February 27, 2014
Three smart designs that make the most out of small spaces
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Feb. 21 2014, 5:00 PM EST
Last updated Friday, Feb. 21 2014, 11:50 AM EST
From empty nesters to first-time homeowners, more and more Canadians are inhabiting tighter quarters. How to live stylishly in a compact space? Here are three seductively scaled-down residences making the most of every square foot.
Christian Lalonde/Photolux Studios
Radically open in Ottawa
The average size of a home in Canada is about 1,600 square feet, but that’s far too much for some people. In the case of Paul Kariouk, even his 1,100-square-foot apartment in Ottawa was simply “too big and empty.” When he moved in with partner Frederic Carrier (and Carrier’s “very large and very slobbery” dog, Charlemagne), they settled into 850 square feet in a new condo tower in the capital’s downtown. Then they essentially blew it up.
In particular, Kariouk and Carrier demolished the entire two-bedroom interior and turned it into an open rectangle, with a floor of white porcelain tile and three oval-shaped pods to contain a closet, a shower stall and a toilet and sink right in the middle of the space. When the couple desires some privacy, they draw curtains to close off a bedroom in one corner and to surround the shower, which is a fully glassed-in, floor-to-ceiling enclosure that sits right next to the kitchen island.
But that’s not often. “In residential design, there’s this sense that you have to compartmentalize all your activities,” says Kariouk, who runs his own architectural practice and teaches at Carleton University. “But that’s a Victorian idea, and nobody really lives like that; I certainly don’t. Even when I work, it’s on my laptop, and I can be anywhere within the place.”
His apartment’s radical openness is made possible through carefully designed built-in cabinets, which run the entire length of a 40-foot-long wall. The builder’s original wall “moved in and out; we camouflaged that with millwork that looks level all along the wall and holds everything we need from day to day.” This includes a workstation, a musical keyboard that Carrier plays as a hobby, separate storage space for media and kitchen items and, in a recess at one end, a spotlessly clean urinal, which serves as Charlemagne’s drinking fountain and water bowl. The urinal is an an odd touch, Kariouk admits, but it serves the dog’s needs perfectly. “In a place like this, the storage and infrastructure you require becomes a huge percentage of the space,” Kariouk says. “The question is, how do you make it more efficient?”
Disciplined digs in Gastown
A home that’s 10-and-a-half-feet wide – that was the challenge for Vancouver architect Gair Williamson when he designed a unit for himself in a redeveloped building in Gastown. “It’s not much wider than a parking spot,” he says wryly. “How spacious can you make it feel?”
In fact, the 685-square-foot space proved to be quite accommodating, thanks to some moves that draw more from industrial design than architecture. As Williamson puts it, “everything you need is in the wall.” That long element is lined with cabinets that contain a galley kitchen (with a stainless-steel counter and a pullout pantry), wardrobes and storage space, a library (with a retractable desk) and a fold-down bed. Each of the storage units and the bed can effectively disappear, leaving one sofa and the 12-foot-long, butcher-block kitchen island as the lone furnishings.
All this suited Williamson’s purpose when he moved in a few years ago: His aim was to pare down his lifestyle while keeping some of his art and a few other possessions close at hand. “I wanted a place that could be a gallery, a place where I could entertain. But the most important thing I wanted in the space was storage,” says the architect, now 58. “So it has three times the storage of a typical unit this size.”
Each of the wall cabinets is faced with white doors, which establish a consistent look along the 60-foot space. That repetition of lines and forms – plus the white paint – creates a clean, seamless facade. The 10-foot-high ceiling helps as well. “With a high ceiling and the control of clutter, you add a sense of importance to objects. If there’s one piece on a wall, you appreciate its quality more than if you have 20 pieces up. It’s a very focused way of living.”
Williamson, who has since sold the apartment, admits that this focus did require some diligence. “There’s one piece of furniture [a Bombast sofa custom-made to fit the historic sill], a single Attila Richard Lukacs print and 11 books.” But that kind of discipline serves the apartment well. “I think it’s just as important how it’s furnished as how the space is designed. It’s all part of an approach to living.”
Tricking the eye in Toronto
To make a small home feel more capacious, sometimes it helps to both add and subtract. In renovating a skinny house in downtown Toronto, the architects at Denegri Bessai Studio did just that, removing old walls to gain a bit of space, but also adding new storage and a dramatic new ceiling light to create a feeling of roominess.
The homeowners, Toronto couple Indira Stewart and Greg Beach, had already renovated the ground floor of their Victorian, opening the space up by eliminating rooms. Their next challenge was the upstairs, which housed three bedrooms and one bathroom – a tight layout that had to work more efficiently for them and their son, Milo, now 18 months.
