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A major North American study on 2016 real estate trends is predicting a migration to the suburbs and greater interest in rentals in super-expensive markets like Vancouver.

The study, by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute, is based on surveys of those involved in the real estate and development industries across the continent.

It notes Vancouver, by far, is Canada’s most expensive housing market.

That said, “Overall, respondents rank Vancouver as the top investment, development and housing market in Canada (in 2016).”

Vancouver, in fourth spot in 2015 among cities, will displace Calgary and Edmonton, formerly pegged as the No. 1 and No. 2 investment and development spots respectively.

The study lists Vancouver’s 2016 House Price-to-Income ratio as 11.6 to one, up from 10.4 to one in 2013. Toronto’s ratio is 7.0 to one. Other major cities have ratios of between 3.5 and 5.0 to one.

Which explains why so many Vancouverites feel they are confronting an untenable landscape, one that has only been aggravated by a high Property Transfer Tax, large real estate commissions and government inaction on foreign purchasing.

The average 2016 home price in Vancouver is forecast at $921,900, compared to $639,000 in Toronto and $344,000 in Montreal.

The study suggests, while urban densification will persist, growing numbers may decide to move away from big-ticket real estate in the city core. Suburbs, meanwhile, will themselves gradually become more urbanized.

People also are adapting to the high prices by renting, and living smaller. Canadians will grow more comfortable with compact quarters, “like many of their peers around the world”. (Average home size in Canada is 2,000 square feet, compared to 800 to 900 square feet in Sweden, Italy and the U.K.)

“Renting is no longer seen only as a temporary step on the road to home ownership, but as an alternative,” says the report. “We are seeing the rise of permanent renters.”

Demand is growing for luxury rentals, expected to provide “a comfortable bridge between home ownership and retirement homes” for seniors.

And “mixed-use intensification,” incorporating retail and residential space, is expected to continue.

Developers and builders believe provincial policies have helped to make real estate expensive.

Ontario and B.C. government greenbelt policies, promoting urban densification and limiting land supply, have boosted land costs.

They blame municipal governments for lengthy approval processes and big development charges and cite rising construction costs.

The 2016 Vancouver market is expected to reflect “more of the same.”

Foreign investment also will continue driving up prices, expanding into the retail, office, hospitality and even agricultural sectors.

The report predicts global investors will continue viewing Canada as “a safe haven for their capital” in 2016, and a good place to invest while the dollar is low.

And technology is having an impact on real estate, with offices downsizing as per-worker square footage drops. The report cites “concern about office vacancy rates, which at 10.4 per cent ... are Vancouver’s highest in a decade.

“The high cost of living is making it harder to attract head offices and other major firms to the city.” And so, it may be hard to fill all that vacant space.

The report notes retailers are looking for smaller spaces as shopping moves online. “Traditional retail in Vancouvers downtown is seeing some softening.”

More broadly, across the country, the report predicts a “generally stable” real estate market through 2016 though it says survey respondents expressed concern about the impact of low energy prices on Western Canada’s markets.

The report identifies best prospects for Canadian property investors next year, with “fulfilment centres” — where goods are received, packed and shipped for online customers — topping the list. Warehouses, medical offices and neighbourhood shopping centres are close behind.


