Vancouver firm offers a one-stop real estate shop for Chinese investors in B.C. | The Vancouver Sun


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When Vancouver-based Macdonald Realty dispatched Dan Scarrow, the agency’s vice-president of corporate strategy, to China last March to investigate the feasibility of launching a branch office in Shanghai, the assignment was initially only going to be for four months.

A year later, Scarrow, a second-generation Chinese Canadian who is fluent in Mandarin, is still there. The Vancouver Sun reached Scarrow in Shanghai by phone last week to discuss his progress, objectives and challenges in building a bridge for residential and commercial real estate investment between China and British Columbia as the new managing director of Macdonald Realty’s Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre in Shanghai.

Q When you first were dispatched to Shanghai at this time last year, it was for a four-month assignment to investigate opening up a Macdonald Realty branch in China. Why are you still there?

A We actually have ended up opening up an office here. We have a representative office over here in Shanghai now doing project marketing and commercial and residential prospecting for our Vancouver and British Columbia offices. We’ve branded it as the Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre, so it’s offering a one-stop shop for Chinese investors looking toward anything to do with Canadian real estate, specifically B.C.

Q Why did Macdonald Realty want a presence in China?

A It was sort of two-fold. The first one is that Chinese investors are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our market — both on the residential side and the commercial side. And after our investigation over here we found that there are no other Canadian [real estate] companies over here in China that actively do this, so we would be the first one.

Q What’s been the biggest adjustment living in China for you personally?

A Shanghai is a pretty easy city for an expat to get used to. I think that the rest of China would be a much more difficult adjustment, but Shanghai itself is a pretty cosmopolitan city with a pretty global outlook and a pretty robust expat community. So it’s not as difficult. The challenge, I guess, that everyone talks about is the pollution aspect. They talk about it here the same way Vancouverites talk about the rain.

Q What’s your mandate in terms of building links between commercial real estate in B.C. and the Chinese market?

A Our main mandate is to promote B.C. commercial properties over here in China. I think we all acknowledge that China has been growing. It has created the fastest-growing wealthy and middle class in human history, so tapping into that market I think is going to be increasingly important for Canada and Canadian companies over the next decades.

Q What’s the most common question you hear from Chinese clients interested in investing in British Columbia’s commercial real estate?

A The most common question actually isn’t about real estate. It’s with what is happening in immigration. The biggest question is what is Canada’s current immigration policy and what will it be moving forward, just because there have been so many changes to Canada’s immigration policy in the last few years, and I think everyone is a little bit confused as to what it will be moving forward.

Q Any unwelcome surprises or challenges doing real estate business in China?

A Not really. It’s been interesting in the last year because there were the big changes to the immigration program — the investor immigrant program in the middle of last year and continuing until today. And also with the collapse of oil prices and the subsequent drop in the Canadian dollar. That’s been another thing we’ve had to deal with, but more in a positive sense from our investors’ point of view because now Canada’s real estate market is seen as even cheaper than it was prior to that change.

Q In a blog post last year you wrote that wealthy clients in China are more interested in placing their children and a portion of their wealth outside of China than they are in immigrating themselves. Why do you think that’s the case, if it still is the case?

A It still is the case. If you’re a wealthy Chinese individual it’s likely because you have a large business still in China. China does not recognize dual citizenship and it’s just more difficult for you to actively operate your business without Chinese citizenship. So a lot of people, they’re not willing to give up their business so they’re not willing to give up their Chinese passport either.

Q Which areas of Vancouver’s commercial real estate market are your Chinese clients eager to get involved in?

A For a lot of our clients it’s hotels. But it’s an education process as well, letting them know which asset classes are involved or available in B.C. Hotel investment is more of an active business, so while we have a lot of hotel operator clients who are interested in buying hotels, if they don’t have that kind of experience we like to talk to them about some of the other opportunities that might be available. Some of the hotter ones would be street-front retail with redevelopment potential. That goes very quickly for us. We probably have 15 very serious-type buyers that would snap up products like that immediately, but we can’t find enough product for them. It’s a lot of investment-type product that has income right now but has development potential in five to 10 years.

Q What’s the next step for your operations in China?

