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According to this ECA International article, Vancouver is North America’s most expensive location for the second year in a row. The article ranks the city 35th globally, followed by Manhattan. The strengthening of the US dollar against major currencies has led to all of the US locations surveyed moving up the ranking in the past 12 months – despite cost of living items increasing at a slower rate than many other parts of the world.

 

You can read the full release HERE.

 

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What is a variable interest rate mortgage?
A variable interest rate mortgage is a mortgage loan with an interest rate that can change during the term. The interest rate varies with changes in market interest rates (typically the bank's prime lending rate). The mortgage payments can be fixed, or they could change if the interest rate changes — it depends on the lender and type of product.

 

What are the benefits?
If market interest rates are stable or go down during your term, you could pay less in interest than with a fixed interest rate mortgage. By the end of your term, it is possible that you could have paid more toward your principal than expected and less towards interest, which would reduce the balance owing and shorten the time needed to pay off your mortgage.

 

What are the risks?
If market interest rates go up during your term, your interest rate would increase and you would pay more in interest to the lender. As a result, by the end of the term, you might have paid more in interest than if you had chosen a fixed interest rate mortgage. It also means that by the end of your term, you might pay less of the principal than expected, which would lengthen the time needed to pay off the mortgage.

 

Depending on the lender and the terms of the variable rate mortgage, another risk is that your payment could increase if the interest rates increase. Consider how much of an increase in mortgage payments you could handle. If you don't think you can handle the risk of your mortgage payment increasing, or do not have enough cash flow, you may be better off with a fixed interest rate mortgage. Below, you can see an example of how interest rate changes can affect a mortgage.

 

What makes variable interest rate mortgages attractive?
The interest rates on variable rate mortgages are often lower than the fixed interest rate offered at the time you sign the contract. However, whether you are better off with a variable interest rate mortgage compared to a fixed interest rate mortgage depends on the movement of market interest rates during the life of your mortgage, called the "term". This movement is difficult to predict. For example, between 2000 and 2009, the Bank of Canada Bank Rate varied from 0.5% to 6.00%.

 

What happens to mortgage payments when interest rates change?
When interest rates change, depending on the lender and the terms of your mortgage, the following scenarios are possible:

 

  1. Your payment goes up or down each time market interest rates change.

  2. Your payment stays the same when market interest rates go down, but increases when market interest rates go up. In this scenario, more of your payment goes toward paying down the principal when the interest rate falls.

  3. Your payment does not change unless market interest rates increase to a "trigger" point (shown in your mortgage agreement). Only at that point will the lender increase your payment.

 

Example:John takes a mortgage with variable interest rate and the following terms and conditions:

  • principal amount borrowed: $200,000
  • term (length of the mortgage agreement): 5 years
  • amortization period: 25 years
  • interest rate: variable, initially set at 3.00 %
  • monthly payment: variable.

 

The lender explains to John that his payments will go up and down with the interest rates. At first, John's interest rate is stable at 3.00 percent %. Starting in the second year, market interest rates begin to climb and so do his payments.

 

 Interest rate1Monthly paymentInterest paidPrincipal paid
(1) In this scenario, interest rate changes happen at the beginning of the year
Year 1 Initial interest rate: 3.00% $946 $5,889 $5,469
Year 2 rises to 3.50% $997 $6,676 $5,285
Year 3 rises to 4.00% $1,046 $7,415 $5,143
Year 4 rises to 4.50% $1,096 $8,106 $5,041
Year 5 rises to 5.00% $1,144 $8,749 $4,978
TOTAL - - $36,834 $25,916

In this example, the interest rate goes up 2% over the five-year term. Keep in mind that interest rates could go up or down more or less than 2% over that period, and those changes would affect calculations.

 

John's alternative at the time was a five-year fixed-rate mortgage. In the example below, the bank offered him a fixed rate of 4.00 percent for five years.

 

 Interest rateMonthly paymentInterest paidPrincipal paid
Years 1 to 5 4.00% $1,052 $37,230 $25,892

 

After five years the amount of interest and the amount of principal John paid with a fixed or variable rate mortgage would be almost the same. The main difference is that with a variable rate mortgage, John's monthly payments would change from year to year, but with a fixed interest rate John would know that his payments would stay the same for the full five-year term.

 

Protecting yourself against a rise in interest rates
Some lenders offer interest rate caps or convertibility features on their mortgages. These features can offer some protection if interest rates go up. You can only get these features when you sign a new mortgage agreement that includes them.

cap is the maximum interest rate that can be charged on a mortgage, regardless of the rise in market interest rates. For these types of mortgages, usually the payment amount is based on the cap rate and will stay the same for the term.

If you have a mortgage with a convertibility feature, you can change it to a fixed interest rate mortgage during the term. Although the lender will usually not charge a penalty for doing this, conditions may apply—check with the lender.