Their architects, Maria Denegri and Tom Bessai, offered two solutions. First, they demolished the house’s thick plaster-and-lath walls and replaced them with skinnier partitions made of drywall. Then they built new storage units – mostly IKEA’s popular Pax wardrobes – into the walls and wrapped them with “liners” of maple plywood. These new elements reach up to the ceiling and “really stretch the space visually,” explains Denegri. “We expanded the doors upward, too,” by installing new seven-foot-tall models that “really adds a sense of spaciousness.”
The most surprising move, however, is back down in the kitchen, which had previously been renovated by Toronto’s A2L Architects. The galley space, just 12 feet wide, adjoins a small back room that is even narrower and lower. A bit of visual trickery bridges that gap: A light fixture, fashioned out of translucent acrylic, flows over the step in the ceiling. Its pattern, determined with an algorithm and cut using computer-controlled milling machines, suggests lace or drops of water. “By taking your eye away from that step-down, it makes the transition more seamless,” Denegri says. “You’re reading one long space, as opposed to a kitchen plus add-on.”
And this, Stewart says, is “the one thing in the house that people always want to talk about, without fail.” The effect is both novel and beautiful – and beauty trumps size every time.
February 24, 2014
Beijing eyes Lower Mainland development opportunities
Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:01am PST
Welcome the state
Ottawa’s recent announcement that the existing version of its immigrant investor program would be scrapped and the regulations revised was touted in many quarters as causing havoc in Vancouver’s real estate market.
But if the foreign money that’s being sunk into Vancouver real estate has been known to skew market statistics, it hasn’t been through direct competition with average home buyers.
Certainly, the applicants with a minimum net worth of $1.6 million and $800,000 to lend the government interest-free aren’t the folks pushing up values in East Vancouver.
“They’re different sectors and tiers of the market,” said George Wong of Magnum Projects Ltd., which has handled project marketing for Aspac Developments Ltd., Holborn Group and others. “What these wealthy immigrants have been buying are the big houses, in the wealthier pockets.”
Wong – echoing the cris du coeur that sounded when Ottawa stepped in to prevent Chinese companies from investing in the resource sector – believes the latest announcement sends the wrong message about Canada’s openness to foreign investment.
“It sends a message out to the world that Canada is unfriendly, and I think that’s a shame,” he said. “The optics are not good.”
But chances are the measures won’t have much of an effect. Wong believes immigration consultants will simply find alternative means to get people – and their cash – into Canada.
The flow of cash is what Wong believes has the biggest impact on local real estate, especially as investors have become comfortable enough to begin scouting development prospects.
The attention-grabbing investments in the Cambie corridor in 2009 and 2010 are examples, as is activity by Yuanheng Holdings Ltd. and Adestra Hotel Group.
“We have seen many immigrants that have come here and they are buying development land, and they are now talking about developing,” he said.
State-owned companies from China are also preparing to secure development sites in the Lower Mainland, but Wong said he is sworn to confidence regarding the negotiations – although the prospect should be good news for the province.
“That’s going to make the Vancouver market even more vibrant,” he said. “We’ve got such a good thing going, let’s just keep it going.”
Stepping out of the provincial budget lockup last week, Urban Development Institute president and CEO Anne McMullin was unaware of plans by Chinese state-owned companies to enter the local development business, but she did have some good news of her own.
The province’s Property Transfer Tax (PTT) exemption for first-time buyers will increase to $475,000 from $425,000, effective immediately. A partial exemption is available for homes valued between $475,000 and $500,000. The measure will boost the savings available to first-time home buyers and, more importantly, allow them to consider paying more for a home – PTT-free – than they would have otherwise.
McMullin said the change could benefit 1,700 to 1,800 buyers a year, saving them upwards of $7,500 each.
According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver figures, buyers of townhomes and apartments will benefit most; the benchmark price for these properties in January stood at $457,700 and $371,500, respectively.
The real estate sector has long advocated for changes to the Property Transfer Tax, arguing that it contributes to the province’s notoriously unaffordable housing.
Same, but different
With final approvals in hand, Orca Shores LLC launched the Cottages at Seabright Farm in Point Roberts on Valentine’s weekend. While the project lies in Washington state, all roads lead to Canada for the community. This has made Metro Vancouver buyers key to its success – and buyers from Point Roberts may be key to success for the major retail projects Tsawwassen First Nation is developing with Ivanhoe Cambridge and Property Development Group on Highway 17.
“People in Point Roberts are very excited,” said Wayne Knowles, a representative of Orca Shores. “[For] major shopping, we have to drive through the tunnel, which now we won’t have to do.”
Knowles expects the proximity to a major shopping complex will attract buyers to the “quaint community” of 62 cottages Orca Shores is developing.
Originally proposed in 2006, Seabright Farm was scaled back to 62 units from 103. Parallel to what Century Group plans for its Southlands property in Tsawwassen, Orca Shores’ project will have 31 acres of green space, including a 6.2-acre farm.
