Renovating your Vancouver Condo – Restrictions and Permits

Due to the prices in Downtown Vancouver (& surrounding areas) I find a lot of people looking into buying older / more run down units to renovate. This way they can leverage the renovation to boost their property value.

The best way to go about this is to hire a professional “specialist” Realtor (by this I mean an agent that actually knows the buildings “intimately” in your area of desire) who can get direct you towards buying into a building with “Good Bones”. By good bones I mean a building that has:

  • Good foundation
  • Good plumbing
  • Good roof
  • Good envelope
  • PROACTIVE STRATA (most important)
  1. Buy Real Estate in an up & coming area. When you buy in an area that is being built, as the community and local amenities around you grow as will your property value.
  2. Buy & hold! With this approach you must have patience & the financial means to HOLD ON for the ride. You must look LONG TERM as Real Estate does very much so follow cycles you must strategically pick your entry & exit points.
  3. Buy a property, Renovate & Sell. This must also be strategically assessed. You can not go into this plan thinking you can buy a condo for $300K, renovate for $200K and sell for $500K. Price to re-sale value varies with every room you renovate from bathroom to bedroom & kitchen… Its all individual.. Consult your Contractor & realtor to get that Cost to Value spectrum to give you a clear idea of what level of reno is worth proceeding with.

When renovating a condominium unit or townhouse in a stratified building / complex you need to not only comply with City bylaws but your own Strata bylaws. The most common example of this that I have seen is if you want to install Hardwood floor throughout your condo. You do not have to get permission from the City but you do have to consult & ask for permission from your Strata Council.

Once you have developed your plans for renovations now is the time to see if the right permission you are going to be needed will be granted.


  • Replacing fixtures eg. refrigerator, stove etc (except gas fixtures, these always require permits)
  • Replacement of countertops, cabinets and flooring
  • Interior Painting


  • Removal of interior walls & partitions
  • Construction of new walls or partitions
  • Relocate or installation of new electrical, gas and plumbing lines (including moving a kitchen sink or adding a dishwasher)
  • Removal of a portion of a wall to install a door or create an archway
  • Replacement of a drain, waste and vent piping or the water distribution system
  • The upgrade, replacement or installation of a new fire alarm system or sprinkler system


  • Build an addition to increase floor area (Square Footage)
  • Add, remove or relocate a window, skylight or exterior door (9 times out of 10 you will not be allowed to touch the exterior of the building)
  • Install a gas fireplace that requires the installation of an outtake pipe (chimney)

** there are also slightly different restrictions on detached houses from the City of Vancouver.
If you are unclear or in doubt as to what type of permit is needed if any and why you may need it please contact:

City Hall –


Blog post provided by Jay McInnes Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in Downtown Vancouver.  Visit his website  for more information. 



Moving Tips

Here’s a few tips/suggestions that we thought you might find useful when moving.

About a month before moving day:
– as a client of ours, you will receive a “Holmes Team After the Sale/Moving Checklist”
– call a moving company and book moving date
– notify post office for change of address
– notify school(s) of change of address
– contact your home insurance company to update info
– notify bank of change of address

A couple of weeks before moving day:
– contact your lawyer/notary to ensure they have all the information needed regarding the sale/purchase of your home
– arrange to have utilities disconnected at current home and connected at new home
– hold a garage sale to sell unwanted items
– arrange for transportation and care of your pets
– start packing and labeling boxes
– discontinue newspaper delivery
– plan to carry valuable documents/jewelery with you on moving day
– take down curtain rods, drapes and shelves

A day or two before moving day:
– confirm with Greg and Liz what time you will be leaving your home and moving to your new home
– clean fridge and oven
– finish packing personal items
– set aside items to go into your vehicle with you
– confirm contact information, address and moving time with movers
– verify that utilities have been/will be connected at new home

Moving day:
– have vacuum ready
– empty and clean out your fridge and freezer
– make a final inspection of house before leaving
– check all rooms, closets, cupboards and drawers
– get keys from Greg and Liz for your new place
– enjoy your new home!