 

Questions to ask a mortgage lender

  • How often could my payments change — each time the interest changes, or on what other basis?

  • If the interest rate goes up by 1.00% during the term of my mortgage, how much would my payments increase based on my current mortgage balance? If the rate increased by 2.00%, how much would my payments increase?

  • If my interest rate increases, can I choose to increase my payment so that the length of time to pay off my mortgage stays the same?

  • Are there any conditions under which the payments would stay the same? For example, is there a minimum interest rate increase required to trigger an increase in my mortgage payments?

  • If there is a "trigger" interest rate, how would I be notified of the increase in mortgage payments?

  • Do you offer mortgages with interest rate caps or convertibility features? What are the conditions of using these features?
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Sales Chart 1977 to 2012

 

“Buyer demand increased slightly in October compared to the previous few months,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president-elect said. “Overall conditions in today’s market remain in favour of buyers, with low interest rates, more choice, and less time pressure in terms of decision-making. This translates into a calmer atmosphere for those looking to buy a home and it places more onus on sellers to ensure their homes are priced to compete in today’s marketplace.”

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Perhaps the most bullish indicator for U.S. housing is Warren Buffett. The legendary investor has been buying up real-estate brokerages around the country as he bets on a housing turnaround. Now, he is partnering with Brookfield Asset Management, a Canadian real-estate investor, to more than double the size of his brokerage business.

Berkshire’s HomeServices of America Inc. unit will be the majority owner of the venture to manage a U.S. residential real-estate affiliate network, according to a statement on the new company’s website. The firms plan to offer a new franchise brand, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, starting next year. Brookfield’s network has operated under the Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate brands.

Berkshire’s managers have been positioning the firm to benefit as the U.S. home market recovers from its worst slump in seven decades. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company has bought a brickmaker, won the loan portfolio of bankrupt mortgage lender Residential Capital LLC at auction and built its HomeServices unit by agreeing to acquire real-estate brokerages in states including Oregon and Connecticut.

The press release says the brokerages that will make up the new company did a combined $72 billion in sales in 2011. That's more than twice the $32 billion in sales that Berkshire did in 2011 without the new brokerages.

The combined networks of more than 53,000 Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate agents generated in excess of $72 billion in residential real estate sales volume in 2011, and operate across more than 1,700 U.S. locations.

“Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is a new franchise brand built upon the financial strength and leadership of Brookfield and HomeServices,” said Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. “I am confident that these partners will deliver value to the residential real estate industry, and I am pleased to have Berkshire Hathaway be a part of the new brand.”

...

“The strength of the Berkshire Hathaway name, coupled with the operational excellence of HomeServices and the franchising experience of Brookfield, positions Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices® as a leading real estate franchise in the U.S., building on our traditions of exceptional client service and innovation. Brookfield is excited to be a partner in creating a home for the best real estate brokers and agents in the country,” said Bruce Flatt, Brookfield Asset Management CEO.

Buffett has been public about his bullish housing call for a while as he's built his residential real-estate brokerage business, but this is a big addition.

 

Source: Business Insider

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David & Mark Goodman, The Goodman Report

 

Vancouver’s affordable housing initiative recently proposed by Mayor Robertson has triggered heated debate amongst its citizenry, especially those residing in single-family neighbourhoods. While most support the search for financially reasonable solutions to alleviate our well-publicized housing shortages and sky-high costs (amongst the highest in North America), there are those determined not to accept change particularly if it affects them directly.

It appears the City’s new direction with the support of the newly created Housing Task Force, is that the creation of new rental supply or affordable housing will move adjacent to traditionally single-family communities and along arterial routes (i.e., Dunbar). The City intends to solicit proposals for increased densities and height to allow for new six-storey rentals, stacked townhouses and row housing.

We are disappointed that the Mayor and Council have solely targeted our single-family districts for their densification strategy instead of focusing on the existing dedicated RM, CD, FM (Multi-Family) zones and the WED (West End District) zones that have existed for decades.

It was in 1989 (over 23 years ago) that Vancouver first implemented a temporary moratorium on the demolition of rental apartments in the West End in order to prevent the “erosion of rental stock”—this “temporary” moratorium is still in place. In 2007, the City followed up with further restrictions by expanding this program and imposing Rate of Change regulations throughout the rest of Vancouver—namely Kitsilano, South Granville, Kerrisdale, East Vancouver and Marpole for all buildings 6 suites or more. We were in attendance in 2007 at City Hall when Staff clearly told Council that the proposal to establish the permitted Rate of Change at zero was to be for a period of 2 ½ years until they completed a rental housing strategy. We have now entered the 5th year with no end in sight. It is the City’s stated policy that existing rental buildings are to be protected at all costs. Unfortunately these “costs” are being borne by apartment owners. Many of these buildings are at or near the end of their economic life. Meanwhile owners are increasingly being forced to absorb significant capital expenses for roofs, piping, windows, heating systems, balcony and suite upgrades in buildings that most rational citizens would agree should be redeveloped.

