How is winning at the stock market like selling your house?

What’s a great way to make some cash without exerting a ton of energy? The stock market of course! Where else can you pick a lucky fund, invest some hard earned cash and come out with a big return? Now, you could choose to do it yourself, that would be a cheap way of getting it done yet you may worry some of the fact that you don’t know too much about the idea. It would be silly to invest a bunch of money on a hunch or a ‘stock tip’ from a friend who knows less about it than you do. What are your options then? Hire a stock broker.

Stock brokers are required to go through educational requirements in order to serve you and your money, such as a completed Canadian Securities Course,  and thank goodness too, because you want to make sure you are in the best hands. When picking a stock broker, how do you know who is the best? To pick do you

A) Go with the trader who offers you the best rate on your trading, the professional that offers you the biggest discount saving you money per trade?

Or

B) Go with the trader that has a track record of making their clients significant gains and produces extraordinary results?

The answer is B. The answer should always be B.

The same goes for real estate. We are in an extraordinary time where we have begun to see competitive convergence in our market place, where we have so many Real Estate professionals competing over price to help sell your home. This is such a great opportunity to help the industry get better because it lets those who shine be brightest of them all. When choosing to sell your home, are you worried about who will give you the best discount, or who will sell your home and net you the most amount of money? Like a stock broker, real estate professionals are not all created the same and I caution you, to pick based on track record and results, not discount. Because doing the latter would be considered silly, wouldn’t it?

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Blog post provided by Darin Germyn Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit Darin’s blog at Germyn.ca 

 

 

Macdonald Realty Voted Best Neighbourhood Real Estate Office | Georgia Straight

For the second consecutive year, the readers of  the Vancouver Magazine the Georgia Straight have voted Macdonald Realty number one in the Best Neighbourhood Real Estate Office category.  You can see the rankings here.  Covering Vancouver business and culture, the Georgia Straight is a weekly publication with over 690,000 readers; for the 2011 (16th annual) Best of Vancouver rankings, the magazine received over 10,000 ballots from Vancouverites.

 

Dealing with Low Ball Offers on Homes

Real estate listing inventories in Greater Victoria have been relatively high in the past few months, so it comes as no great surprise to us that we are seeing more “Low Ball” offers in the market of late.

That being said, sales activity remains steady, albeit at a lower level than the frenetic pace set last year in the wake of low interest rates and an unwinding of demand left over from the financial crisis of late 2008 & early 2009.

When faced with more homes to choose from than usual in the current market, some buyers are starting to write very low offers in the hopes of “getting a deal”.  I used quotes there because in real estate, a “deal” means different things to different people; no two houses or lots are alike.

Resist the urge to walk away

Most people realize that real estate transactions usually involve a mix of logic, emotion and pride, on both sides of the transaction.  Those realizations usually fly right out the window for both the buyer (when writing the offer) and for the seller (when receiving the offer), even when the purchase price is not in “low ball” territory.

Your REALTOR® is there to help you not only with the legal, logistical and negotiating aspects of selling your home, but to also be a sounding board, an ally and your advisor for those times when emotions are running high!

If you receive a low offer on your home, do your best to limit your emotions & pride and do your best to focus on the facts.

It may help to keep in mind that even a low purchase price offer means that the buyer wants to buy your home.  Many buyers may prepare a really low offer because they are afraid they will pay too much, because they are trying to get an indication of where your expectations are, or simply because they think a low ball offer is normal business practice.

Unless the offer is ludicrously low, prepare to counter the offer to keep the buyer engaged and interested in your home, because, as mentioned, they have more than a passing interest in your house.

In the absence of multiple offers for your listing, consider countering a low ball offer with the price, conditions, closing dates and other details that you’re willing to accept.  If you choose to just ignore a low ball, you won’t ever know if there was a possibility of a low offer turning into a negotiated sale that leaves both parties happy!

Consider the comparable sales

Some buyers will provide a list of recent sales with their offer to attempt to justify a low offer price.  Your REALTOR® will be able to help you decide if those comparables are similar to your home, or not. If the sales in that list do represent similar homes to yours and are at lower prices, you may need to lower your price if you truly want to sell your home.