SOURCE < The Vancouver Sun

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A recent article in Canadian Mortgage Trends talks about one form of financing called "Stated Income". It's financing that's geared towards self employed individuals. As a self employed person you do get to take advantage of many write offs but this can ofter lower your income, or at least what shows on paper. The stated income program kind of circumvents this as we state your income, within reason, at what is needed to make the debt ratio numbers work. There are a few requirements; two of them being you need 10% minimum down payment and to prove you've been in business for at least 2 years.
The article below talks about one lender and it's pricing, which in my opinion is a bit high. At this time I can still get a rate of 2.69 to 3.09% with no set up fee for this type of financing.
Self-employment has been trending upwards in Canada in recent years. In its 2015 Spring Survey, CAAMP estimated that five per cent of home buyers worked for themselves.
And it's no wonder that the ranks of self-employed workers are growing. Apart from involuntary reasons like job dislocation, many choose self-employment for the lifestyle benefits, like making your own schedule, being able to work from home and deducting day-to-day expenses such as fuel, utilities, telecommunication and networking costs. That last point is a big one. It can be highly advantageous to earn, say, $100k per year, and then whittle it down with legitimate write-offs in order to achieve a much lower tax bracket.
The often-misconstrued disadvantage of being self-employed, however, is the challenge of getting a mortgage. After all, a key to borrowing is the ability to repay, which is linked to one's earnings, usually provable earnings.
Fortunately there are programs in place from various mortgage lenders that can accommodate the unique circumstances of the thousands of self-employed buyers.
Accessing these lenders usually requires one to venture outside the normal borrowing channels- those being banks or trust companies. Although banks and other 'A' lenders have their own self-employed lending programs and more favourable rates, borrowers often get bogged down with their paperwork requests, to the extent that many 'business for self' applicants cannot meet all of the lender's documentation requirements.
Fortunately, mortgage brokers have access to simple and easy alternatives provided by lesser-known private lenders. As one such lender, Magenta Capital Corp. offers a 'no-doc' program (well actually it's more of a 'low doc' program) that makes life less cumbersome for self-employed borrowers.
The program requires only that clients provide their most recent NOA (notice of assessment) to prove their taxes are up to date. Unlike most banks and institutional lenders, Magenta doesn't use the NOA to gauge income. It instead relies heavily on the property equity for its security, for which a standard appraisal is used to confirm the value.
At this point you may be thinking, ''This seems a little too easy. The catch must be incredibly high interest rates and fees.''
The reality is that rates can be as low as 4.99% with a 1.5% fee (which is added to the loan amount). And, provided your credit rating is over 575, you can access up to 75% of your home's value through this program. If your score is 650+, that goes up to 85%. Better yet, this can all be done with a 40-year amortization to keep your payments manageable until you can qualify for cheaper bank financing.
Lenders offering these sorts of low-document lending programs rely primarily on the borrower's previous repayment history and the property itself. That's important to keep in mind. It's also essential that the property is located in a high density area- i.e., a city or its various suburbs.
If you have a legitimate self-employed business, an urban property and no worse than minor credit blemishes, remember that flexible stated income programs still exist. They can help you get in a home much sooner, even if you can't prove income the traditional way.
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Conditions continue to favour home sellers across *Metro Vancouver’s housing market.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Metro Vancouver reached 3,345 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in September 2015. This represents a 14.5 per cent increase compared to the 2,922 sales recorded in September 2014, and a 0.5 per cent decrease compared to the 3,362 sales in August 2015.

Last month’s sales were 32.9 per cent above the 10-year sales average for the month.

“Residential home sales have been trending at 25 to 30 per cent above the ten-year sales average for most of the year. The number of homes listed for sale hasn’t been keeping up with the demand,” Darcy McLeod, REBGV president said. “It’s this dynamic that’s placing upward pressure on home prices, particularly in the detached home market.”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 4,846 in September. This represents a 7.9 per cent decline compared to the 5,259 new listings reported in September 2014.

The total number of properties listed for sale on the real estate board’s MLS® is 10,805, a 27 per cent decline compared to September 2014 and a 0.8 per cent decline compared to August 2015.

“At no point this year has the number of homes listed for sale exceeded 14,000, which is the first time this has occurred in the region since 2007,” McLeod said.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $722,300. This represents a 13.7 per cent increase compared to September 2014.

The sales-to-active-listings ratio in September was 31 per cent. Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio declines below the 12 per cent mark, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it reaches 20 per cent, or higher, in a particular community for a sustained period of time.