Vancouver has approximately 1,780 apartment properties (6 suites or more) of which 280 are mid/high-rise buildings. By our calculations and based on the data and statistical research developed over thirty years of apartment sales and publishing The Goodman Report, it’s estimated that there are probably 4,300 acres of multi-family zoned land devoted to the remaining 1,500 or so rental buildings consisting of 2-4 storey low density wood-frame buildings averaging over 50 years of age. By virtue of the City’s restrictive policies, namely their misguided and politically expedient goal of chasing the tenant vote, property owners in the multi-family zones are no longer permitted to redevelop their property unless the rentals are replaced on a one-for-one basis. Unfortunately, Council refuses to rezone these existing areas outright which would provide for an increase in the allowable height and densities required to make the development of replacement rentals financially viable.

Other than a small handful of proposals under the STIR program, there are virtually no examples of purpose-built rentals being developed that could undoubtedly assist typical tenants looking for choice and quality. By the way, STIR projects were not permitted on sites where existing rental housing would be demolished.

The City has repeatedly rejected proposals from building owners in these higher density zoned areas for creative new housing forms that would allow for a viable mixture of rental and market housing options (now known as “inclusionary housing”). Perhaps Council should explain why they reject outright the idea of replacing an outdated and aging 100-unit rental building with a new 250-unit rental/market building? Why wouldn’t the City accept the benefits of the trickle-up effect? With the delivery of new pricier rentals being occupied by tenants able to afford better and more expensive digs, the supply of more affordable suites is clearly increased. In addition, CMHC confirms that over 30% of all new strata units are rented by investors. It is our view that this underutilized resource (~4,300 acres) found in the existing multi-family zones should be the main focus of the City’s desire to create supply and affordability—not moving to our single family neighbourhoods.

As Nathan Edelson and Mark Guslits, members of the Mayor’s Task Force of Affordable Housing, wrote in their Letter to the Editor, Vancouver Sun, Oct 17th, 2012, “An honorable dialogue relies on factual information.” We would certainly agree. It’s also noted in their letter, with some irony, that only one of the eighteen members of the Task Force is a developer. Why was the development community so poorly represented? Who do you think will finance and build all these housing projects while expecting some reasonable return on investment? Unfortunately for us taxpayers, Council’s latest response could well be: “We don’t know, so let’s create a new City paid bureaucracy with no experience to take on the financial and development risk just like we managed the Olympic Village development.”

 

source: The Goodman Report

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Bank of Canada Interest Rate Announcement - October 23, 2012

The Bank of Canada once again opted to hold its target for the overnight rate at 1 per cent this morning. Interest rates have been held constant for over two years, the longest such period since the 1950s. The Bank somewhat tempered its bias for higher future interest rates, including a softer statement regarding the appropriateness of a gradual withdrawal of monetary stimulus as excess supply in the economy is absorbed. In a bit of a surprise, the Bank actually raised its forecast for the growth in the Canadian economy this year to 2.2 per cent, but kept its 2013 forecast at 2.3 per cent growth. The Bank judges that at that pace of growth, the Canadian economy will return to full capacity by the end of 2013.

It is our view that monetary policy at the Bank of Canada will continue to be constrained by external events in the global economy and household debt growth at home. While the Bank's preference for tighter policy is clear, it is difficult to make a case for higher interest rates when core inflation is below the Bank's 2 per cent target and already slow economic growth is threatened by global uncertainty. Therefore, we are forecasting that the Bank of Canada will hold its target overnight rate at 1 per cent until mid-to-late 2013 when, conditioned on an improved global economic outlook, it may test the water with a 25 basis point rate increase.

source: BCREA

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If a client buys a new or substantially renovated secondary or recreational home in BC, but outside of Greater Vancouver or Victoria, before April 1, 2013, they may qualify for a provincial grant for the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

The grant for new secondary or recreational housing is directly administered by the BC Ministry of Finance. This grant should not be confused with the BC New Housing Rebate available for new residential homes bought as a primary residence, and administered by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The grant for new secondary or recreation housing is 71.43% of the provincial portion of the HST paid on the new home up to a maximum rebate of $42,500. Secondary or recreational homes priced at $850,000 or more are eligible for a flat grant of $42,500. To be eligible, the secondary or recreational home must be:

• a new home (detached, semi-detached, duplex, condominium, townhouse) constructed or substantially renovated (more than 90%) together with land bought from a builder;
• a new home together with leased land;
• a new mobile home or float home;
• a new home bought through shares in a housing cooperative; or
• a new home constructed or substantially renovated (more than 90%) by the owner builder. To be eligible, buyers must meet all of the following conditions:
• the HST was paid on or after April 1, 2012 and before April 1, 2013 on the purchase of a new or substantially renovated house, or to build or substantially renovate a house;
• the buyer or a family member will use the house as a secondary or recreational residence;
• the home is located outside the Capital Regional District and the Greater Vancouver Regional District;
• the buyer (or any other co-owners) or family are the first occupants of the home, or in the case of a substantial renovation, are the first occupants after the renovation; and
• the home will not be used for commercial purposes (vacation rentals, bed & breakfast, small business) by an owner who is an HST registrant claiming input tax credits for some or all of the HST paid on the home.