“Our marketing studies have shown that people want to know where their food is coming from, and because we’ve got so much space we wanted to include a farm,” Knowles said. “It wasn’t a zoning requirement. ... We wanted it to be a quaint community.”
Three lots at the project have sold to date. •
February 24, 2014
Immigrant investor scheme generated little cash
Program’s cancellation will have no major impact on local housing market: analysts
Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:01am PST
The recent death of the federal Immigrant Investor Program caused some quaking in Vancouver’s luxury housing market, but a close look at the program shows it was little used by wealthy foreigners and nearly worthless to Ottawa and participating provincial governments.
Research from a Vancouver immigration lawyer shows that the typical hard cash generated for Canada through each program applicant was just $20,000.
Under the former Canadian rules, principal applicants worth a minimum of $1.6 million had to provide the Canadian government with an $800,000 interest-free loan for five years. They and family members could then apply for citizenship.
After freezing the program for two years, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty killed it February 11 in the federal government’s 2014-15 budget.
Tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires in the queue will consequently have their applications scrapped and their application fees returned.
“It will have a definite impact on the market,” said Jackie Chan, an agent with Dexter Associate Realtors on Vancouver’s tony West Side, who echoed the comments of other realtors selling at the top end of the market. Chan predicted the end of the program will cool sales at the higher end of the Vancouver market, “anything over $7 million.”
A South China Morning Post investigation released just days before Flaherty’s announcement revealed there was a backlog of more than 45,000 wealthy Chinese waiting for approval of their applications to move to British Columbia as of January 2013. Others put the estimate as high as 58,000.
Yet Canadian government statistics show that the number of immigrant investors into B.C. peaked at 5,875 in 2008 and had declined to 2,644 in 2012, when the freeze came into effect. That includes applicants, their spouses and dependants.
According to BC Real Estate Association (BCREA) numbers, “the total of added [B.C.] households is estimated at between 900 and 1,000 since 2001.”
Cameron Muir, BCREA’s chief economist, said the program’s death is a yawner.
“The only impact we foresee is less pressure on the inventory of detached houses in Vancouver’s West Side, Richmond and Vancouver,” he said, referring to B.C.’s three most expensive markets.
When the finance minister nixed the program, Flaherty told Parliament that it had “significantly undervalued Canadian permanent residence.”
That appears to be an understatement.
An analysis of the Immigrant Investor Program prepared for clients by Vancouver immigrant and business lawyer Jeffrey Lowe of Lowe and Co. and released to Business in Vancouver shows that the program offered scant value to Canadian taxpayers.
As Lowe’s report details, the immigrant’s $800,000 loan was allocated between six provinces, each of which had to guarantee the return of the monies in five years.
This basically restricted the provinces to investing in five-year Government of Canada bonds that have been paying an average of 1.5% interest per annum for the past five years.
Therefore, the $800,000 translates into about $12,000 per year or $60,000 over the five-year period. Further, Citizen and Immigration Canada paid a commission of 5% on the $800,000, or $40,000, to one of 15 “facilitators” (these include Desjardins, HSBC, ScotiaMcLeod and other big financial houses) for help in marketing the funds.
According to Lowe’s research, the net benefit to Canada from a typical $800,000 immigrant investor fund investment was $60,000 (earned in bonds) minus $40,000 paid to the facilitators.
Lowe notes that the net benefit to Canada for each applicant was $20,000, which was shared among six provinces. •
February 20, 2014
Three affordable places to retire in British Columbia. (Yes, they exist) - See more at: http://www.reincanada.com/PressReleasesView/tabid/70/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/359/Three-affordable-places-to-retire-in-British-Columbia-Yes-they-exist.aspx#st
February 10, 2014 Kerry Gold, The Globe & Mail
While British Columbia boasts some of the most temperate climates in the country, its real estate can also be some of the priciest.
For those thinking of retiring or buying a second home in the province, it makes the choice of locale somewhat complex, says Don Campbell, a senior analyst with the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN).
He advises potential buyers to look further afield from Vancouver and Victoria, to smaller communities with thriving economies. There are still B.C. regional markets that are relatively affordable, says Mr. Campbell, who is also an author and real estate investor.
First, though, retirees should make a carefully calculated decision, he says. If they want to cash out of large family homes in a city for a quieter life, they should consider smaller communities near solid infrastructure, such as an airport, ferry service, a hospital and a retail centre. These factors can help when it comes time to sell the property.
They should also consider that they might still need a home big enough for overnight guests, he says.
“Where are the grandkids going to sleep?”
And, if the whole point of retiring is living the good life, they should then look for a temperate climate, community amenities and access to trails, water, ski slopes and vineyards – the best features of British Columbia, he says.
Several areas of the province fit those criteria. Prices in several regional markets have softened in the past five years, which means it’s often a buyer’s market, according to Landcor Data Corp.