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

Vancouver Real Estate Supply and Demand in a Global Context

Were we spoiled by the early spring flurry?   Probably.

Does the inventory have to decline at the same rate as the number of units sold to maintain market integrity?  Probably not.

The market appears to be levelling.  Prices are adjusting slightly downward but not in all areas depending on inventory.  Once again proving that one of our principle rules of real estate analysis is “supply and demand” and that rule is absolute.  Inventory is declining and prices may be stabilizing but perhaps not at the same rate.  Buyers and sellers are having trouble reading the market signs.

With the stock markets and the economies of USA, Europe and others regions all are emitting mixed signals, it is hard to pick a cause or effect that has any long term significance.  This brings to mind our second rule of analysis, that of “cause and effect”.  Good things cause good things to happen and bad things cause bad things to happen.  One day consumer confidence is good then the next day builders confidence is down then business leaders are optimistic then Ben Bernanke says he won’t intervene, and then he will.  The stock market goes down and then recovers.  The bank of Canada says interest rates will rise then when they do the banks ignore and keep offering low mortgage rates.  Nobody knows what is to do and nobody can predict how the various markets will react and that I guess is why they call it a market.


Today, according to the Conference Board of Canada, consumer confidence in BC is down.  Experts say this is the result of the implementation of HST.  We would guess it is a combination of many factors and externalities.  Although we must admit we have seen a lot of confusion as to the HST and Real Estate.  No doubt our industry could of done a better job of educating the public.  But so could have the government and the fifth estate (who spent a lot of time creating a kafuffle to sell papers rather than explaining the tax).

Throw in our last rule of real estate analysis, that ”history repeats itself” and it gets even more confusing. As we have noted previously, and our friend Bruno recently calculated, that after the last big real estate correction in Vancouver, it took 7 years (from 1996-2003) for prices of West Side detached houses to recover to the previous high .The following 6 years (from 2003 – 2009) saw a compounded average growth of 13% for Westside detached houses. Then in the last three quarters of 2008 and first quarter of 2009 we experienced a 20% plus downward correction but then were fully recovered by the fall of 2009.  Anybody heard of the “dead cat bounce”?

Prices seem to have corrected downward over the past few months by 5%-10% although we may be seeing a levelling.  It should be noted that it is not uncommon for prices to adjust up and down during a cycle, upward or downward cycles.


Blog post provided by Murphy Costello Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR®  with Macdonald Realty in Vancouver.   

10 Home Repairs that Will Save You Money

Remodels are great, but can get pretty pricey. Not everyone has thousands to add value to their home – but what about those less glamorous repair projects on your to-do list? These simple and inexpensive maintenance items don’t seem like they add to your home’s value, but they’re big money-savers in the long run.

1. Caulk

If you’ve lived in your house a few years, you probably noticed that the caulk along your sinks, countertops and bathtub is coming loose. These gaps may not seem like a big deal, but they can wreak havoc inside your walls. Moisture causes mold and even leaks – expensive repairs that can easily be prevented. A tube of kitchen and bath caulk costs just a few dollars, and you’ll avoid expensive repairs.


2. Insulate

The quickest way to save money on your energy bill is to insulate, yet so many of us overlook this simple home improvement project for its benefits. Sure, your walls are insulated, but what about your basement, your attic, and your garage? Just in case the energy cost savings aren’t enticing enough for you, check with the government – there are current credits that allow you to deduct this energy-saving expense from your taxes. (Find out what you can do to improve your chances of having a quick sale, in Selling Your Home In A Down Market.)

3. Change Filters

When was the last time you changed your furnace’s air filters? It’s an oft-overlooked chore, but one that keep your furnace running efficiently, and improves the air quality inside your home. Change your filters at least every three months to keep your furnace working efficiently for years to come.