In addition to the general qualifications above, buyers must meet other conditions depending on the type of home and whether the client buys or builds the house alone or with others. For example, if two or more individuals buy a new secondary or recreational home, or build or substantially renovate a home, each buyer must meet all eligibility conditions, but only one may apply for the grant as the claimant.

You do not have to be a BC resident to be eligible for the grant. Buyers of secondary or recreational homes must complete an application form and provide supporting documents within six months from the date the HST was paid and before October 1, 2013 (whichever date is earliest).

To learn more, contact:
1.877.388.4440 or visit www.fin.gov.bc.ca/rev.htm and in the search box type in HST Notice #13. For application forms, in the search box type in “grant new secondary residence.”


source: realtorlink

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Home sale activity remained below long-term averages in the Greater Vancouver housing market in August.
 
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties reached 1,649 in August, a 30.7 per cent decline compared to the 2,378 sales in August 2011 and a 21.4 per cent decline compared to the 2,098 sales in July 2012.
 
August sales were the second lowest total for the month in the region since 1998 and 39.2 per cent below the 10-year August sales average of 2,711.
 
"Home sales this summer have been lower than we’ve seen for most of the past ten years, yet we continue to see relative stability when it comes to prices," Eugen Klein, REBGV president said.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 4,044 in August. This represents a 13.7 per cent decline compared to August 2011 when 4,685 properties were listed for sale on the MLS® and a 15.8 per cent decline compared to the 4,802 new listings in July 2012.

"For sellers it’s critical to work with your REALTOR® to understand today’s market and to develop the best strategy for selling your home," Klein said. "On average it’s taking about two months for a home to sell on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver today."
 
At 17,567, the total number of residential property listings on the MLS® increased 13.8 per cent from this time last year and declined 2.8 per cent compared to July 2012.
 
"Today, our sales-to-active-listings ratio sits at 9 per cent, which puts us in a buyer’s market. This ratio has been declining in our market since March when it was 19 per cent," Klein said.
 
The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver is $609,500. This represents a decline of 0.5% compared to this time last year and a decline of 1.1% compared to last month.
 
Sales of detached properties on the MLS® in August 2012 reached 624, a decrease of 38.8 per cent from the 1,020 detached sales recorded in August 2011, and a 30.1 per cent decrease from the 893 units sold in August 2010. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 0.2 per cent from August 2011 to $942,100.
 

Sales of apartment properties reached 725 in August 2012, a 24.1 per cent decrease compared to the 955 sales in August 2011, and a decrease of 22.5 per cent compared to the 935 sales in August 2010. The benchmark price of an apartment property decreased 0.9 per cent from August 2011 to $370,100.

Attached property sales in August 2012 totalled 300, a 25.6 per cent decrease compared to the 403 sales in August 2011, and a 19.8 per cent decrease from the 374 attached properties sold in August 2010. The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 1.9 per cent between August 2011 and 2012 to $462,300.

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The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that the dollar volume of homes sold through the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC declined 12.9 per cent to $3.1 billion in July compared to the same month last year. A total of 6,482 MLS® residential unit sales were recorded over the same period, down 0.8 per cent from July 2011. The average MLS® residential price was $474,954, 12.2 per cent lower than a year ago.

"While some potential homebuyers in Vancouver are taking a breather over the summer months, stronger consumer demand continues across the rest of the province," said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. MLS® residential unit sales outside of Vancouver were up 11 per cent in July over a year ago. In contrast, home sales through the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver were down 18 per cent over the same period.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume declined 16.5 per cent to $23.5 billion, compared to the same period last year. Residential unit sales dipped 7.9 per cent to 44,794 units, while the average MLS® residential price was 9.4 per cent lower at $525,183.










Article from British Columbia Real Estate Association, August 14th 2012

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The Greater Vancouver housing market saw further reduction in buyer demand last month. Residential property sales totalled 2,098 on greater Vancouver’s Multiple Listing Service in July; this is a decline of 18% compared to July 2011 and 31% below the ten year sales average for the month. This total amounts to the lowest selling July in our market since 2000.
 