Peachland, outside Kelowna, the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, and the Sunshine Coast are three retirement hot spots that offer affordability and favourable climate, says Rudy Nielsen, who, in addition to Landcor owns LandQuest Realty, which specializes in rural properties throughout British Columbia.
“They’re soft markets,” Mr. Nielsen says. “And I think throughout this year it’s going to be the same market as last year.”
Bill Dupuis, 77, and wife Joan, 78, live in Peachland, B.C., a community of about 5,200 people that is divided by the highway, with houses built up a hillside, and the remainder on the flat portion next to large, deep Okanagan Lake. The town enjoys an average summer temperature of 27 C and little rain.
Peachland has become a bedroom community to West Kelowna, which is only a five- to 10-minute drive away. The average single-family house is 2,356 square feet and was priced at $476,256 in 2013, according to Landcor data.
The town has two major developments under way – the Ponderosa, with a winery and 18-hole golf course, and the 125-acre New Monaco. The town has the convenience of all the amenities in Kelowna, as well as vineyards that surround it, and access to Apex and Big White ski resorts. There is even a direct flight to Puerto Vallarta from Kelowna Airport.
Mr. Dupuis and his wife built their lakefront dream townhome there five years ago, and they’re selling it to do as much travelling as they can before they go into an assisted living home. Their 2,300-square-foot house features a fireplace in the living room and master bedroom, a $40,000 private elevator, ensuite bathroom with cast iron tub, gourmet kitchen, and spectacular view of Okanagan Lake. Once appraised at more than $1-million, their home is on the market at $825,000. In Vancouver, the equivalent would easily run more than $2-million.
Mr. Campbell says if he were going to retire, he would look for a property in Peachland. “You have a desert, so your bones don’t hurt. You just have to be able to afford to live in the area. It is a little higher. But if you’ve lived in Vancouver, and you are selling your place for $1.2-million – which is easy – you’re pretty set up.”
North of Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast seldom dips below freezing, with a normal January temperature of 2.3 C. It’s a 45-minute ferry ride between West Vancouver and the Sechelt Peninsula, and it’s also accessible by plane. With a population of about 60,000 people, it’s made up of little towns and islands, with a retail centre and small hospital in Sechelt.
“It’s gorgeous,” Mr. Campbell says. “It’s definitely not driven by job growth. It’s driven more by lifestyle choice. That can still drive a market, but the market is much slower. I think it would be an unbelievably cool place to hang out and retire. And if you have a boat, then suddenly you are not reliant 100 per cent on the ferry system. But just go in with your eyes open.”
According to Landcor data, the single-family dwelling on the Sunshine Coast has been slipping steadily in value. It now sits at an average of about $440,000 for a single family house, which averages 1,872 square feet.
“There are bargains to be had,” Mr. Nielsen says.
Helen Christian, 80, and husband Art, 84, have lived in Pender Harbour since 1968. They raised a family and retired in the same house. They built a 2,000-square-foot house surrounded by trees, on the water, with a dock for their boat, and have decided they need to relocate to a house in the same community that isn’t so big, and is on a level property.
They initially listed their house for close to $1-million, but have reduced it to $825,000 a year later. They’d like to sell, but they are constrained by the slow market.
“Our house would be great for someone who wanted to retire here, who are in their 60s or younger,” Mrs. Christian says.
Comox Valley made REIN’s top-10 list of best investment areas in B.C. for 2010 to 2015 – in large part because of direct flights from Comox Valley Airport to Calgary and Edmonton. That addition has opened up the region to Albertans who are driving its real estate market. Its economy is strong, and the valley, which includes Courtenay, Comox and several small towns, has an average winter temperature that remains above freezing. The area is known for a number of festivals, water sports and skiing at Mount Washington. There’s St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox and large retail shopping centres.
The average sale price for a 1,900-square-foot, single-family home in 2013 was $369,066, according to Landcor figures.
A major bonus is that the region is surrounded by a labour-driven market. That’s good news for a retiree who needs to sell quickly, and who wants a strong infrastructure.
“If you have a thriving economy near you, the value of real estate will stay stable,” Mr. Campbell says. “The potential for growth – for example, retail and hospitals, is much higher than in smaller communities that don’t have that economy.
“If a town is putzing along, it will really slip under the radar. And let’s be realistic, even in the boomer world, it’s cool to have a thriving, exciting young community nearby that you can tap into whenever you want to.”
- See more at: http://www.reincanada.com/PressReleasesView/tabid/70/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/359/Three-affordable-places-to-retire-in-British-Columbia-Yes-they-exist.aspx#sthash.RustmiJY.dpuf
February 20, 2014
Immigrant investor program's demise won't hurt Metro Vancouver's soaring home sales: report
Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:43am PST
Don't expect the elimination of the immigrant investor program in the latest federal budget to have much of an effect on Greater Vancouver's soaring real estate market.
