Blog › April 2014

What's Up With Wok Kitchens?

In author/chef/teacher Tahera Rawji’s home, the sizzling sounds and smells of fabulous South Asian dishes are accompanied by the drone of an industrial-strength fan… but not in the kitchen.

All the magic happens in a smaller space she calls her “fry kitchen.”

Whether you call them wok, fry or spice kitchens, the reason so many Asian cooks love them is the same: these mini-versions of the main kitchen keep the heady cooking smells from escaping—and lingering—all through the house.

For more than two decades, Rawji has been creating spicy dishes from Pakistan, India and the Middle East. Before any dish makes it into her cookbooks (she has two: Simply Indian and Simply More Indian, Whitecap Books), she develops and test them in her fry kitchen.

Just off the main kitchen, it has has a door, a very large window and a heavy-duty exhaust hood over an industrial size stainless steel stove, a large stainless steel sink, lots of counter space and half of the cabinetry of her main kitchen.

“When I shut the door, no one in my family disturbs me,” she grins. “Because the fan is strong I don’t even hear the phone.”

She tells those of her students who are serious about pursuing a cooking career to invest in a really good fry kitchen.

“If they can afford to build one in their homes, they will really appreciate how much it cuts down on the smell of garlic or cumin in their home,” says Rawji.

A wok kitchen (fry kitchen, spice kitchen) built by Gary TiwanaWest Vancouver builder Gary Tiwana agrees. In fact, he built a pantry-sized spice kitchen adjacent to his big open-concept kitchen in his own West Vancouver home.

“When my mother visits, that’s where she does all the cooking,” he adds. “I admit there’s more cooking going on in the spice kitchen than in my regular kitchen.”

Tiwana often gets requests from his South Asian clients for a spice kitchen. Of the eight homes he custom built last year, three of them were constructed with two kitchens.

“They are very popular in the Asian culture because Asian cooking can be oily and no one wants those smells to permeate through their home,” says the owner of Paramax Homes. “They aren’t large—typically a standard spice kitchen is six feet by 10.

“Although having said that, recently some clients have asked for larger spice kitchens.”

By and large, clients want their secondary kitchen equipped with a stove, small dishwasher, backsplashes with very little grout (smells can penetrate the grout and linger for days), stone countertops that wipe off easily, cabinets with little adornment and commercial-grade fans with grates that are easy to clean.

“They also definitely want windows to let the natural light in and to provide extra ventilation,” says Tiwana.

Many Vancouver realtors say most Asian customers would not consider buying a home without a spice kitchen.

Sign in with Pinterest to see the wok kitchen board or contribute more pictures.

REW.caWok Kitchens

Corporate Housing: Big Bucks in Short-Term Rentals

Would you rent a 756-square-foot two-bedroom condo near Vancouver General Hospital for $4,950 a month? Probably not, but some people will. Or at least, some company will pay that on their behalf. It’s called corporate housing, and it’s the segment of the rental market that provides fully furnished condos and houses, usually with cleaning services, on a short-term basis.

The high rents for corporate housing present a business opportunity for investors and for home owners who can live somewhere else while they rent out their property.

Demand is high. ”Vancouver is expecting a record year in 2014,” according to the latest overview of the corporate housing and executive suite market from the Corporate Housing Providers Association (CHPA) of Indianapolis.

And to what does the city owe this boon?

The numbers in the report, which has tracked this segment of the real estate market in the city since 2010, indicate that the supply of units is being met with strong demand and steady rates.

Corporate housing is typically used to accommodate temporary workers, as well as people who require short-term accommodation when they’re displaced by an event insurance covers. Similar to hotel accommodation, it provides companies with a reliable pool of rooms. Vancouver-based HighStreet Accommodations, for example, aims to house people within two hours of a request. The average length of stay last year was 81 days.

Key sources of demand in recent years have been the software sector, with the strength of the market increasing as the financial crisis of 2008 falls further into the past.

Conditions improved markedly following 2010, the first year for which the CHPA gathered data on the Vancouver market. Average daily rates have typically been between $126 and $128 in the past three years, up from $108 in 2010. Similarly, occupancy is running at 83%—up from just 68% four years ago.

Combined with an expected reduction of more than 300 units this year that will tighten supply, prospects for ongoing strength in the market are good.

There are currently an estimated 1,707 designated corporate housing units in the city.

Originally writen by Peter Mitham for

Peter Mitham is a real estate columnist for Business in Vancouver and co-author of Real Estate Investing for Canadians for Dummies.

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Greater Vancouver Real Estate Market: March 2014

March didn’t see its usual surge of sales, according to the latest Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver report on the MLS® home market. Here’s how March’s 2,642 home sales compare with sales of the last three years and the 10-year average.

Sales and Listings

For the first time since last July, sales have not been in line with the 10-year average; they’ve dipped 17.2 per cent below. Unusual, in that we’re into what’s usually the busy spring market.

But the sales-to-active-listings ratio remains at 18.2 per cent, about the same as it was last month. That level indicates a healthy demand and a balanced market.

“We continue to see steady and stable market conditions across the Greater Vancouver housing market,” says Ray Harris, REBGV’s new president. “There has been a consistent balance between home seller supply and home buyer demand in our marketplace over the last year.”

Greater Vancouver saw a total of  5,281 new listings hit the market in March, including 2,241 houses, 795 attached properties and 2,245 apartments.

There are currently 14,472 residential properties for sale in the area.

Here’s how the sales and listings compare to last month and last year at this time.

What’s Up, What’s Down – At a Glance
 Mar / Feb 2014 Mar 2014 / Mar 2013
Overall Sales +4.4% +12.5%
- Detached +8.5% +19.6%
- Townhome -10.1% -3%
- Apartment +7.2% +12.6%
New Listings +12.4% +9.1%
Current Listings +7.9% -6.4%

Benchmark Price (MLS® Home Price Index)

The MLS Benchmark prices continue to hold steady, increasing ever-so-slightly every month. The benchmark price is a calculation of the typical home for a particular neighbourhood.

Greater Vancouver MLS® Benchmark Prices % Change
 Mar 2014Feb  2014Mar 2014
Detached $945,400 +1.3% +4.2%
Townhome $460,100  +0.4% +1.3%
Apartment $375,800 +0.7% +3.8%

Meanwhile, the average price for detached houses - the average of all sales prices during the month - took a steep fall from its all-time high of $1,361,023 in February to $1,209,542 in March. Real estate blogger Larry Yatkowsky points out that there were no sales over $10,000,000 last month. If so, is that a consequence of the change to the investor immigrant program, or is it just a yearly pattern?

REBGV Greater Vancouver average price March 2014

For March statistics broken down by community and housing type, see the detailed REBGV monthly report. The REBGV region covers Sea-to-Sky, Sunshine Coast/Gulf Islands, North Shore, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Tri-Cities, Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, Richmond and South Delta.