Sales of detached properties in September 2015 reached 1,272, an increase of 0.2 per cent from the 1,270 detached sales recorded in September 2014, and a 24.3 per cent increase from the 1,023 units sold in September 2014. The benchmark price for a detached property in Metro Vancouver increased 18.9 per cent from September 2014 to $1,179,700.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,529 in September 2015, an increase of 28.7 per cent compared to the 1,188 sales in September 2014, and an increase of 50.2 per cent compared to the 1,018 sales in September 2013. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased nine per cent from September 2014 to $415,100.

Attached property sales in September 2015 totalled 544, an increase of 17.2 per cent compared to the 464 sales in September 2014, and a 23.1 per cent increase from the 442 attached properties sold in September 2013. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 8.1 per cent between September 2014 and 2015 to $518,600.

*Editor’s Note: Areas covered by Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver include: Whistler, Sunshine Coast, Squamish, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and South Delta.

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The value of land transactions targeted for high-density residential development soared in the first half of 2015 as Lower Mainland municipalities continued encouraging more-concentrated urban neighbourhoods.

Scott Curtis, manager of market intelligence for Colliers International, explained the intense activity reflects a desire by municipalities and developers in Metro Vancouver to “focus on highest and best use” — in other words, greater housing density in response to population growth, demand for affordable housing, and a limited housing stock.

According to Colliers’ recently released Metro Vancouver LandShare report, land sales worth $845 million were recorded in the first six months of this year — that is up 63 per cent from $519 million during the same period a year ago.

The number of transactions was the same in both years, but ever-higher land prices and intense competition propelled the valuation jump.

Multi-family development and land assemblies have become the new normal, particularly along arterial roads and near transit nodes.

Almost no one is building single-family homes — except, of course, on individual lots to replace older, demolished structures.

“With land values continuing to climb alongside construction costs, the cost to build a single-family home is quite high and (it is difficult to find economies of) scale,” says Curtis.

Which explains why a finite supply of detached homes in the region has grown so pricey, attracting bidding wars for the properties that do go on the block.

Of 200 land transactions recorded by Colliers in the first half of 2015, 26 per cent already were zoned for high-density development such as condominium or rental building construction.

The rest of the land eventually may be rezoned to allow for such development, or reserved for slightly lower-density multi-family development, such as row housing or townhouses. Vancouver is believed to have a shortage of this type of accommodation.

Curtis says, for the most part, it is locally based developers doing the buying. “That being said, international developers are setting up shop in Vancouver and participating in several large development across the region (which has) increased competition in the market.”

The Colliers report notes that municipalities, particularly Vancouver, Burnaby and Coquitlam, have been nurturing developments that promote “a live-play-work environment”.

It cites Oakridge Mall, Coquitlam Centre Mall and Brentwood Mall as areas where such combined residential, office and retail developments are being encouraged.

The Cambie Corridor, meanwhile, is preparing for development of “diverse housing options, such as townhomes and row homes.”

In the downtown core, the old Canada Post site is expected to accommodate market condominium and rental housing, in addition to office and retail space. And the Quality Inn on Howe St., now being used to house the homeless, is slated to be replaced by a 40-storey residential building.

Colliers points to a “newly gentrified area of East Vancouver” along the Kingsway Corridor north of 12th Ave. where rental and high-density residential condominium projects are planned.

The report points to Burnaby as “one of the most sought-after markets for investment,” with future growth expected in the Woodlands neighbourhood and the Lougheed Town Centre vicinity.

And a lot more density is coming to Surrey, where projections are that, by 2040, the 20-dwelling-per-acre standard in the municipality’s downtown core is to increase to 100 dwellings per acre.

Construction of more multi-family housing has become a necessity in this fast-growing region. Metro Vancouver’s population grew 9.3 per cent between 2006 and 2011.

While density has its challenges in terms of congestion, parking and noise, it is worth noting that the region is a virtual nature preserve by international standards. As of 2011, Metro Vancouver’s population per square kilometre totalled 802.

By contrast, Paris’ population per square kilometre is nearly 3,550 people, while the per-square-kilometre density in New Delhi is 11,300 people, and in Manila, 43,000. Nothing like a bit of comparative data to put our challenges into proper perspective.