In a report released February 14 by the B.C. Real Estate Association, residential sales in the region climbed 31.3% from 1,374 in January 2013 to 1,804 last month.
In dollar figures, this represents a year-over-year jump of 42.5% from about $1.03 billion to about $1.47 billion.
The report went on to state the axing of the immigrant investor program won't cool the market down too much, if at all.
"The only impact we foresee is less pressure on the inventory of detached homes in Vancouver's West Side, Richmond and West Vancouver," BCREA chief economist Cameron Muir said in the report.
The new numbers also show the price of an average home in Greater Vancouver grew 8.5% in January 2014 compared with the same period a year ago.
The average price for a home sat at $748,651 in January 2013, rising to $812,536 last month.
New data from the Teranet–National Bank Composite House Price Index revealed on February 12 that house prices in Vancouver reached a record high in January.
February 17, 2014
CPSC and CDC Remind Consumers to Replace Smoke and CO Alarm Batteries
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Consumers may experience a warmer than average winter this year according to the latest forecasts. But even if furnaces, space heaters, or fireplaces aren't working as hard, consumers still need to remain vigilant against carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fires in their home.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging consumers to schedule a professional inspection of all fuel-burning heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
"Protect your family this winter," said CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Nord. "The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to have a professional inspection every year and install working CO alarms in your home."
"Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. This colorless, odorless, poisonous gas kills nearly 500 U.S. residents each year, five times as many as West Nile virus," according to Dr. Howard Frumkin, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the CDC. Dr. Frumkin said, "CO poisoning is a persistent and tragic public health problem that can be eliminated if people become aware of the danger and take some simple steps to protect themselves, their families and their pets." Dr. Frumkin noted that CO poisoning is most common during the winter months, as this is not only when furnaces are most used, but also when the second leading source of CO poisoning, vehicles, is most likely to kill or injure people as they warm up their cars and trucks inside garages.
Each year, at least 15,000 Americans suffer from unintentional, non-fire related CO exposure, according to CDC estimates. CPSC reports that an estimated 188 people died in 2002 from CO poisoning associated with consumer products. The leading source of these poisonings is heating systems. According to the CPSC an estimated 103 deaths were associated with home heating systems that use liquid propane gas, natural gas, kerosene, oil, coal or wood. According to CDC, the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO poisoning can cause loss of consciousness and death. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.
Gasoline-powered generators used during winter weather-related power outages can also be a source of carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, according to CPSC, the largest percentage of CO deaths associated with portable generators take place in the winter months. Carbon monoxide from generators resulted in at least 64 deaths in 2005. CPSC and CDC urge consumers to use generators outside, far away from their homes. A generator's exhaust contains deadly carbon monoxide which can kill in minutes.
Home heating equipment is one of the most common causes of residential structure fires, second only to cooking fires. CPSC statistics show that fireplaces and chimneys are the number one source of home heating equipment fires. They account for about 21,600, or 60 percent, of the nearly 36,000 estimated home heating equipment fires each year from 1999-2003.
Portable heaters, including space heaters, are the top cause of deaths in home heating equipment-related fires on average. Portable heater fires were responsible for about 100 of the total 240 estimated deaths each year associated with home heating equipment from 1999-2003.
To help prevent deaths and injuries, CPSC and CDC also urge consumers to:
- Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Install battery-operated CO and smoke alarms in your home.
- Locate CO alarms outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area.
- Locate smoke alarms on each level of the house and inside every bedroom.
- Replace smoke and CO alarm batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall and check batteries monthly.
- If an alarm sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous.
- Have flues and chimneys inspected before each heating season for leakage and blockage by creosote or debris.
- Open the fireplace damper before lighting the fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool. Never close the damper if the ashes are still warm. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
- Store fireplace ashes in a fire resistant container and cover it with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles.
- Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the space heater off if you leave the area.
- Use a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
- Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents, or campers. Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.
February 13, 2014
Federal axing of immigrant investor program to limit foreign real-estate ownership
Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:10am PST
The death of Canada's controversial investor visa scheme will have an immediate effect on Vancouver's high-end housing market and could be the first step in a move to restrict real estate speculation by offshore buyers, according to real estate insiders.
In Tuesday's federal budget, Canada announced it is scrapping the program, which has allowed waves of wealthy Chinese (and others) to immigrate to Canada – mostly to Vancouver - since 1986.
The announcement was made in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's federal budget, which was delivered to parliament February 11. Tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires in the queue will reportedly have their applications scrapped and their application fees returned.
"It will have a definite impact on the market," said Jackie Chan, an agent with Dexter Associate Realtors on Vancouver's tony West Side, who once worked with Canada Immigration in Hong Kong.
Chan said end of the program will cool sales at the higher-end of the Vancouver market, "anything over $7 million."
The federal government had frozen applications to the immigrant investor program in 2012.