4. Install a Thermostat

Does your home have a programmable thermostat? If not, invest in one; it’ll earn its money back in no time. By programming heating and cooling, you avoid paying to keep an empty house at a comfortable temperature. Manage the heat appropriately in winter to avoid burst water pipes; in summer, draw your curtains during the day to keep the house cool. Buy a programmable thermostat and you can save big on monthly bills.

5. Fix Leaks

That leaky faucet or runny toilet is draining your water bill, and in most cases it’s a cheap and quick fix. Replace the washer on your faucet, and while you’re at it, consider installing a faucet aerator if yours doesn’t already have one. Faucet aerators reduce water flow from your faucet to save on your water bill; check your home improvement store for this inexpensive fix. (If you’re just looking to get rich quick, you could end up in the poorhouse. Find out how, in 5 Mistakes That Make House Flipping A Flop.)

6. Install Dimmers

Dimmers aren’t just for romance; they can save you big bucks on your energy bill. They’re cheap and easy to install, so look for rooms that could use a little reduction in harsh lighting. While you’re at it, replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. They’re big money savers.

7. Clean Carpets

Clean your carpet lately? With proper care, carpets can last a long time and look great, but everyone needs to clean them sometime. You don’t need to hire an expensive service either – if you can vacuum, you can clean your carpets by yourself. Rent a carpet cleaner at your local supermarket or big-box store for a modest fee. Make sure you vacuum thoroughly before cleaning, and pick a dry day so your carpet dries quickly. With regular cleaning your carpet can last a long time, saving you big bucks on new flooring.

8. Clean Siding and Windows

Windows and siding get a beating in most climates. Wash your windows and siding with a simple hose and water first, and with a cleaning solution as needed; your home improvement store sells specialty products for just this kind of job. Rent a power washer for very dirty jobs. Keep an eye on cobwebs, wasp and bird nests to ensure your home’s exterior stays in good shape. Touch up with paint as needed, and your house will look like new at little or no cost. (Some renovations will mean a bigger sale price on your home, while others will just cost you. Find out more, in Will Your Home Remodel Pay Off?)

9. Fight Pests

Those spiders and ants at your foundation, that mouse nest in your crawl space? Take care of it – pests can destroy a home in a hurry. Hire an exterminator, or for small pests, combat with pesticides. Even if you don’t think you have a problem, inspect every part of the interior and exterior of your home regularly to avoid small pest problems getting out hand.

10. Clean Ductwork

If your home is older, your ductwork likely has dust, grime, and other unwelcome residue inside. For big jobs, pay a professional; a simple cleaning can easily be done yourself. Simply remove the grates from your air vents, and clean the inside with your vacuum.

The Bottom Line

The best way to invest in your home is to take good care of what’s already there. With these simple repair jobs, you’ll even save money – with just a little elbow grease as investment.


Source: The Globe and Mail, here are 10 simple home renovation ideas that can save you money in the long run. July 01 2010

How to Move the Green Way

If you are planning on moving and you would like to be more “green” or environmentally conscious, here are some ways to make that happen.

Ask your friends and family if they have any cardboard boxes you can use. Or maybe you have some already that are hidden in your storage locker or garage. Check with your local grocery store, liquor store, hardware store and the like for boxes. They may be in different sizes but that doesn’t matter, sometimes that works better for dishes or books etc.

At the office, photocopier/printer paper boxes are great boxes to use. They are not too big and are fairly strong too. Great boxes for stacking.

If you don’t want to use cardboard boxes, another option is renting moving crates. These are reusable plastic crates that are typically crushproof and stackable. There’s a cost to them, but usually the company rents them to you a couple of weeks before your move so you have them for about a month. They deliver them and then pick them up. No mess and no waste. Also check with your moving company, some of them provide this service as well.


What do you do about protecting your dishes, glassware or other breakables? You can use newspaper, used padded envelopes (from work) and old blankets and towels. (The latter may be a bit bulky whereas newspaper ink might get on your dishes).