A Right now we’re working with a couple of developers to promote their projects over here [in China] and so we’re doing project marketing and then also working with our residential agents to make sure the listings that we have are exposed to the widest possible audience. And finally — obviously — exposure of the commercial real estate realm. I think that’s really the big push right now. A lot of investors have already bought a home for themselves in Vancouver and they’re looking for ways to diversify their investment portfolio in Canada, and really the promotion of the commercial real estate, and the education of those buyers, is our next step.

 

This article was originally posted on The Vancouver Sun, February 24th, 2015.  Written by Evan Duggan.

BC luxury home sales above $3-million fell by a third in 2012 | The Vancouver Sun

“Based on a Macdonald Realty Luxury Report, this past year the sales number of luxury homes over $3 million has fallen one third since 2011. However, 2012 is only second to 2011 in sales. In a Vancouver Sun article, Dan Scarrow, Vice President of Macdonald Realty, commented on the impact immigrants buying patterns, investor sentiment and psychology has changed in the past year affecting the lower mainland’s luxury market.

“For the past few years, we’ve seen lots of new investor-class immigrants coming into the market,” Scarrow said. “ … They’re not just buying a house for themselves, but also three or four residential investment properties as well.”

This “exuberance” among immigrant buyers has slowed, Scarrow said, as the economy slowed in China and prices rose rapidly in Vancouver.

Macdonald Realty, REALTOR Will McKitka also commented in the article discussing his specialty of luxury penthouse homes, a segment of the market considered to be attracting buyers.

Read more www.vancouversun.com
Vancouver Sun article BC home sales above $3-million fell by a third in 2012 from March 1, 2013

Liability Concerns When Renovating Your Home

An accident in which a roofer was killed when he fell through the skylight of former premier Gordon Campbell’s vacation home is highlighting a little-known piece of contract law that can have huge implications for homeowners.

In a report released publicly Monday, WorkSafeBC said Campbell, as the homeowner, became the “prime contractor” because he failed to assign that written role to the general contractor whose company was doing some renovations on his Sunshine Coast home last July. As a result, the former premier had the legal responsibility for coordinating and establishing compliance with health and safety requirements.

The accident occurred when David Lesko, an employee of Weather Tight Supplies Ltd., lost his balance and fell nearly 18 feet to his death. At the time he was wearing a fall arrest harness but had not secured it to an anchor point. Three other employees of the company were also on the roof, all without fall arrest equipment. Weather Tight was registered with WorkSafeBC, but in the past had been cited several times by the provincial agency for not complying with its acts and regulations.

WorkSafe spokeswoman Donna Freeman WorkSafe said Monday that Campbell was given a written order of what he must do to comply in future as a prime contractor. WorkSafe is also considering levying a penalty against Weather Tight, she said.

Paul Devine, a lawyer with Miller Thomson who specializes in health and safety law, said the accident illustrates how little homeowners know about their legal responsibilities when they hire contractors to do work around their home.

Most people don’t realize they should check to make sure the company they hire is registered with WorkSafe or that they are financially responsible if an unregistered worker is hurt on the job. They also have no clue that they should assign the role of prime contractor to the main company doing the work, Devine said.

“Most homeowners would go out and hire as a contractor and assume they would bring in all the subtrades and make sure they are looked after,” he said. “The problem is under the legislation it says you have to assign a prime contractor in writing and if you don’t the owner becomes the prime contractor. I don’t know that most people think past whether the hiring or whether this person is going to do a good job or the cost of it, rather than about the liability if somebody is injured. Generally speaking I don’t think homeowners think in those terms.”

In Campbell’s case, there were three separate companies working on his project, two groups of carpenters and the roofers. All were registered with WorkSafe. But because no one was assigned as prime contractor, the role of ensuring they all complied with health and safety regulations fell to Campbell, something investigators said the former premier was unaware of. Campbell was not on the site when the accident occurred.

Freeman said because Weather Tight was registered, WorkSafe covered the workers’ compensation insurance for Lesko. But she said in cases where contractors aren’t registered with WorkSafe, homeowners are fully liable for any compensation costs. She said there are fewer than five cases a year in which there are serious accidents or fatalities at an unregistered homeowner work site.