The day before Flaherty's budget announcement, a South China Morning Post investigation revealed there was a backlog of more than 45,000 rich Chinese waiting for approval of their applications to move to British Columbia as of January 2013. They were estimated to have a minimum combined wealth of $12.9 billion.
Census data shows 96% of all recent Chinese immigrants to British Columbia live in Metro Vancouver and the proportion among the wealthy is even higher.
Under the former Canadian rules, principal applicants worth a minimum of $1.6 million had to loan the Canadian government $800,000, interest-free, for five years. They and family members could then apply for citizenship.
According to Flaherty's statement, "In recent years, significant progress has been made to better align the immigration system with Canada's economic needs. The current immigrant investor program stands out as an exception to this success. For decades, it has significantly undervalued Canadian permanent residence, providing a pathway to Canadian citizenship in exchange for a guaranteed loan that is significantly less than our peer countries require," it read.
Vancouver real estate consultant Ozzie Jurock, former president of the Canada-Taiwan Trade Association, was not surprised by Flaherty's decision to kill the program. Jurock believes it is just the first shoe to drop in a federal move to curb foreign speculation in Canadian real estate. "This is the first shot," Jurock said, "The second will be some sort of tax on foreign real estate investment, or outright ban or restrictions on foreign investment like in Australia."
February 13, 2014
Vancouver house prices hit record high in January
Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:37am PST
Vancouver house prices aren’t showing any signs of slowing down after hitting an all-time high in January, according to the Teranet–National Bank Composite House Price Index.
Prices in Vancouver rose 1.1% from December and the latest Teranet data shows the West Coast city has seen prices jump 7.5% year-over-year.
January marks the ninth-straight month prices have gone up in Vancouver.
Toronto, where prices rose .5% from December, was the only other market surveyed to also reach an all-time high.
Even though prices did not hit record highs in nine out of the 11 markets surveyed, Vancouver and Toronto helped drive prices to a record high nationally. House prices across Canada rose .4% in January compared with December.
The Teranet numbers show Canada has seen a 4.5% rise in prices year-over-year.
Teranet–National Bank Composite House Price Index is calculated by tracking observed or registered home prices from data collected from land registries, but the index does not show actual dollar figures.
February 7, 2014
Factoring travel dollars into your retirement
Though a majority of retirees' wish lists include trekking the world, few plan ahead for such costs
By Mary Beth Franklin
Dec 13, 2013 @ 12:13 pm EST
Ask almost any near-retiree what they hope to do with their newfound leisure time, and most will say “travel.” Whether it's hitting the road in an RV for a tour of the national parks or cruising down the Rhine to visit medieval European castles, travel is the stuff of retirement dreams.
But travel doesn't come cheap, and unfortunately, few Americans set aside specific funds to make their travel dreams come true.
A new study released Thursday by the Global Coalition on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 59% of Americans surveyed dream of traveling during retirement, but just 15% have placed a high priority on saving for travel.
When it comes to taking action, only 18% of the 1,500 adults who participated in the nationally representative survey in October said they had specifically factored travel into their financial strategy in retirement.
That certainly seems like a disconnect between dreams and reality. But here's a clue why: Only 17% of those surveyed said they use a financial adviser. Any adviser worth his or her salt knows to add a travel budget line-item into retirement income plans for any client who has it on their “wants” list.
In fact, the new survey suggests that investors and their advisers may want to move travel into the “needs” column.
To complement the survey, the GCOA also released a white paper, “Destination Healthy Aging: The Physical, Cognitive and Social Benefits of Travel.” The paper links travel and the activities associated with travel with positive health outcomes, including decreased risk of heart attack and depression — and even the promotion of brain health.
“Travel is good medicine,” Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine, said in a statement accompanying the release of the survey and paper. “Because it challenges the brain with new and different experiences and environments, it is an important behavior that promotes brain health and builds brain resilience across the lifespan.”
“While lack of financial resources is the largest barrier to saving for travel, Americans are only just beginning to understand the value of travel for physical and mental wellbeing and social connection,” said Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to educating the public about emerging trends surrounding retirement security.
“We're trying to reframe the conversation and put a spotlight on travel in retirement as a goal of healthy aging,” Ms. Collinson said.
One of the interesting tidbits in the survey is that 28% of respondents said they would be interested in receiving financial advice on how to incorporate travel into their retirement planning.
“After working for decades, travel is the reward,” Ms. Collinson said. “People of all ages need to plan and save to make their retirement dreams of traveling a reality.”
February 7, 2014
The conversation you need to have with your financial adviser now
Planning for this one aspect of retirement will help you maintain your sense of dignity as you age
By Liz Skinner
Jan 13, 2014 @ 12:16 pm EST
Few investors talk to their financial advisers about their future housing plans, even though the financial implications of such decisions are huge. And by not doing so, they are missing a big opportunity.