In the absence of a list of comparables from the buyer, your REALTOR® can also help you prepare a list of comparable sales to send back along with your counter offer that support your asking price.

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Blog post provided by Sean Farrell, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in Victoria.  Visit his website farrellgroup.ca for more information. 

The value of an expert and why you need one in real estate

An expert as defined by Wikipedia is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. An expert can be, by virtue of credential, training, education, profession, publication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion.

If your car is broken, do you send it to a mechanic or your hairdresser? If your refrigerator stops working, do you call in the technician or call you accountant? When you decide to purchase or make available your most valuable asset, your home, do you call a realtor or take advice from your neighbour? Buying and selling a home is best left to an expert.

Everyone seems to have an advanced knowledge of many things, and real estate is no different. Quite often you have someone who has bought and sold a home as many as 5 times in their lifetime, and feel that this warrants an advanced knowledge of the subject. I have baked cookies about 5 times in my life, and that does not make me an expert baker.

A self-proclaimed expert as defined by Urban dictionary is The annoying know-it-all in everyone’s social circle, or quasi-member thereof, who always insists on one-upping the person controlling a current conversation with useless factoids or name-dropping to make himself appear more knowledgeable or superior to the audience in question. Considers himself (herself) the perfect candidate for “Jeopardy.

Now this description is humorous yet also strikes to a point. John Nesbi made famous so many years ago by saying, “We are drowning in information but starving for Knowledge.” With the likes of Google making information readily available to the public within micro seconds, anyone can be a self-proclaimed expert on anything within minutes online. This does not make you an expert based on our Wikipedia understanding.

It is ever so important to have someone that you like and trust when deciding to acquire or dispose of your most valuable asset. The right real estate professional will guide you to the best practises, the ins and outs of the industry, the common pit falls, and most importantly, represent your best assets on your behalf. The right real estate professional will help you get what you want, on your terms, and ensure you are looked after. The process of buying/selling is full of major hazards, legalities, and costly ventures. Trust the professionals and experts to handle the ride as you sit back and enjoy the view. When it comes to taking advice from your neighbour, family, or co-workers, double check their day to day job descriptions and thank them for thinking of your best interest. Smile and kindly remind them, you will take their recommendations to heart, and relay their concerns and advice to the expert, your real estate professional.

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Blog post provided by Darin Germyn Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit Darin’s blog at Germyn.ca  

 

 

A Happy Home for You and Your Dog

Let’s face it…there’s a lot of excitement when buying a home. The idea of more space, summer BBQs in the backyard, new paint colours and new decorating thoughts fill one’s mind. You want a happy home for yourself…but if you have dogs, you also want a happy place for them too!  We’re proud dog owners…our beloved Amber is more than a pet…she’s part of our family. She’s practically a big sister to our little girl, who is almost two years old. We’re very happy where we live, and we made sure we considered our dog in our buying process.  Therefore, with so much going through your mind when buying a place, it would be wise to put yourself into Rover’s shoes, or should we say, paws to consider their feelings about a new home.

Flooring:
Does the home have hardwood floors. In our opinion, a hard-floored surface seems to be great with pet owners. We all know how dogs shed hair, and cleaning up a carpet can be a big hassle. Hardwood or laminate is easy to clean, but it’s important to know that a lot of hardwood surfaces are actually quite soft so susceptible to scratches, including dogs nails. Those nails can dig into the floor and leave some pretty big gashes in the floor, especially if you have an exciteable dog that runs around inside. If you have a dog that has long and/or sharp nails, a laminate floor might be a more suitable option. We’ve found laminate to be more resistant to scratches. If you prefer carpeting, consider the length of the carpet. If it’s a long and shaggy carpet, remember that it will be more difficult to get dog’s hair out, as opposed to a groomed carpet, or something easier to vacuum. If your dog is anything like ours…she loves lying on the soft carpet in front of our fireplace…oh how snuggly!

