Blog › July 2016

The Best Flooring Choices for Condos


You’ve decided to install new flooring in your condominium, or update the flooring before you move in. But what to buy?

With condos you have to take a lot more into consideration than simply how the floor will look. First and foremost, there are the neighbours, and it’s not just how much they might hear you, but how much you might hear them.

Before you start shopping for flooring, says Ashley Kitchen, interior designer at reVISION Renovations, check into your condominium bylaws.

“With older condominiums, many strata councils will absolutely say no to hardwood floors,” she says. “You really need to speak to the strata members before you do anything else.”

Soundproofing

The next consideration is noise control. No one likes listening to their neighbours pace across a room in high heels or listen to their pounding music. The type of floor and underlay you choose can greatly reduce the sound that travels through the floor.

“The key to soundproofing is in the underlay,” says Kitchen. “Talk to your installer to get their recommendations.”

If you are in the market to buy a new condo, ask the sales team or your realtor to inquire about how soundproof the flooring is and, more importantly, “don’t be afraid to ask for the specifics of the underlay.”

Kitchen went on to speak about a product her installers are raving about.

“I haven’t worked with Flexilastic yet, but it is a peel-and-stick sheet coating that reduces impact and airborne sound transmissions. It works great with ceramic, porcelain and natural stone tile where sound absorption is really needed.”

In addition, the way to ensure maximum soundproofing is combining the best underlay with carpet.

“The prices [for underlay] really depend on the model and square feet you need to cover, so the best thing to do is call your installer to suit your specific needs.”

Carpets

Although carpeting will provide your condo with the best soundproofing, Kitchen admits she hasn’t had any clients in recent memory who have asked for it. As much as baby boomers have become accustomed to carpet for its warmth and soft feel underfoot, many are turned off by its staining and the crushed, matted traffic areas.

“Millennials do not want carpeting anywhere, period,” she says. “However, when customers request carpeting, they are going for a tightly woven wool carpet.”

Although on the pricier side of carpeting, wool actually retains its shape much better, is durable, naturally soil resistant, non-allergenic, and eco-friendly.

Manufacturers are also creating synthetic carpeting that is more environmentally friendly and a few are actually producing fibre combinations that take softness to a whole new level.

The seasoned designer says there’s no question that carpeting is quiet. And, when a high-density pad is used, a beautiful wool carpet can look stunning and feel comfortable to walk on.

As far as carpet colour is concerned, condo owners are sticking to the organic neutrals – greys and whites but no beige, which “is passé.”

Laminates vs. Hardwood

The biggest craze in condo flooring, hands down, says Kitchen, is laminate. Today’s laminate looks so much like hardwood, many people would be hard-pressed to know the difference.

“There are faux-wood laminates, produced in Europe and in China, that you can’t even tell they aren’t hardwood,” she adds. “They look amazing. Most clients are going for the long, wide planks.”

The faux hardwood laminates come in a huge selection of colours and options.

The great advantage of laminate flooring is that not only does it have the look and feel of hardwood but it costs a fraction of the price.

“In newer condos, engineered hardwood is not the driving force anymore,” says Kitchen, adding hardwood will always require a lot more maintenance. “I’ve had clients who say their first and only choice is hardwood but, when I show them the laminates, they can be swayed.”

However, some homeowners will never be convinced away from hardwood. Kitchen concedes that, for some clients, the beauty and feel of hardwood is hard to beat.

Tiling

Tiles that look like concrete are super-hot right now in Europe and gaining momentum here in BC.

“Again, these tiles look great and they feature minimal grout joints, so they are easy to clean and almost seamless,” Kitchen adds.

She goes on to say that there are tiles coming out of Spain and Italy that look like hardwood as well.

“We’re also seeing lots of tile that looks like fabric,” she says.

Another hot trend is decorative tiles for accents with a nod to the old hydraulic tiles.

“They look stunning in larger bathrooms and kitchens... the factories are producing them differently now but with similar patterns,” says Kitchen.