Campbell, who is now Canada’s High Commissioner to Britain and lives in London, did not return a telephone call asking for comment.

Devine said most people he encounters do not know they should make sure people they hire to work around their home are registered with WorkSafe. They leave themselves exposed to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation costs if someone is injured on the job.

“Do people understand if you are a homeowner that this liability can attach both as the employer and as potentially as a prime contractor? My experience is no,” said Devine. “I see the cases where people have not appreciated that these things are required and the direct liability that can occasion if they don’t make a simple inquiry.”

Devine said homeowners, whether they are hiring one or more contractors should always assign the role of prime contractor to one company. It may be that employees working for that roofing company you hire are independent contractors who don’t have WorkSafe registration, he said. In the case of an accident, the homeowner would become liable for those independents.

Freeman said homeowners can check WorkSafe’s online registration database to ensure their chosen contractor is registered. If it isn’t the homeowner can pay a modest assessment fee to make sure those workers on their property are covered. It is based on a formula of 5.19 per cent of payroll or labour costs.

Freeman cited two examples: if labour costs on the reno job are $20,000 for instance, registration insurance premiums would be $1, 038. A job that required $40,000 labour costs, registration insurance premiums would be $2,076.

 

Source: Vancouver Sun, March 6, 2012

Think green when shopping for a home

Purchasing a home involves making many decisions. How many bedrooms do you need? What neighbourhood do you want to live in? Should it be previously owned, brand new or custom-built?

Here’s one more thing to consider: is the home a “green” home? That is, does it have features that will save energy and water, reduce maintenance costs and waste, offer a healthy indoor environment and have a reduced impact on the earth?

With growing awareness around being green and making the right choices for the environment, it’s not surprising that more and more builders are constructing green homes.

In addition, homeowners are investing in upgrading their homes with green features to make them more energy efficient, comfortable as well as to increase the sales value.

All of this is good news for buyers who are looking for a home with a particular shade of green. Whether you’re looking at a home that is previously owned or one that is new, here are some things to consider:

Insulation: Next to a mortgage, energy costs can be one of the most significant household expenditures. An energy-efficient home conserves energy by reducing heat loss during the winter and heat gains during the summer.

One of the best ways to reduce heat loss and gain is to ensure ceilings, walls and foundations are well-insulated and draft-free. Energy Star windows and doors will also help keep your heating and cooling costs down while improving comfort.

Heating systems: A home with an older model heating system that operates at 65 to 75 per cent efficiency can realize significant cost savings by converting to a new energy efficient model that operates at 85 to 98 per cent efficiency.

Look for heating systems that use high efficiency motors as well to reduce electricity costs.

Water-efficiency: Water is a precious resource. Newer front loading clothes washers can use far less water than older top loaders.

They can save on water heating and clothes drying costs too. Also, ask if the home has low-or dual-flush toilets and low-flow shower and faucet fixtures.

Water use can be further reduced by limiting the amount of water required to maintain lawns and gardens through the use of hardy, indigenous plants, capturing rain water for irrigation and limiting lawn area.

Light fixtures: Energy-efficient lighting is an easy way to reduce your electrical consumption. Look for compact fluorescent lamps, which last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs and use one-third of the energy.

Durable building materials: When a building material requires frequent repair or replacing, it becomes both an environmental and economic burden.

Durable materials don’t need to be replaced or repaired as frequently and this reduces repair costs as well as the amount of resources consumed to supply the materials and the amount of material taken to landfills.

Look for things like exterior siding that doesn’t need frequent painting, roofing materials built to last for 20 years or more, and moisture-resistant finishes in bathrooms and kitchens.

Indoor Air Quality: Choose materials and finishes that have low odour and low pollutant emissions. A ventilation system that provides fresh outdoor air and deals with moisture and odours can also help maintain a healthy indoor environment.

One way to check the nearby destinations in any neighbourhood you’re considering on your green home hunt, is to visit www.walkscore.comand enter the address of the house you’re looking at.

This tool calculates a walkability score for that address based on its proximity to transit, grocery stores, schools and other amenities.

This is one element of sustainability that can be compared to other neighbourhoods.

 

Click here to view this article.  By Trevor Gloyn, Postmedia News – The Vancouver Sun.