Fencing:
You should never assume that a house is fully fenced. It’s a good idea to walk around the property and check to make sure all panels of the fence are in place and not about to fall off. We can’t imagine a worse feeling that seeing Rover running down the street due to a missing fence panel. This also includes fencing behind shrubs. While shrubs add privacy to a yard, sometimes there is not fencing behind the trees, making an easy escape for dogs.

Around the neighbourhood:
Obviously, it would be important to know whether dog parks, or parks in general, are within walking distance. Places within walking distance usually mean you (and Rover) get out more. If it involves a car (even a short drive), it’s more easy to put off that trip to the park…poor Rover won’t get to see his friends as often. Also, what kinds of pet services are nearby… Where is the closest animal hospital? How far away is a reputable kennel for those times you travel? Where are you going to get their pet food? Since these may be aspects in our everyday lives, you probably should at least think of this when buying a place.

Pet-friendly complexes:
While it is true that many strata properties (condos or townhomes) have pet restrictions (often limiting the type and/or number of pets), some complexes are “pet-friendlier” than others. Be sure to look around when you’re looking at properties. Do you see large dogs? Are there “no pet” signs? Do you see a lot of people walking with the dogs on a leash? All these are pretty good indicators as to “how pet-friendly” a complex is.

Overall, there are a lot of factors that go into buying a home. While Rover probably doesn’t get the final say, it’s important to consider how your dog will adapt to their new home. As you know, they only want you to be happy, so why not make sure that they’ll be happy too.

Happy trails!

 

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca

6 Signs it is time to buy a house – Part 2

Is it the right time for you to buy a house? Learn more about that in this article below in part 2 of this series by Janet Fowler, Investopedia.com

4. Low interest rates

When interest rates are low, it’s a great time to look at buying a home. You will be able to get a reasonable interest rate on your mortgage loan, which can save you a lot of money in the long run. A home is generally the single largest purchase anyone makes, and the amount of interest tacked onto a mortgage really adds up over the years that you’re repaying the loan. Even a difference of a fraction of a percentage point can make a pretty big difference over the long term. Consider a mortgage of $220,000. The difference between a rate of 4.2 per cent and 4.5 per cent results in an extra $13,993 paid toward interest over the course of a 30-year mortgage. That’s a lot more than just pocket change.

5. Adequate funds for a down payment

Having a hefty down payment helps in the same way as finding a low interest rate. Ultimately, the less you owe, the less you’ll have to repay and the less you’ll have to tack on for interest. If you find yourself with a nice lump of cash, putting it toward a home purchase is definitely a solid financial investment. Just think, you’ll be building equity in your home which you’ll see again when you sell, and you’ll have somewhere to live in the meantime. Though it may be tempting to put the money toward a trip, a new car or a luxury shopping spree, the return on investment on these sorts of purchases — at least in the strict financial sense — can be rather disappointing.

6. Seasonal

During the springtime, more house listings tend to come on the market. With the poor winter weather over and the kids nearly done school for another year, this seems to be the time when most people are willing to take on a move. Having more homes on the market means a wider selection — and a greater ability to negotiate price. However, this is also the time of year when more buyers are in the market. Circumstances will depend on your particular market conditions, but the arrival of spring typically revives the real estate market after quieter winters. Alternatively, if you’re willing to move during the winter months, sometimes owners of homes that have been sitting on the market for a long time are more willing to negotiate.

 

To read the full article click here.

 

6 signs it is time to buy a house – Part 1

Are you ready to buy a home? Find out if it’s the right time for you to enter the real estate market.

If you’ve been considering buying a house but you’re still unsure, consider some of the personal and economic conditions that favour home purchases. If you find that a number of these signs ring true for you, it might be time to contact a real estate agent and start shopping.

1. You’re ready to commit

First and foremost, if you’re not ready to commit to owning a home, you should not buy a house. Home ownership comes with a plethora of responsibilities, including home maintenance, property taxes and the process of selling the property when it comes time to move.