Only about 14% of advisers have helped their clients create plans for their housing during retirement, such as downsizing, moving to a retirement community or arranging for long-term housing and care, a new survey of 506 financial advisers found. Legg Mason released the survey Monday.
That's a surprisingly low number, given that 36% of income is typically spent on housing during retirement, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About 40% of advisers said they don't help their clients plan for retirement housing because investors don't ask about it, the Legg Mason survey found.
Kathleen Pritchard, Legg Mason's head of adviser business development and a managing director, said investors aren't asking about it because they don't understand the “extraordinary financial impact” that future housing choices can have on their retirement savings. Costs can quickly outstrip savings if retirement housing isn't planned for carefully, she said.
“Planning for the financial implications of housing choices should become a much higher priority for aging investors and their advisers,” Ms. Pritchard said.
Investors who have a plan for their housing needs and choices “can maintain control of the discussions and maintain their sense of dignity,” she said.
Anytime investors and advisers have in-depth financial planning conversations about retirement, the discussion should include housing options, according to Ms. Pritchard. Even clients who remain in their homes need to plan because they will need to make it “age safe.”
The survey also showed that investors and their advisers are talking more regularly about other aging challenges.
About 65% of advisers help clients with retirement savings, 34% help to pass on funds to future generations and 24% help with retirement goals, such as “bucket list” items, the Legg Mason survey found.
Even though most advisers don't talk to investors about it, advisers expect 27% of clients will downsize from their home when they are about 70, a quarter will move into a retirement community at around age 74 and 22% will settle into a facility with medical care at about 79 years old, the survey said.
February 7, 2014
When Should Retirees Downsize Homes?
If You're Going to Do It, Sooner is Better Than Later
Jan. 25, 2014 8:46 p.m. ET
For most people, their house is their biggest asset. It's also their biggest expense. But when it comes to retirement planning, a house often falls to the bottom of the list involving changes in later life.
There are plenty of reasons for that inertia. Emotionally, it's hard to let go of a home filled with memories. Moving is a hassle, and downsizing to a smaller home isn't always the cash bonanza some might expect. As a result, many wait until well into retirement before moving to a smaller house or apartment.
But for many retirees, it can pay to downsize sooner rather than later.
The financial benefits may not seem huge at first, but over time they can make a meaningful difference in extending the life of a nest egg. As retirees age, there are lifestyle issues to consider, such as being in a community with other older adults. And finally, making a move before one spouse dies can help ensure that the surviving spouse, or the couple's adult children, won't have to contend with emptying and selling a big house.
When it comes to downsizing, "if it makes sense, don't wait," says Steven Sass, an associate director at the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.
Some of the reluctance stems from the idea that trading a house with a paid-off mortgage for a rental or a condominium with maintenance or association fees will lead to higher monthly costs.
That can be a mirage, says Lawrence Glazer, a financial planner at Mayflower Advisors in Boston. "In a home, the expenses are hidden," he says. "It's maintenance, a roof, a boiler, heating and landscaping."
Often there's a desire to hold on to a house where children were raised so that they—and the grandchildren—can come back and visit. Mr. Glazer urges clients to think twice about the decision.
"Rather than clinging on to a three-bedroom and paying for the maintenance and heating, it's cheaper to put [relatives] up in a hotel room," he says. Plus, he says, most adults don't really want to go back to their parents' house "and stay in the room with their old posters on the wall."
Trading for the more visible costs of a rental or condo can help with planning, notes David Schwartz, chief executive at advisory firm FCE Group in Great Neck, N.Y. "You know what your fixed costs are going to be," he says.
It doesn't take a major downsizing to reduce costs, either. For many homeowners, property taxes have become a growing burden in recent years. "All it may take is moving out of a good school district and into a mediocre one, and sometimes taxes will drop," says Mr. Glazer.
Downsizing can have a big impact on a retiree's financial plan. Even with a mortgage that has been paid off, housing often accounts for 30% of retirement expenses, says Mr. Sass at Boston College.
Mr. Sass does the math for a move from a house worth $250,000 to one costing $150,000. Factoring out the expenses of moving—roughly 10% of the selling price—that leaves $75,000 from the purchase of the new residence that can be added to a retiree's savings.
That $75,000, he figures, could enable a retiree to withdraw an extra $3,250 from savings every year. On top of that, the retiree would have savings from lower expenses on the house, which he says could easily be an additional $3,000 a year. "That's $6,250 a year in extra income," Mr. Sass says.
For those trying to assess the financial benefit of downsizing, the Boston College Retirement Center has a new online tool. It's available at squaredaway.bc.edu and can be found on the site by clicking the "Housing" link at the bottom of the page.
February 6, 2014
Condo owners urged to check strata fees
By Frank O'Brien, Western Investor
Feb 5, 2014 10:14am PST
A local real estate expert is warning condo owners to check their strata fees are sufficient, after a recent legislative change that allows strata corporations to require owners pay for certain repairs, if a majority of strata members agree.