Decreasing the amount of “stuff” that you have can help make your move easier on you. Hold a garage sale or put up items on Craigslist. Now, just remember not to accumulate too much stuff once you make your move! And the less stuff that you have, the smaller and lighter the moving vehicle will be and thus less gas that is burning.

Use environmentally friendly cleaning products. I like Method and Attitude products (which you can get at Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs and Superstore).

If you do use cardboard boxes for moving, think of recycling them or reusing to a friend or coworker that will be moving in the future.

Good luck with your move!


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

Recreational Real Estate Hot | The Times Colonist

Buyers of recreational property are pushing up sales — especially in the entry-level price range — but the market has not recovered to pre-recession levels, says a new report by real estate giant Re/Max.

“I have never been busier,” said Sandra Smith, an agent for Macdonald Realty on Saltspring Island.

The upcoming long weekend sees her “booked solid with buyers” at a time when inventory gives buyers plenty of choice. Water view properties from $500,000 to $800,000 are especially popular.

“My personal thought is that we are not going to see a big spike in prices,” Smith said yesterday.

Buyers are arriving from such areas as the northwestern U.S., Alberta, Vancouver and the Island, Smith said.

Some are seeking an island getaway that will be a retirement home in a couple of years, while others are young families.

Smith said buyers held off last year because of the recession.

Allan Bruce of Pemberton Holmes on Saltspring is also seeing a steady stream of buyers.

“We still have a steady market but certainly the volume is down,” he said. The strongest activity is for properties below $500,000.

Across Canada, 79 per cent of recreational areas saw an increase in the number of sales for the first three months of this year, compared to the same time last year, the Re/Max report said.

“Stronger than expected economic recovery, combined with additional incentives such as rising interest rates, stricter lending criteria and a new sales tax have served to kick-start activity in recreational markets from coast to coast,” said Elton Ash, regional vice-president for Re/Max in Western Canada.

Buyers are looking to stretch their dollar as much as possible, he said. “This is especially true in Western Canada, where values have softened considerably year-over-year but are now starting to firm up.”

The starting price for a three-bedroom, winterized waterfront property on a standard lot on Saltspring Island would be $750,000 to $800,000, the report said. “Recreational property sales have more than doubled on Saltspring Island over last year.”

Five years ago, international and American buyers were more active in the market than today, it said.

On Vancouver Island’s west coast, the starting price for the same three-bedroom house is $499,000 in Ucluelet, and $875,000 in Tofino.

A two-bedroom waterfront condo starts at $245,000 in Ucluelet and $429,000 in Tofino, the report said.

Inventory is high, creating an “overabundance of listings at all price points,” which affect price, Re/Max said.

Showings have increased in the Comox Valley-Mount Washington region, where an “oversupply of inventory has placed buyers firmly in the driver’s seat,” the report said.

The starting price for a three-bedroom house was pegged at $475,000.


Article from The Victoria Times Colonist – May 21st, 2010

Steps To Buying A Home For The First Time

Buying a First Home can be a very stressful & scary time for most Canadians. This article will be outlining the step-by-step First Time Home Buying process I work through with my clients.

As a Real Estate Specialist my goal is to provide First Time Home Buyers with the most qualified information possible. I enable you to purchase with ease and have full understanding of the process you have to go through by shining a light on every aspect of the deal. I do this so you expect the next step of the process and are not surprised by it.

Through positive feedback I have found this step-by-step outline to be very beneficial to First Time Home Buyers. This is an outline that is looked at as the “Buyers (things to do) Checklist” from the beginning to the end of the process. I have outlined these tasks in this order so each mandatory step is completed before the next. It is a process of elimination with the goal of turning the First Time Home Buyer into a successful First Time Home Owner!