Legal fees, moving expenses, and all of the incidental costs associated with buying a home can really add up. To make the most of these costs, it’s best to plan on living in your new home for a stretch of time. Consider whether you have a stable job that will provide a solid income for a mortgage, and if there’s any chance you’ll have to relocate in the near future. If you feel you can commit to sticking with a home for at least five years, then it might be just the right time for you to buy. If you’re typically a hardened commitment-phobe, remember that you can sell or rent your property if your situation changes dramatically.

2. Owning costs less than renting

If you’ve examined your budget and realized that your monthly payments associated with buying a home are less than you’re currently paying in rent, it’s time to consider a home purchase. Talk to your bank and look at what your mortgage payments would be for a variety of different properties and gauge what you can afford. Factor in any additional costs you may have to pay, such as condominium fees or extra utility bills, and compare your total costs to what you’re paying in rent. If it’s roughly the same or less, you could be saving money by purchasing a home — plus there’s the added benefit that you’ll be putting your monthly home expenditures toward your own home equity!

3. Buyer’s market

When demand for housing is low and there’s a wealth of properties on the market that aren’t moving too fast, that’s known as a buyer’s market. You’ll have a lot more bargaining power under these conditions than if you’re buying in a seller’s market, which is when demand for homes is high, resulting in few properties on the market that are selling fast. In a buyer’s market, chances are you’ll be able to negotiate a seller’s list price down — sometimes quite substantially — and save yourself a lot of money in the process.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series Signs it is time to buy a house by Janet Fowler, Investopedia.com

Luxury real estate booming in Vancouver | Financial Post with Dan Scarrow and Matthew Lee

If you think Vancouver’s housing prices are overdue for a major price adjustment, tell that to the surging number of luxury home buyers.

According to MLS statistics provided by Macdonald Realty, a record 375 homes — including nearly 50 condos — sold for over $3-million in 2010, breaking the record of 209 set in 2009 and more than double the 167 sold in 2008.

Of those, 73 homes sold for over $5 million.

The sales were primarily, but not exclusively, on Vancouver’s west side, with the priciest home going for $17.5-million at 3489 Osler.

The second and third priciest homes — the second also on Osler and the third on Point Grey Road -both sold for about $11 million.

As well, Macdonald Realty says, if current patterns hold, the number of $3-million-plus homes is expected to reach 550 this year, raising the spectre that in some neighbourhoods a $3-million home may no longer be considered particularly exclusive.

In 2000, just 10 properties in Metro Vancouver sold for over $3-million, none of them condominiums.

The market for luxury homes is now “insanely hot,” with mainland Chinese buyers — who are also affecting the Richmond market in a big way — the primary purchasers, said Dan Scarrow, Macdonald Realty vice-president of corporate strategy.

“Ninety-per-cent (of the luxury home purchases) are on the west side, probably some in West Vancouver,” he said in an interview. “But it’s incredibly striking, when you think what the prices were 10 years ago.”

Scarrow said that while a $3-million house has always been categorized as “luxury,” he no longer knows if that’s the case in key West Side neighbourhoods, including Shaughnessy and Point Grey.

“We’re part of a global luxury market by the ultra-wealthy,” he said. “And from the buyers’ perspective, prices here are cheap for what you get.”

Tsur Somerville, director at the centre for urban economics and real estate, Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C., said in an interview that just because there are more homes selling for over $3-million doesn’t mean they’re not luxury homes.

“It’s pretty subjective,” he said. “But $3-million is an expensive home. And just because it’s on a small lot doesn’t mean it’s not a luxury house.

“And the fact that there’s a whole lot more ($3-million homes) than a decade ago, with the price increases, there’d better be.”

Mr. Somerville also said that China is a huge source of immigrants to B.C. and that mainland Chinese immigrants tend to be investors and entrepreneurs.

“Clearly, there’s a very targeted demand for higher-end properties that many associate with the mainland Chinese market.”

But he said there’s an absence of clear data on the specifics of those buyers, whether it’s primarily immigrants or investor money from China. As an indication of how the luxury condominium market has grown, Mr. Scarrow said that last year a total of 49 condos sold for over $3-million — including seven for over $5-million — with the top three closing in on $6-million each, the priciest at Two Harbour Green, 1139 West Cordova, in Coal Harbour, for $5.8-million and the other two at the Shangri-La in downtown Vancouver.

