a conference call at 10 am EST on Feb 27th.

Some rumours are saying privatization, though it looks like most everyone agrees that would extreeeeemely unlikely at this point for a few reasons:

-Privatization would require the finance department
-No one in their right mind would take on the debt

But that doesn’t mean you can’t guess at what is going to be revealed tomorrow!

So what do you think the CMHC will announce? Privatization? Tougher underwriting standards? Branching out into commemorative figurines? A new special expert task force comprised of Brad Lamb, Bob Rennie and Angelo Mozilo?

What’s your best guess at what the CMHC will announce tomorrow?

Gen Y not buying a lot of Vancouver houses

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

From the obvious files: expensive homes are expensive.

The Globe and Mail has an article about changing attitudes towards real estate by Generation Y in Vancouver.

Essentially: they are more inclined to live urban and remain mobile.

They also say that Boomers are downsizing into condos.

Ben Smith, VP of sales and marketing at Rennie & Associates, says he’s already seen a major shift in the last six months. This year he’s seen a sudden surge in demand for three-bedroom condos, purchased by downsizing boomers. Those boomers are trading their homes for spacious condos. Those same boomers are helping their kids with a down payment on their own condo, which is the only way a lot of Millennials will ever afford to live in Vancouver.

“It’s exciting, because for years we’ve been talking about this, and we’re finally seeing it happen,” he says. “There is $88-billion worth of clear-title real estate tied up with boomers. In B.C. and Vancouver especially, we are all equity and no income. If you don’t have that down payment, you don’t have a home.”

Read the full article here.

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