Home sellers listed just over 4,800 properties for sale in Greater Vancouver in July. This is a decline of just about 15% from June. It represents the lowest total of any new listings for any month so far this year. There are just under 18,100 properties currently listed on our MLS, that’s a 2% decrease from last month and about a 19% decrease over last year.
 
Today our sales to active listings ratio sits at 11%, which places us in the upper end of a buyer’s market. In a buyer’s market purchasers typically have more selection to choose from and more time to make decisions. Generally analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips around the 10-12% mark, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it reaches the 20-22% range for a sustained period of time.
 

The MLS HPI benchmark price for all residential properties in the region is currently $616,000, that’s an increase of less than 1% compared to July 2011. However, we have seen slight reductions in home prices over the last 3 months. 

 
Market Stats from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver 

 

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Still more new mortgage rules
 

The government has announced that as of July 9, 2012, new rules will apply to government-backs insured mortgages where the borrower has less than a 20% downpayment.

 
The government will:
• reduce the maximun amortization (pay back) period on a mortgage to 25 years from 30 years;
• lower the maximun amount borrowers can refinance to 80% loan-to-value (LTV) for 85%;
• limit the Gross Debt Service (GDS) ratio to a maximum of 39% or income. The GDS ratio represents the amount of household income spent on the mortgage, property taxes and heating;
• limit the Total Debt Service (TDS) ratio to a maximum of 44% of income. The TDS ratios represents the amount of household income spent on all debts including the mortgage; and
• limit government-insured mortgages to homes prices at less that $1 million. Buyers of homes prices at $1 million or more must have mumimum 20% downpayment.

The new rules apply to mortgages on residential property with four units or less. They DO NOT apply to:
• mortgages with a 20% downpayment or more which don't require government-backed mortgage insurance;
• borrowers renewing their existing insured mortgages, where there are no new funds being added to the mortgage; or 
• development or construction or multi-unit bulidings of five units or more, owned by a landlord.

Federal Finance Minister Flaherty explained that the reasons for the changes are to "keep the housing market strong, and help ensure households do not become overextended."
This explanation doesn't make sense to Cameron Muir, BC Real Estate Association's chief econmist.
"Instead of helping make the housing market strong, the new rules will erode the purchasing power of first-time buyers who will be restricted to borrowing less money for their homes."
Muir explains the effect of the changes is the equivilant to having a 1% increase in interest rates. This translates into about $50 more on each monthly payment for every $1000,000 of mortgage loan.
What this means is new buyers who can afford a home today with a benchmark price of $625,100 will now only be able to afford a home prices at $550,550 under the new rules. This is a potential loss of $74,550 in buying power.
"Given that the market is already slowing, the new rules are totally unnecessary," says Muir.

 
Refinancing
What will the new rules cost buyers refinancing a home values at $625,000?
• When refinancing at 85%, the home owner can access up to $531,250.
• When refinacing at 80%, the home owner can access up to $500,000.
 
What about the new rule limiting mortgage insurance on homes prices a $1 million or more?

 
Four years of tightening borrowing rules
This is the fourth time in four years that the government has tightened borrowing rules.
• In 2008, the government reduced the maximum amortization period to 35 years from 40, required home buyers to have a minimum downpayment of 5% (compate to the previous 0% down), and introduced new loan documentation standards.
• In 2010, the government required all borrowers to meet standards for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage, reduced the maximum amount borrowers could refinance to 90% from 95%, and for non-owner-occupied investment properties, requred a minimum 20% down payment.
• In January 2011, the government reduced the maximum amortization period for government-backed insured mortgages to 30 years from 35 years and reduced the amount borrowers could refinance to 85% from 90%.

What will the new rules cost home buyers?

Note: calculations assume a 10% downpayment. $625,100 is the benchmark price of a home in the REBGV area as of June 1, 2011.
 

Article from RealtorLink, July 13, 2012, Volume 13, Number 14

 

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It's Property Tax Time

By now home owners and businesses through out the province have received their annal property tax notices in the mail.  Property taxes are due July 3, 2012.

Property owners who haven't received a tax notice, should contact their municipal finance department and arrange for a duplicate notice. Property owners are responsible for ensuring that the local government and BC Assessment have your correct mailing address. Property owners must pay property taxes whether or not they receive a notice.

What taxes do property owners pay?
Take a close look at a property tax notice. About 50% of the amount owing is levied by the local municipality. Municipalities are also required to collect the remainder for other taxing authorities and have no control over these levies. Here is a summary:
Municipal tax – is set by council and staff in the municipality’s annual budget process. It’s based on revenue needs for infrastructure and services.
Regional district tax – is set by the regional districts for services such as regional water and sewage treatment. For example, Metro Vancouver tells their municipal governments what their revenue needs are, and the municipalities collect on their behalf. In rural areas, the province Surveyor of Taxes collects for regional districts.
School Tax – is set by the BC government to fund schools. Residential rates vary by school district. School taxes are paid by residential and non-residential property owners.
Hospital tax – is set by the regional hospital district to help fund local health facilities. For example, Metro Vancouver hospitals are funded by the province not by property taxes. Outside Metro Vancouver, hospital taxes are still levied.
Other taxes – are set by local taxing authorities and collected by the municipality to fun BX Assessment, the Municipal Finance Authority of BC and TransLink.