Scarrow said many more properties are crossing the $3-million threshold, which now buys a new or newer house in the 2,500-to 3,000-square-foot range on a smaller west side lot.

“Now, you see multiple $3-million-plus homes on every block. I’d say $5-million is now where you’re going for that luxury range.”

Alice Zhang, who moved from Hangzhou, China, to Vancouver two years ago, now lives in one of six properties that she and her husband have purchased in Vancouver since moving here.

Zhang, who has two children, is waiting to move into a new home they’re constructing on a Shaughnessy lot that they bought for about $3.1-million. The house is expected to cost another $3 million, which Zhang believes is a good deal.

“We moved from the most beautiful city in China to Vancouver, which we consider more beautiful,” said Zhang, whose family owns hotels and a real estate development company in China.

“I think that compared to other Canadian cities, Vancouver is expensive. But, China is more expensive (than Vancouver).

“And the air is very fresh here and it’s very green. You feel like you’re in a garden.”

Scarrow cited another client who purchased a 2,600-square-foot condo in Coal Harbour for about $1,600 a square foot.

“(She and her family) has homes all around the world. In Knightsbridge, London, a flat was sold to her for $8,000 (Cdn) per square foot. Their flat in London was 3,000 square feet and they paid $24 million for it.”

She also has two homes in Hong Kong, one in Lake Tahoe, one in San Francisco, one in New York and one in Madrid, Spain, Scarrow said. “They all say their Vancouver property is their favourite home. They think it’s the best value.”

Macdonald Realty sales manager Matthew Lee, whose firm sold the three most expensive homes in Vancouver in 2009 and two of the five most expensive homes in 2010, believes that it’s not just mainland Chinese who are fuelling the luxury market, “but buyers from Europe and the U.S. are willing to pay these prices as well. Globally, Vancouver is still seen as a relatively good bargain.”

While the west side of Vancouver had the largest number of luxury homes sold, other areas in B.C. have also seen some very expensive sales, including the Fraser Valley’s top three sales between $5.3-million and $6.1-million, the Okanagan, from $5.4-million to $10.7-million, and Victoria, from $3.9-million to $6.8-million.

And while Vancouver has seen some very expensive homes sold over the past decade, including one for $17.5 million in 2008 and one for $17-million as far back as 2004, it’s the sheer numbers that are striking. In 2000, just 10 homes sold for over $3-million, and 78 in 2005.

 

To view this article in Financial Post click here  By:  Brian Morton, Financial Post – Postmedia News

 

Protecting Your Household Possessions

You never expect it to happen but sometimes your belongings may be stolen or destroyed. To protect your possessions in your home from theft or a fire or some sort of disaster, putting together a household inventory would be very useful. When it’s time to provide your home insurance company with a record of your items to make your claim, this will reduce your stress, anxiety and time during this process.

You probably received some nice gifts at Christmas, and now is just the time to record these items and put them into a list if not done already.

I’d suggest starting one room at a time, otherwise it’s just too overwhelming. And don’t try to do it all in one day. Also remember to include items in your garage, attic, basement or storage facility.

You can find lists online that you can print out or make your own spreadsheet and include the item’s serial and model numbers, purchase date, cost, where you bought it and attach any receipts you may have.

Take photos of the items, sometimes it’s good to have a family member in the photo to show ownership (if it’s an expensive item). Video is great too. You may also want to include copies of wills, passports, birth certificates and credit card info with the inventory list.

Once you are done with the list, keep a copy and put another copy in a safety deposit box. If you don’t have one, give a copy to a relative or friend to keep. It’s good to update this list every six months or so.

I hope you never have to go through this painful process of theft or a disaster in your home, but thought I’d bring this up, as it’s a new year, and a good time to protect your possessions.

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca

Chinese Love Affair with Canada continues | South China Morning Post with Dan Scarrow

Love can blind us to traits others may see as red flags. The Chinese love Canada and it seems even an uncertain performance in the property sector cannot dampen their ardour.