Under the December 2013 amendment, the court can issue an order to proceed with critical repairs necessary to ensure safety and prevent significant loss or damage, if the strata owners have passed a resolution endorsing a special levy.
"Every strata corporation has to file a depreciation report that includes a 30-year budget for repair, upgrades and maintenance," explains Frank Schliewinsky, co-publisher of the Vancouver Condo Report.
The budget for such repairs comes from the monthly strata fees that each condominium owner must pay. Schliewinsky urges condo owners to check if their current strata payments are sufficient. "Prospective buyers need to examine major variations from average strata fees or else they could find themselves paying a lot more than expected," he said.
According to Vancouver Condo Report research, average strata fees for a high-rise building six to 10 years old in Metro Vancouver range from a low of $0.27 per square foot in the Tri-Cities to from $0.43 to $0.44 per square foot in downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver. (This would equate to from $270 to $440 per month for a 1,000-square-foot condominium.)
Strata fees for low-rise buildings are generally in the .23 cents to .32 cents, with rates for older buildings from 30% to 40% higher than for new buildings.
February 6, 2014
Five steps to owning your own business in the post-baby boom business sell-off
Tue Feb 4, 2014 12:01am PST
In the next five years, PwC forecasts 300,000 small-business owners in B.C. will retire or sell their businesses. That number is predicted to rise to almost 600,000 owners in the next 10 years. Who will take over all of these businesses? In many cases, it may be people like you: managers working in the business or in a related company. If this is of interest, here are the steps to take to complete a management buyout.
1) Finding the business you want to buy
In today’s sellers’ market, a perfect match can be hard to find. Instead, have a practical approach to what you can buy. This usually means starting close to home: perhaps you’re already working at the business or know of someone in the industry who is approaching retirement. Go through your suppliers, customers and competitors. Not only will you be able to make a warm approach to the owner, if you eventually succeed in buying the business you are more likely to succeed because you understand the market.
2) Positioning yourself to become an owner
The goal here is to establish a trusted relationship with the owner, because the sale of a business is not just financial, it’s about an owner’s legacy and looking after employees. You can do this by working for the owner, proving yourself and building rapport. You need to know the owner is planning to retire within five years and that they may sell to you. By assuming a key management role, you will become an attractive buyer and build credibility with private equity investors or lenders who may back you. Negotiate an ownership plan, perhaps by buying a minority position today, together with a timeline to buy the rest. This may include a right of first refusal or a shotgun clause.
3) Making the offer and due diligence
Before pulling the trigger, you need to do thorough due diligence: analyze the financial statements and understand the company’s competitive position and why it is profitable. Figure out how you can grow the business and look for risks. Valuing the business is usually done in one of three ways: an asset valuation, multiple of earnings or discounted cash flow. Seek advice on what comparable businesses have been sold for. Obviously, you want to pay with a margin of safety in case all does not go to plan. In drafting the offer, seek advice from a good lawyer who is experienced in doing deals.
4) How to pay for it
There are many financing options, including buying the business outright or paying for it over time. Both have risks. If buying a controlling position, financing can come from financial institutions. Using senior debt to finance assets and subordinated debt for the goodwill, you can usually finance 60% to 70% of the business valuation. The rest will come from your equity and possibly vendor finance. For larger companies, consider partnering with a private equity firm, but this will reduce your share.
5) Closing the deal
Closing the deal should be straightforward if you have the right partners and advisers and a motivated seller. But things can go sideways, so maintain deal momentum. Follow up, deliver on promises and keep everyone moving to the finish line. The work you have done before to build trust will pay off when there is an unexpected hiccup.
Owning your own business is a lifetime dream for many, and with the looming supply of retiring baby boomers selling out over the next 10 years, together with sources of finance to complete, it is a possibility many managers can pursue. Be patient, but move forward with purpose. •
February 6, 2014
Housing starts in B.C. expected to remain stable in 2014, 2015
Thu Feb 6, 2014 8:34am PST
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is forecasting B.C. will see 27,800 new homes built in 2014.
In its First Quarter Housing Market Outlook for B.C., CMHC also predicts about the same number of new housing starts in 2015.
That's just slightly better than actual numbers for 2012, when there were 27,465 new housing starts.
With an increased supply of existing homes on the market, CMHC expects prices for existing homes to grow at rates lower than the rate of inflation.
The average home price for 2014 is forecast to be $542,500 in 2014, inching up slightly to $547,100 in 2015.
CMHC expects there will be a shift towards more single-detached homes.
"While the level of housing starts is projected to remain the same on an annual basis this year and next, expect a slight shift toward single-detached housing starts as the economy and labour market gain traction," Carol Frketich, CMHC's regional economist for B.C. said in a press release.
"Single-detached housing starts are forecast to increase this year and next while multiple housing starts are expected to remain relatively unchanged."