For questions about taxes levies by other taxing authorities, contact:
• BC Assessment Authority, 6074-241-1361
• Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (TransLink), 604-432-4000
• Metro Vancouver, 604-432-6200
• Municipal Finance Authority, 250-383-1181 (Victoria)
• School Taxes, 250-590-0239 (Ministry of Finance, Victoria)

Avoid late payment penalties
Property owners must pay their taxes by July 3, 2012 of there is a 5% penalty. Property taxpayers who don’t pay be September 4, 2012, face an additional 5% penalty. Property owners failing to pay for three consecutive years, could forfeit their property to tax sale. Information about tax sale dates can be found on local government websites.

The upside of property taxes
• Property taxes help fund a range of local capital projects and services, including:
• Animal control and shelters
• Archives/libraries/museums
• Bicycle lanes/paths/walkways
• Building Regulation
• Community centres
• Energy efficiency upgrades
• Environmental protection
• Garbage and recycling
• Heritage planning
• Local road maintenance
• Parks/trails/green space
• Police/fire/emergency services
• Safe drinking water
• Sewage treatment
• Sidewalks
• Swimming pools/tennis courts/skating rinks/playing fields 

Artice from The Open House, Volume 7, Number 7, June 29, 2012

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For the fourth time in as many years, the Federal Government has announced action to restrict mortgage credit. The new measures include:

•The maximum amortization on a prime mortgage will be reduced from 30 to 25 years.
•Mortgage insurance will not be provided for properties valued over $1 million.
•Refinancing has been lowered from a maximum of 85% loan-to-value to a maximum of 80% loan-to-value.
•The maximum gross debt service (GDS) and total debt service (TDS) will be limited to a maximum of 39% and 44% respectively. Currently, GDS does not apply to qualified borrowers with credit scores over 680.


These measures will take effect July 9, 2012.

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Economic Outlook

Incoming data from the first quarter of 2012 shows that the BC economy is sustaining and even building on, the momentum it gained towards the end of 2011. Growth in consumer spending has be buoyed by an improving labour market and residential and non-residential investment continues to be supported by historically low interest rates.

While BC’s economic growth has been steady to start the year, uncertainty in the global economy continues to loom over 2012. A Eurozone recession and the significant risk of a Greek exit from the Euro have rattled financial markets. First quarter growth in BC exports to the United States and Japan softened as have sales to Asian markets outside of China. Indeed, China is the only major market in which BC exports grew year-over-year, and even that growth will slow if the Chinese economy falters as some analysts expect. On a positive note, economic growth in the United States is very likely to improve on last year’s anemic pace which should help to support BC exports.

While elevated household debt remains the principal domestic risk to the provincial economy historically low interest rates meant that BC households are more than able to meet their current debt obligations. As a result we do not view the debt being careered by consumers as a cause for alarm.

However, a high level of household debt does have medium-run implications for growth and financial vulnerability and cannot be ignored. An increasing debt burden magnifies the vulnerability of BC households to economic shocks such as loss of employment.

Moreover, as interest rates normalize the cost of servicing debt will consume a growing share of household disposable income. As a result, consumers may cut back on other expenditures thereby creating a drag on economic growth until their debt level becomes less onerous.  
































Article from Realtor Link, June 15, 2012

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The British Columbia provincial government recently passed regulations (Regulations) pursuant to the Strata Property Act (Act) that requires all strata properties with more than four units to have a common property depreciation report completed by December 13, 2013.

According to the Act, the depreciation report is to provide estimates for “the repair and replacement costs for major items in the strata corporation and the expected life of those items.” The strata corporation can then use that information to assist it in determining the appropriate amount for the annual contribution to its contingency reserve fund. A depreciation report is already a mandatory requirement for strata corporations in several other provinces and many US states.

Section 6.2 of the Regulations sets of the specific requirements for depreciation reports and examples of the ‘major items’ that must be evaluated therein. The depreciation report should be prepared by a qualified individual, typically an engineer or architect with proper liability and errors and omissions insurance coverage. In summary, a depreciation report must contain
• A physical inventory of the common property, including building systems;
• Anticipated maintenance, repair and replacement costs for common expenses projected over 30 years; and
• A financial forecasting section that contains at least three cash flow funding models for the contingency reserve fund.

