Is Affordability Reliant Upon Our Earnings?

Vancouver’s perennial debate on affordability received heightened attention this past week with a series of Vancouver Sun (Pete McMartin) articles Link –   These were prompted by a dissertation (presentation) from Andy Yan of Bing Thomas Architects. He took a somewhat different approach by using figures gleaned from Stats Can and the U.S. Census Bureau for major metropolitan areas in Canada and the U.S. I’m not going to repeat the discussion in those articles (please follow the above link if you missed the Sun copy) but will address the gist of the “dilemma” which was identified.

Yan spoke of the median incomes of the more highly educated employees (he used those in the 25 to 55 age category possessing “a Bachelor degree or greater”). The top 10 metro areas in Canada were compared and before revealing the ‘pecking order’ , Yan asked his audience where they thought Vancouver ranked in that group. There were gasps of surprise at the revelation of 10th place. Ottawa, in the lead, at $62,202 was over $20K above Vancouver at $41,981. Both Calgary and Edmonton at $60,091 and $50,456 bested Toronto (a shade below $50k) – evidence the earning power of the “oil patch”.

The dilemma I referred to above was the comparison of these figures with the median housing value. I will stress that, at the time of writing this Update, I have no direct knowledge of the conclusion, if any, that will be arrived at in the final instalment which will be published on Tues Oct 7th in the Sun. I must express my surprise at the emphasis placed on comparative income levels of differing metro areas and the “debt servicing” aspect of property owners. It is largely the financial community that is using terms like “unsustainable” referring to the growth in median home prices. Yes, they are making the case that large mortgages needed by some buyers are placing those buyers in a high risk position and default of these loans would be disastrous for the borrower. What seems to be ignored is the high proportion of upper tier homes being purchased outright (for cash) by high wealth individuals here in Vancouver. Yes, again, we must concede that the higher priced housing stock will make these homes unaffordable to a large number of local wage earners and will force then into longer commuting times or smaller square footage – or both. While many Vancouverites are tempted to bemoan the steep climb in housing values, we must consider the benefits of the inward migration whether it be international or from other parts of Canada. Welcome to the baby boomers who are retiring in Lotusland!

October 2014 Podcast

North Shore Real Estate Radio

On an ongoing basis I pledge both my continued personalized service and a commitment to my reduced  business ecological “footprint”. A significant part is the radio (podcast) library which I’m continually creating.

All North Vancouver Real Estate “Updates”, reports and information articles, checklists etc. will be archived on my website and available for download or desktop listening 24/7. You can access the information you seek when the spirit moves and not when someone pushes yet another flyer into your mailbox. I am most excited about these developments. Input as to the topics for “programming” you feel would be of interest is strongly sought. Please e-mail. This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or call me 604 988-7368 and 1-800-665-1455.

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October 2014 Numbers

And now to our September figures for 2014 in comparison to 2013. North Van detached homes sold are up 18% from last year, attached (t/hses) up from last year by 6% and apartments up 22%. The detached average price is up 9% and inventory is down by 21% from 2013. Average prices up 2% (t/hses) and up 1% for (apts). Inventory (t/hses) 125 vs.133, down from Sept 30th 2013 and (apt) virtually unchanged from last year for the same date.

In West Van, detached number of sales YTD for 2014 is up by 14% from Sept 30th 2013. Average price of what has sold is up 7% from last year and inventory now down 7% from Sept 30th 2013. On the condo side – attached (t/hses) sold 2014 are down from 2013 at 60 vs. 67 units with a 1% decrease in average price. Active listings are down year over year from Sept 30th 2013 by 15% (45 vs. 53). Apartments reflect 139 sold in 2014 vs. 121 in 2013 with average price down 1% from Sept 30th 2013 and active listings down 14% from Sept 30th 2013. Both jurisdictions continue evidencing healthy demand. Inventory continues to be lower overall.

A Maintenance Checklist For Fall And Winter

As the winter season approaches and the air become crisp, it’s time to start thinking about preparing your house for the season. The winter season means spending more time indoors, hence roofs need to shed rain and snow, windows and doors need to reject the cold, and the heating system needs to keep rooms comfortable. If any of these components don’t hold up, you might be faced with scrambling around in the wet, cold and dark to fix them.