As far as tile size goes, small is definitely not better. What is vogue right now is moving toward “modular” sizes – rectangular tiles or 12-by-24-inch sizes. 

“Twelve-by-12 tiles are out, we are following the European trend of bigger is better, going as big as 24 by 24,” she adds.

As a condo owner you are probably thinking that is way too big for small spaces. Not true. If you avoid dark colours, large tiles can actually make a room look bigger.

“A side benefit is that with bigger tiles there are less grout joints, so less cleaning,” she adds.

Vinyl

Vinyl… the word alone conjures up 1950s cheap flooring. Well, not anymore. Today’s vinyl is gorgeous and can be pretty pricey.

Although some vinyl flooring choices are quite affordable and look great, Kitchen says others can cost from $18 to $22 per square foot or more.

“It’s a tough sell – because it's expensive but it is a really good quality product,” says Kitchen. “It comes in a variety of options… it can have the look of stone, slate and even hardwood.”

Vinyl is easy to install and maintain and Kitchen recommends it for recreation rooms, offices, gyms or play rooms.

Cork: Yes or No?

In an eco-conscious province like BC, there’s been a lot of buzz about cork flooring. Made from tree bark, it’s a natural and renewable resource, so it’s environmentally friendly. But is it trendy?

When asked, Kitchen says: “It's not durable at all, and the style is a little outdated.”



The Pros and Cons of Leasehold


What if you could shave a hundred thousand or more off the typical asking price of the home you want? What if you could do this in a central neighbourhood, in a more spacious unit, perhaps one with a view?

It's possible. The only catch? You won't own the land your home is sitting on.

There are pockets of land throughout Metro Vancouver - many in prime locations - that have been rented out to developers for a set amount of time, usually between 50 and 99 years. The developers or "leasehold landlords" build on and make improvements to the land, then sell or rent out portions of the buildings.

This lease land is often city-owned, but the federal government, First Nations bands, Universities and even private individuals also own and rent out land. The types of developments vary, from condos to townhouses to detached houses and duplexes to mobile or even float homes. But all share one thing in common: unlike a traditional freehold unit, you own your share of the structure and any common property, but only rent the land beneath it.

Leasehold units are usually more attractively priced, more spacious, and in better neighbourhoods than their freehold counterparts. A quick search on REW.ca revealed these two 1-bedroom condos in the West End.

Freeehold condo in Vancouver's West EndLeasehold condo in Vancouver's West End

That's a difference of $160,000 between two comparable 600 sq. ft. units, one freehold and one leasehold.

Basically you are buying a "right of exclusive possession" until the end of the lease period, or until you sell that right to another person.

Often, leases are prepaid by the developer and incorporated in the selling price. If the lease is not prepaid, you will have to fork over rent for the land on top of any strata fees, taxes, and mortgage payments you're already paying.

However, you're often buying into a better lifestyle (at the cost of a better investment). And in some areas, you are buying the right to live somewhere you otherwise couldn't, such as the UBC endowment land with its pristine forests and majestic ocean views.

What you won't get is a share of the rising land value. In fact, rising land values can cost you.

The lease agreement, called a "ground lease," sets out the terms and conditions upon which the developer has leased the property. If lease payments haven't been prepaid, the agreement will usually allow for annual lease payments to be raised periodically to reflect current land valuesometimes dramatically.

In 2006, some False Creek condo owners saw their annual lease payments skyrocket by up to 700% when the City adjusted for the then-current land value. Subject to arbitration, the lease payments were later lowered by several hundred dollars per month because the recent sale of the Olympic Village site had dramatically skewed the land value.

If the lease on your unit is soon coming to an end, you won't be able to say with any certainty whether it will be renewed, and if so, at what cost once rising land values have been factored in.

And if the lease is not renewed, most lease agreements give the landowner the right to buy out the buildings at fair market value, then do with the land what they wisheven if that means tearing down existing buildings, rezoning, or selling for redevelopment. You might have to move.