1) Getting Ready

  • Review Purchasing Costs
  • Property Transfer Tax (1% of the 1st $200K & 2% on the balance)
  • G.S.T / H.S.T (only on new property)
  • Legal Fees (Notary Public / Lawyer)
  • Home Inspection (if applicable)
  • High Ratio Mortgage Premium (only if borrowing over 80% of the purchase price)
  • Deposit (minimum 5% & forms part of the purchase price)
  • Review First Time Buyer Savings
  • R.R.S.P tax free withdraw (up to 25K per person)
  • Property Transfer Tax Rebate (No P.T.T under $425K)

2) Get Set

  • Define your Search Criteria
  • Needs Vs. Wants analysis
  • Neighborhood analysis (likes & dislikes)
  • Become an expert
  • Determine what your budget will get you in your neighborhood of choice
  • View property details from listings in your neighborhood of choice
  • Tour open houses of qualified homes
  • Through process of elimination determine what home(s) interest you the most

3) Go

  • Make an offer
  • Draft Contract of Purchase & Sale
  • Determine Price, Possession date & Completion Date
  • Determine Subjects (usual subjects: Inspection, Financing & Strata Paperwork)
  • Submit Offer (with Expiry time and date)
  • Sellers Options (Accept, Counter or let expire)
  • Once offer is accepted
  • Work through & remove all Subjects
  • Place deposit check into the Trust Account of your Realtors Brokerage (Bank Draft)

4) Congratulations

  • Select Notary Public / Lawyer
  • Prepare for the move

This First Time Home Buying outline will be altered slightly depending on the product being purchased (House or Condo). However the basic outline that you see above is the foundation of the home search needed to get you “the buyer” into the home that works best for your needs.


Blog post provided by Jay McInnes Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in Downtown Vancouver.  Visit his website  for more information. 


The Value a REALTOR Provides

There has been a ton of information tossed around recently in the media about REALTORS® and the value they provide.  I wanted to share a short story about a person I have recently helped who tried to sell their home on their own.  I received a phone call from this gentleman last month regarding coming to list his home and for some professional marketing advise. He had recently undergone the process of selling by owner and had even received an accepted offer from a private buyer. The buyer had committed to purchasing his condo and they went through the legal requirements and were deeply involved financially and emotionally. The deal came to fall apart as the prospective buyer could not close on the deal due to financial and personal reasons. This is where my value as a real estate and marketing professional was valued and called upon.

I listed the home and had it sold within 5 days of having it listed, as a result of my 90 step marketing strategies and knowledge of the area. Not only did I only show the property to the most qualified buyers after screening them personally, I arranged the entire process and assisted in closing the deal. Now many of you may be thinking, “Yah Darin, but the Seller also had to pay you to do this all for him,” and you would be absolutely right. The Seller received an additional $16,500 more than his private sale that was supposed to ’save’ him money. After my compensation, the seller walked away with more money in his pocket, actually, it was an additional $6000.


I believe strongly that you pay a professional to do their job. You go to a doctor because they have specialized knowledge and understand how to fix your health issues. You go to a Real Estate professional because you can expect a certain level of service and expertise. I have knowledge you as a Seller may not, and that is okay. Take the example written above, you can bet my Seller is smiling as he not only had the conveyance roll out as smooth as can be, he also plans to take his family on a 2 week holiday with the extra money I was able to achieve for him.

So the next time your body aches or you have the flu, call your doctor. The next time you hear of a friend or family member trying to sell their home on their own, remind them of this story, and have them call me.


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  


Macdonald Realty Named Largest Brokerage Firm in Canada | REAL Trends 2009

With a total sales volume of $4.7 billion in 2009, Macdonald Realty placed first in the REAL Trends 200 survey of Canada’s largest brokers.  The results were published in the May 2010 edition of REAL Trends magazine and reported by the National Post, Vancouver Sun, & The Province.   Based in Castle Rock, Colorado, REAL Trends has been ranking the top 500 brokerage firms in the United States since 1988. This is the first year their publication has included Canada.  We are very proud to have been named the largest brokerage firm in Canada during this inaugural list.


Click here to see a list of the top 23 firms in the survey