We Are Certainly Not Unique

My wife and I have returned this week from a delightful 11 days in London – (the London Eye Ferris Wheel should not be missed; the weather co-operated that day). The trip was a little pricey but worth every penny. We went for three good ‘runs’ 5 to 8k visiting Hyde, Green, St James and Regent parks. ‘But what about house prices’ I hear you ask. Yes I’m getting to that but in general terms and not with numbers. One does not visit a distant city for several days and become an expert on their property market. What one learns first in London is that meals, hotels, department stores and pharmacies provide their fare at about double what we would pay here in Canadian dollars. Don’t sweat it, you’re on holiday!

Apart from TV, the main organ of communication, especially in the U.K. is, of course, the newspaper and we received a choice at our hotel. We read The Independent, Evening Standard and the Times and, to clarify the heading above, saw numerous articles and headlines which dealt with the affordability issue concerning homes for the next generation of Brits. What seemed less evident was the angst (and blame) evident in the Vancouver press and our downtown, water cooler conversations. Having dealt with this issue for many years seems to have steered these conversations in a less emotional direction and is possibly more “solution oriented”. An interesting hour or so at Hyde Park’s Speakers Corner ‘doing further research’ revealed nothing new on the property front as the majority of offerings centred on either Jesus or Mohammed. So, we aren’t the centre of the universe, only our own one, I guess ;).

During our absence, I am led to believe that two R/E issues have been front and centre. Investment in residential property for income/speculation and a higher focus on Depreciation Reports for Strata Property. Both, I believe, will remain hot issues going forward.

February 2016 Numbers

Now to the first parcel of 2016 figures, January that is, or 2016 Year – to – Date…. and, January that is. A little silly humour to highlight that not too much store should be placed on such a small package (or ‘sample’) as the statisticians would say! North Van detached homes sold are 68, same as last year, attached (t/hses) up from last year by 68% and apartments up 9%. The detached median price is up 33% and inventory is down 7% from 2015. Median prices (t/hses) up 16% and up 1% for (apts). Inventory (t/hses) down 27% from  Jan 31st 2015 and (apt) down 23% from last year for the same date.

In West Van, detached number of sales YTD for Jan 31st 2016 is up by 74% from last year at that time. Median price of what has sold is up 50% from last year and inventory now up 35% from Jan 31st 2015. On the condo side, attached (t/hses) sold by Jan 31st 2016 are up 75% from 2015. Active listings are up 56% year over year. Apartments reflect 36 sold in 2016 vs. 36 in 2015 – median prices are not available for any classification selling less that 20 units per month (eg. Attached and Apartments).

February 2016 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. Click on the “Podcast” Icon in the top right of this article to listen now.

Strata Councils’ Lack Of Funds, Records Is Bad For Buyers

This timely Editorial is food for thought…. ***

Condominium owners and purchasers should be greatly alarmed at news that so many strata corporations in B.C. are avoiding the task of securing depreciation reports. And the strata councils that do commission the document are often not properly preparing for their buildings’ future maintenance needs.

The situation reflects a conspiracy of silence, where various parties involved do not wish to know the truth, or have others know that they know it. It is as though people are hoping the potential problems associated with this sector of B.C.’s housing stock will go away.

But, of course, they will not. As things stand, 40 to 50 per cent of strata councils are choosing not to commission depreciation reports. Meanwhile, the depreciation reports that have been completed demonstrate that strata corporations have been setting monthly condo fees and maintaining contingency funds that are woefully inadequate for the task of repairing and maintaining their condominium buildings.

The financial gap is astonishing. Appraiser and real estate consultant Jeremy Bramwell says that among his clients — generally representative of provincial strata — less than two per cent of condo boards have reserve funds that are even 35 per cent adequate for addressing their buildings’ maintenance requirements.

Monthly condo fees are too low, in part because of housing affordability pressures. But keeping them low is not the answer. The owners inevitably will pay one way or the other to maintain their buildings. Reserve funds that are not up to the job simply translate into onerous special financial assessments on owners.

The provincial government acted responsibly in 2011 in amending the Strata Property Act to require the depreciation reports, with a deadline of December 2013. But they were wrong to allow a loophole that permits a strata corporation to avoid commissioning a depreciation report if three-quarters of owners turn thumbs down.

In the interests of transparency, all condominiums should be required to equip themselves with the documents. Condo purchasers need a level playing field. It is not fair for some to have the benefit of a report and others to make their purchase in ignorance of future financial implications.

Even more important, condo owners must begin an important discussion about the widespread inadequacy of existing contingency funds and what must be done to remedy this alarming situation.

Condominiums are becoming the housing option of choice for most Vancouver homebuyers. It serves no one’s interest to keep owners in the dark about their personal financial obligations.

Reprinted from The Vancouver Sun February 12th 2016

***N.B. If you have any questions regarding the optimal operation of Strata Councils and particularly Depreciation Reports, please do not hesitate to call me at 604-626-2526  ALAN