It's uncertainties like these that make some leasehold properties less than ideal investments. They don't increase in value as quickly as a freehold. They generally take longer to sell. And as the lease counts down to expiry, the property value can actually be negatively affected.

Banks don't like the uncertainty surrounding certain leaseholds either. That's why most lenders will ask for a hefty 25-30 per cent down payment. Lenders also use the expiry date of the lease as a guideline for loan amortization periods, lending only for five years fewer than the remaining lease. So if a lease expires in 20 years, for example, you would only be able to get a 15-year amortization period for that loan. Reverse mortgages for retirees can be next to impossible to get for most leasehold properties.

That depends. If lifestyle factors like being close to work or living in a beautiful area are most important, it could be the right choice for you. Look for long leases - 25 years or longer - and preferably for a length of time that far exceeds the time you plan to live there. Prepaid 99-year leases are the most secure, but they also cost almost as much as freehold.

And, most important, find a Real Estate Agent and mortgage broker who have experience in leasehold properties.

So where can you find leasehold gems? Start by doing contacting me to set up an automatic search, and I'll send you the newest listings as soon as they come on the market.



New Listing 1102 - 5868 Agronomy Road, Vancouver, BC


R2092291 - 1102 - 5868 Agronomy Road, Vancouver, BC, CANADAView my new listing for sale at 1102 - 5868 Agronomy Road, Vancouver and currently listed at $1,238,000.

In the heart of the vibrant university campus, discover Sitka, Polygon's newest collection of luxury residences on Vancouver's West Side. Large 2 bed/2 bath North facing corner suite. Steps to all the education opportunities at UBC, the homes showcase contemporary West Coast architecture with dramatic details including cantilevered canopies, granite stonework and natural wood accents. Contemporary interiors feature bright open-plan layouts, marble bathrooms, warm hardwood flooring and gourmet kitchens with caesarstone counters, custom cabinetry and superior integrated appliances. Breathtaking mountain and ocean view. U-Hill high school catchment. Bonus 2 parking and 2 storage lockers.

Hottest June On Record For BC Real Estate


June 2016 Sales to Listings ratioBC residential home sales dipped slightly in June from May's all-time high, but it was still the hottest June on record

After all-time record-breaking home sale numbers three months in a row, BC residential home sales dipped just slightly in June to 12,906 unit sales from May’s high of 13,438, according to BC Real Estate Association figures released July 14. Still, that’s the hottest June ever recorded for home sales in the province, up 14.3 per cent from the previous June record of 11,294 in 2015.

“Robust housing demand in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan drove sales growth in June,” said Brendon Ogmundson, BCREA Economist. “At the same time, the inventory of homes for sale continues to slide lower, creating very tight market conditions around the province.”

Sales-to-active listings ratios remain tight throughout much of the province, with only the BC Northern (16.2%), Kamloops (19.7%), Kootenay (12.1%) and Northern Lights (5.1%) boards reporting ratios below 20 per cent. Greater Vancouver’s sales-to-active listings ratio was 52.7 per cent in June, compared to 33.6 per cent a year ago. In Victoria (68.7%) and the Fraser Valley (64.2%), the sales-to-active listings ratios now correspond to less than two months of supply given current demand in those markets.

The average MLS® residential price in the province was up 10 per cent year-over-year to $694,925, and total sales dollar volume was up 25.7 per cent year-over-year to $8.97 billion. Powell River saw the greatest year-over-year increase, up 31.3 per cent to $302,986, followed by the Fraser Valley (+23% to $572,888) and Chilliwack (+20.2% to $343,367). In Greater Vancouver, the average price was $1,026,207 in June, up 11.3 per cent year-over-year.

Year-to-date BC residential sales dollar volume increased 53.2 per cent compared to the same period last year to $49.9 billion. Year-to-date residential unit sales climbed by 30.6 per cent to 67,361 units.

To read the full BCREA report including statistics broken down by region, click here.



New Listing 434 Richmond Street, New Westminster, BC


R2089713 - 434 Richmond Street, New Westminster, BC, CANADAView my new listing for sale at 434 Richmond Street, New Westminster and currently listed at $1,197,700.