By handling these important yet reasonably easy tasks now, you can avoid considerable grief later.

Outdoor Preparation

– Check the roof for cracked or missing shingles, bald spots on shingles, missing or damaged flashing, and other conditions that might allow leaks. Replace any roof shingles that are missing or damaged. Seal minor cracks or tears with roofing cement.

– Check the gutters. If they are clogged with leaves and debris, clean them. Gutters prevent basement and foundation flooding and water damage to siding, windows and doors.

– Check the siding for cracks or damage and seal any leaky spots with clear caulking compound.

– Windows and doors. Make sure they are properly sealed with weather stripping and replace any damaged parts. Weather stripping prevents drafts and winter heat loss.

– Trim trees and bushes away from the house.

– Cover patio heater and barbecue to prevent winter damage.

– Store lawn and patio furniture in a shed or basement. If space is limited, weather-resistant covers can protect outdoor furnishings.

– Close your pool before leaves start to fall, and night-time temperatures begin to drop and you risk an algae bloom.

– Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets and remove and store garden hoses.

– Store kids toys indoors or in an outdoor shed to prevent rusting and fading.

– Check and repair exterior lighting before daylight fades.

– Scrape peeling paint and apply touch up paint to your siding, trim and fences, and apply waterproofing sealer to your deck if necessary.

– Examine driveways and walkways for cracks. Larger cracks should be sealed to keep out water.


Lawn and Garden

– Prepare planting beds when the soil is relatively dry. By adding soil and mulch to your beds, you’ll be a step ahead for spring planting.

– Plant spring blooming bulbs and perennials.

– Protect roses, saplings and small trees by sheltering them with a burlap screen.

– Pull weeds to reduce the number of seedlings next spring.

– Mow grass short for the final cut of the year by reducing the cutting height gradually to 3.5 cm (from 7.4 cm) until the grass stops growing.

– Check ground grading around the house. All surfaces next to the walls should be sloped to shed water away from the house. This is most important on warm winter days, as melting snow runs quickly across the surface of frozen ground. If the grading is incorrect, water will potentially flow into the house, causing basement leakage. Now is the time to use a shovel to re-slope the grass, or call a paving contractor to correct a negatively sloped walkway or driveway.


Indoor Preparation

– Bring container plants inside and make sure they are free of pests. Doing so may enable plants to survive the season and bloom again in spring.

– Caulk around window and door casings to keep out air and water. If your house has wood siding with window frames that stand out from the siding, caulk the top and sides of the frame. Don’t caulk under the sill as this space should be left open to allow moisture inside the wall to escape. If your house is brick or stone, with window frames that are set into the finish material, caulk all four edges of each frame where the brick mould meets the masonry.

– Clean or replace furnace filters as needed. Check and clean dryer vent, air conditioner, stove hood and room fans. Keep heating and cooling vents clean and free from furniture and draperies.

– Ensure that all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. Replace batteries as needed, or at least twice each year.

– Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating/air-conditioning professional.

– Most furnace manufacturers recommend annual inspections.

– Have your chimney(s) inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned.

– Cleaning is generally recommended at least once a year for an active fireplace.

– Store plenty of salt or rock salt, snow shovels, and any other items you will need during the winter.

– Examine the basement floor and walls for cracks or leaks; seal as needed.

– If you plan to reside elsewhere during the winter months, you may want to partially shutdown your home. In addition to the tips above, consider the following:- Leave the temperature at its lowest setting, usually between 5 to 7 degrees Celsius or install a low-heat thermostat to maintain the air temperature at approximately 5 degrees Celsius

– Turn off and drain the water heater; leave a reminder to refill before restarting.

– Keep the electricity on so lights will continue to function (put lights on timers).

– Unplug the microwave, clothes dryer, televisions and other appliances not in use.

– To avoid large repair bills and the hassle associated with breakdowns, take the time now to develop an action plan for the coming months. You’ll feel secure in your warm home or while you’re away from home.

– Winter can be hard on a house, following the easy steps above will help preserve your investment and prevent any unnecessary chores or repairs that might be difficult to do during winter.