While Canada has fared better of late than its southern neighbour, the United States, its property market has not always reflected that. At times “red hot”, at others lacklustre, buyer activity has been up and down amid worries that external economic forces that could stunt the country’s growth. In its Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2011 survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) notes that, even in Toronto, a city with an “impenetrable financial sector, diverse manufacturing industries and immigration flows supporting growth and intensifying tenant demand”, some investors still worry about flattening apartment rentals.

Vancouver’s office and condo markets remain “red hot”, fuelled by international visitors who bought after last year’s Winter Olympics. Yet the PwC report finds that despite the inherent attractions of the city, some investors are uneasy. Says one: “The market is artificially inflated: it’s been hot for too long.”

Market inconsistencies are also reflected in Canada’s Scotiabank Global Real Estate Trends report, which notes that Canada had one of the better performing housing markets among advanced nations last year, but also one of the most volatile.

An “unusually active” winter and spring were followed by an unusually soft summer. Pricing has mirrored demand, the market gaining 16.6 per cent year-in-year in the first quarter, and declining by 1.5 per cent in the third quarter. The bank hedges its bets on Canada, declaring it is “neither overtly optimistic nor pessimistic” in its outlook for this year. It expects interest rates will remain at historically low levels – an “extremely powerful inducement” for buyers. Demand will likely be tempered by more moderate employment and income growth as government restraint takes hold.

Scotiabank is projecting “a fairly lacklustre year” for residential housing. That doesn’t seem to worry the stream of buyers from the mainland and Hong Kong who call Canada their second home. Vancouver-based Dan Scarrow, vice-president of strategy at Macdonald Real Estate Group, says Chinese – mainly from the mainland – are the largest players in the luxury market, where they’re out-bidding the locals at “a ferocious rate”.

In the months before he moved out of sales to focus on management early last year, Scarrow sold 12 C$5 million-plus (HK$39.21 million) condos and multiple C$3 million-plus homes, mostly to mainlanders, but also to buyers from Taiwan, Hong Kong and local Canadians.

“The market in Vancouver for Chinese buyers is extremely hot,” says Scarrow, a Putonghua speaker who is half-Chinese. “It’s a top destination for wealthy mainlanders looking to emigrate from China and, when they land, many immediately look to purchase a principle residence.”

He says wealthy Chinese tend to be more comfortable with real estate as an investment. “Because of the language barrier, many of my clients are less comfortable with putting their investment dollars into financial products or services they do not understand, or know what the risks are. With real estate, they get to see something tangible.

“They are willing to put a greater weighting of their portfolio into real estate. In the wealthier areas, Chinese buyers are consistently out-competing locals for properties. Our research indicates that on the wealthier West Side of Vancouver, 78 per cent of homes of more than C$2 million were sold to Chinese buyers in 2010.” Scarrow says the Vancouver market continues to be strong. “Canada is in the strongest fiscal position of any country in the G8 and has an over-abundance of natural resources to feed its economy in the 21st century,” he says. “Vancouver may be the best-positioned city in the world.”

Stu Bell, of Prudential Sussex Realty West Vancouver, says: “Home buyers coming from [the] mainland and Hong Kong have intensified in the past six months and boosted home prices by up to 46 per cent in the past two years.”

They come because it’s “the best city in the world,” he says. “The buzz for Vancouver must be experienced firsthand to truly appreciate. In winter, gorgeous snow-capped mountains tower over the Northshore, and in summer the beaches and marinas are flooded with activity. Fine restaurants, excellent shopping, world-class outdoor activities, such as golf, skiing and boating and a thriving city centre filled with entertainment, keeps Vancouverites active.”

Bell agrees West Side is “the hottest real estate in Vancouver”, and one most popular among overseas Chinese. Buyers on property-hunting tours will often buy multiple properties with cash, Bell says. Here, the average price of a detached home is C$1.7 million, up 46 per cent from January 2009.

 

Source:  SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, SPECIAL REPORT by Peta Tomlinson