The provincial government anticipates that depreciation reports will assist strata owners with the prudent management of their common property by providing information on repairs and replacements that will need to be funded, as well as determining the amount that should be contributed to the contingency reserve fund.

While depreciation reports are now mandatory under the law, the strata corporation may defer obtaining a depreciation report by passing a resolution with a ¾ majority vote of the strata owners authorizing such deferral. If such a resolution is passed, the deferral would be valid for a maximum of 18 months, and the resolution would then need to be re-passed in order to continue to defer the report. Once prepared, the depreciation report is valid for up to three years, after which it must be updated.

It is important to note that the law does not require that the funding requirements identified in the depreciation report be implemented. While the strata corporation remains in charge of determining the amount of contingency reserve fund contributions, the provincial government has now made it easier for a strata corporation to build up its reserve fund levels by elimination a barrier which in the past has prevents some strata corporations form meeting the maintenance and replacement requirements of their common property.

In the past, an annual ¾ majority vote was required to increase reserve fun contributions beyond 100 per cent of a strata corporation’s operating budget but that law has now been amended so that a strata corporation can now do so if the strata owners simply pass a majority vote to that effect.

The depreciation report can serve as valuable disclosure information for potential buyers. In fact, the Property Disclosure Statement for Strata Properties provides a specific inquiry regarding the possible existence of a depreciation report. Owners of strata properties can expect prospective buyers to inquire about the existence of a depreciation report and request its production if one has been prepared. Furthermore depreciation reports may be requested by mortgage providers as part of their financial risk assessment process.

A strata corporation that has organized its affairs to incorporate long-term planning and integrated maintenance in accordance with a depreciation report will likely be well positioned to maintain its building systems, protect its common property assets and reduce the costs to strata owners associated with unexpected failures of such systems or assets, and the potentially costly consequential damage. If a strata corporation defers the preparation of a depreciation report, it ma negatively affect the marketability of strata units as well as the ability of potential buyers to obtain mortgage funding or current owners to obtain refinancing.

For more information on depreciation reports, visit www.housing.gov.bc.ca/strata/regs

Article from the Bulletin, May 2012

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B.C. condo unit owners have yet to take a run at challenging the fairness of deductible downloading bylaws of strata corporations, although case law seems aligned for such an opportunity.

Krista Prockiw of Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang LLP mentioned this state of affairs while discussing insurance law issues arising out of British Columbia’s Strata Property Act. She was speaking on May 10 at the Insurance Brokers Association of B.C.’s annual convention in Kelowna, B.C.

First, Prockiw observed the provincial act does not limit the ability of a strata corporation to sue a condo owner to recover a deductible. Such an action can proceed if the strata corporation has a valid bylaw or rule in place allowing the damage to be charged to a unit owner.

Second, a strata corporation can sue a unit owner for the insurance deductible if “the owner is responsible for the loss or damage.”

Prockiw suggested this scenario is akin to strict liability, meaning a condo unit owner can be found “responsible” for damage without requiring a finding of negligence on the part of the owner.

Consider, for example, OSP KAS 1019 v. Keiran, Simkus and Wawanesa Insurance. The owner of a condo unit had a pipe burst in the bathroom wall because high acid levels in the water caused a coupling to break down. The court determined the owner had a duty to repair and maintain the unit, which was not common property, and, therefore, was “responsible for the loss, regardless of the absence of fault or negligence on their part.”

Finally, as Prockiw and brokers attending the seminar noted, policy deductibles for some strata corporations are substantial, running anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000.

“If you live in a strata corporation, you share everything in proportionate shares,” Prockiw said. “You share maintenance fees, you share liability, so this whole idea that one owner is responsible for the entire deductible could be seen as contrary to [the common expense philosophy],” she added.

“No one’s ever taken a run at it, but we are certainly waiting for the case in which you do have an exceedingly high deductible, a strict liability bylaw and no negligence on the part of an owner. The owner might then take a run at [the deductible download] being significantly unfair.”

Four years ago, a case commenced relating to the Strata Property Act’s provisions on “significantly unfair” deductible downloads, Prockiw reported. But the case settled before trial, meaning B.C. courts still have not been called upon to interpret the standard of fairness.

“The courts have held that ‘significantly unfair’ is a really high threshold to meet,” Prockiw said. “It might not be possible to meet that.”