This perfectly located over 4,000 sqft home located in Massy Heights well maintained home comes with a 1 year home warranty minutes from the Royal Columbian hospital and Braid Station in New Westminster. Spacious rooms with lots of potential just waiting for your personal touch. Family room designed with a view in mind and surround windows to allow lots of light in. 2 bedroom Rental suite in the basement above ground with a possibility of a second 1 bedroom rental with a little work, already has its own separate entrance. Lots of parking in back, close to transit, Schools, shopping, and parks. Currently rented up and down for $2900. A must see you don’t want to miss this rare opportunity.

How To Improve Your Credit Score For Mortgage Brokers


There are many factors that lenders will take into account before they will offer you a good mortgage rate. Mortgage broker Atrina Kouroshnia of Lava Rates explains

Lenders consider several factors when determining your eligibility for a mortgage and the interest rate they’ll offer. In addition to your employment history and debt-to-income ratio, they’ll want to check your credit score.

Credit report

Credit scores can range between 400 and 900. Generally, lenders like to see a score of 700 or above. A high credit score can help you qualify for better interest rates than someone with low or no credit. However, there’s a cap on this, so someone with a credit score of 760 would likely qualify for the same interest rate as someone with a 800, assuming they had comparable financial details.

Canada’s two credit bureaus are TransUnion Canada and Equifax, and they track the credit histories of millions of Canadians. Both will give you a free credit report by mail. Click for instructions on requesting your credit report from TransUnion and Equifax.

If you’re borrowing more than 80 per cent of the home’s value, then you need what’s called an insured mortgage and your credit score is extra important, because lenders view this as a riskier loan. If it’s a conventional mortgage (meaning you’ve put down 20 per cent or more), some banks will look past a less-than-stellar credit score (in even the 600s with a strong application).

If you want a low rate on an insured mortgage, you’ll typically need a minimum credit score of 680. If your score is right at 680, lenders may want you to explain why your credit score isn’t higher (maybe you missed a few bills due to an illness or divorce, or maybe you were out of the country for work). Some lenders do extend mortgages to borrowers with low credit scores, but they’ll typically charge a rate premium and a fee to cover the higher risk associated with the loan.

Even if you already have a mortgage, you’ll want to maintain good credit renewals or refinances. In the case of a refinance, the lender will look at all aspects of your application similar to when you originally applied for a mortgage. For renewals with your current lender, you will usually get offered their renewal rate if you have been paying your mortgage on time. However, if your credit takes a nosedive, your current lender may decide not to renew your mortgage.

Errors do sometimes pop up on your credit report (say you have a common name or you’re the victim of credit identity theft), so I recommend checking your credit report at least twice a year so that you can monitor your accounts, clear up any errors and work on improving your score if you need to.

Here are some tips for raising your credit score before you apply for a mortgage:

  • Always pay your credit card bills and loans on time. Late payments can lower your score, so set up auto-payment or put reminders on your calendar if you need those triggers to keep you on track. Excuses like “I never got a bill” or “My cheque must have gotten lost in the mail” generally don’t work with creditors.

  • Avoid using more than 75 per cent of your available credit. Using most of your credit limit makes lenders nervous. For instance, if you had a $10,000 credit limit with an outstanding balance of $8,000, it would mean you had charged up 80 per cent of your available credit and lenders might worry that you weren’t managing money responsibly (in that scenario, you would want to keep your balance below $7,500). Even if you pay off the balance every month before payment is due, the balance can still show up on your credit report depending on when the information is gathered.

  • Limit your credit applications. Each hard inquiry on your credit (for instance, when you apply for a credit card or an auto loan, or for a mortgage direct through the lender) temporarily lowers your score. However, if you have a mortgage broker checking your file you would only see one hit, even if they’re inquiring on behalf of multiple lenders.

  • Pay off any collections actions and send the remediated letter to both credit bureaus. Make sure your credit report is updated and keep a copy of the letter for yourself in case lenders want to see proof that the debt was paid.