May 11, 2012 canadianunderwriter.ca article, read online at http://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/news/opportunity-exists-for-b-c-condo-unit-owners-to-challenge-fairness-of-deductible-downloading-bylaws/1001253862/

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - from the desk of AMALIA LIAPIS

The political elections in Europe went as expected, the parties who promised MORE won but it is doubtful they will be able to keep most of their promises as they are so far in debt that there is simply no more to give. Markets worldwide went down as the reality of the results sunk in, more instability & market volatility over the next few months. Hollande, the new President of France, is already making his presence felt & could put the Franco-German relationship under threat. The last socialist president of France, Mitterand, nationalized the Banks & imposed a wealth tax. Hollande has already stated he will introduce a 75% tax on the wealthy, so maybe the banks are next. The wealthy are usually the wealth makers so they will leave France like they have done previously & like they have done in other countries when overtaxed. I seem to remember the Beatles leaving England after they were given an award in the Queen’s Honors list for bringing in so much foreign money in from their records sales etc. Then the Government introduced a wealth tax that sent the Beatles & most other high earning entertainers overseas; some never to return.

Greece appears to be in total confusion with no clear winner & this could result in further decline of Greek prospects of recovery.  It was hopeless anyway.  Rating agencies are still closely looking at the sovereign & bank risks in Europe. I believe we should expect further downgrades in Spain, France & Greece.

So what about our Vancouver Real Estate market?! Well to begin with we are still awaiting the Finance Minister to introduce an incentive package for First Time Buyers of New Condos.  Developers screamed loud enough with the HST issue that this package looks like it might just become reality.  It is expected to get voted around June 2012 and is only available until March/April 2013.  This will help the new condo market.

I’ve been saying it for a couple of years now…Gastown is the favourite neighbourhood to live in…not a lot of product and what comes up for sale is usually gone quickly.  The downtown condo market will remain steady though out the summer with an emphasis on the entry level purchases. Westside homes continue to be active with steady activity in the $5million and up market.  Price and location will bring immediate results but the general market is still price sensitive...off by $10,000 or $20,000 and there will be little interest from Buyers.  It’s still a buyer’s market overall but have to say the available inventory is rather average.

As always I am available for any questions.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - From the desk of AMALIA LIAPIS

 About 3 weeks ago I noticed a change in the Vancouver market – things went relatively quiet.

Looking forward into the summer I predict the general market will continue that trend.  What that means is that there will continue to be moderate activity overall.  The properties that are receiving the most amount of attention are homes on the East Side of Vancouver in the $1,000,000 range (and yes this is considered good value). Any property; house, townhome or apartment that is on waterfront (or with a great view) and priced well is getting immediate attention.  Vancouver West homes from $3,000,000 and up are selling steadily.  But it all comes down to price so if the property has any shortcomings then an adjustment in price will be needed to gain a buyers interest.

World activities have had an effect on the real estate markets as well. Recent manufacturing data out of China indicates that the economy is still contracting, however at a slower rate than previously expected.  The political problems in Europe continue to surface as seen in the resignation of the Dutch cabinet over night & the weekend’s French election result. These events together with some weaker economic data saw the European markets tumble & Bond rates rose. The sovereignty risk rose in Greece, Spain & Italy when government control was weakened through political unrest. The Dutch problem arose last week when Fitch said it would put Holland (AAA) on ratings review if the government failed to take action to cut their budget deficit & stop their debt from rising. Now Holland will head to elections, earlier than expected, after 7 weeks of negotiations among the ruling coalition parties on budget cuts of Euro 14billion collapsed on Saturday. The Dutch economy is feeling the pinch including a housing market slump. Sounds familiar. Greece, Ireland & Spain revisited? Italy & Portugal?

Most European countries are living well above their means, especially those with pensions, welfare & unemployment benefits. Those earning incomes don’t want earn less through paying more tax in order to help keep these benefit payments at the same level. Who is going to pay? There is no short term fix & so far the decisions made amount to just kicking a can down the road. The debt remains as long as the will to reduce it to manageable levels falls into the political too hard basket. One step at a time, Europe will unravel. The first step could come from the French as they desert their president Nicolsas Sarkozy for a socialist government who would not cooperate with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in keeping Europe afloat. Sarkozy & Merkel have been the glue to keep the Euro together as most other leaders have only been interested in their own problems.

US reporting season continues & this is going well but not standout unless you are one of the favored Tech companies like Apple & Microsoft. GE & McDonalds were also better than expected. Investors have been disappointed with some of the Banks & some of the guidance given for future quarters. Despite its debt worries, the US market has outperformed the ASX thanks to QE1 & QE2.

Overall it’s the worry about Europe that keeps the US market on its toes. Everybody seems to be watching someone in today’s market & just shows what a small world we live in.

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As of November 5, 2012, federally-regulated financial institutions will be required to disclose information to borrowers about prepayment and refinancing options, amounts and charges, penalties and ways to avoid them. The Mortgage Prepayment Information Code of Conduct also requires lenders to make this information available on a website which includes calculators and guidance to borrowers. Lenders must also provide toll-free telephone help and a written statement of prepayment charges as requested by borrowers. The federal goverment did not standadize the penalty calculation formula in this new code.

 

For information visit: www.fin.gc.ca/n12/12-025-eng.asp

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