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Vancouver is one hearing closer to making First Shaughnessy the city’s first Heritage Conservation Area, which will make it extremely difficult for a homeowner to demolish their house.

After listening to dozens of speakers, including an exhausting total of 63 people Tuesday night, city council will finally make a decision on whether to designate the oldest area of Shaughnessy on Sept. 29. If the proposal passes, it will help protect one of Canada’s most historically important neighbourhoods from the wrecking ball. It’s a bold move for the city, and a much-lauded one by heritage experts, because Vancouver’s old house stock – in this case a collection of 317 pre-1940 houses – is quickly becoming an endangered species. In response to the decline, the city put a one-year moratorium on demolitions in First Shaughnessy in June, 2014. At the time, there were inquiries to demolish 19 of the remaining 317 homes there.

Real estate agent Joanne Giesbrecht spoke at the hearing and told city council she was in favour of the Heritage Conservation Area (HCA). She said since 2006, a new market was driving prices in Shaughnessy because of its big, central lots. As a result, Shaughnessy properties were in big demand, but for their lot size, not the houses.

Annie Gao said she’d been advised by her real estate agent that she’d be allowed to tear her First Shaughnessy house down, which is why she bought it. And then the city banned demolitions, interfering with her plan.

“This proposal will lower the value on the whole area,” said Ms. Gao, echoing a common theme among the “no” side.

“My house smells because it’s over 100 years old,” she said, explaining why the house had to go.

If the homeowners had done their due diligence prior to buying into First Shaughnessy, they would have discovered there already were land-use guidelines, established years ago, to preserve the pre-1940 homes. First Shaughnessy has been protected by an official development plan since 1982, when specific guidelines were drawn up for the area. Only in recent years have architects and builders found loopholes to bypass those requirements in order to construct houses that are much larger and out of context compared to the rest of the streetscape. The provincially legislated HCA will have teeth.

“My sense is that the city is on pretty firm footing,” city historian and author Michael Kluckner, who worked on the Shaughnessy design panel, said. “The official development plan has outlived its usefulness because it was being gamed by people.”

The flow of incredible wealth into Vancouver in recent years is to blame for the failure of the old Shaughnessy plan to preserve the neighbourhood. It couldn’t stand up to the changing demographic and the demand for newer and bigger houses.

“I think the scale of wealth is unprecedented in Vancouver, and I think the values associated with that wealth are also unprecedented in the city,” Mr. Kluckner said. “Clearly to me, the people who have bought in there did not receive really good advice from lawyers, from realtors and in some cases from architects, because they were completely ignoring what the goals were of First Shaughnessy’s [original design plan].”

Now that the city might soon acquire the authority to ban demolitions outright – and effectively hold up the original intention of those guidelines – some homeowners are suddenly claiming that their homes aren’t worth saving.

At the hearings, the anti-heritage-conservation camp is generally divided into two groups – those who feel the older houses are in disrepair and should be torn down to make way for a new house, and seniors who fear losing equity in their homes if the former group is not allowed to tear the houses down. They sat as a group to one side of the room. Among them sat Loy Leyland, the architect who’s done well by the Shaughnessy property boom, as builder of many of the big new houses.

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s hearing, city staff responded to a query they’d received from a resident who wanted to know whether HCAs had caused house value declines in other cities. It was an excellent question, especially since the potential of lost property values appears to be top of mind for the “no” side. A group that organized the “no” side sent a letter around to the 317 affected homeowners in First Shaughnessy, and it cited a real estate agent’s claim that property values would drop by 30 per cent if the HCA designation passed. That kind of drop in an area as desirable as Shaughnessy is inconceivable.

As well, no one can find evidence of any drop at all where an HCA has been applied.

In fact, where heritage conservation is concerned, Vancouver is an oddball. Other cities see HCA designations as a blessing – not grounds for legal action.

In Victoria, senior heritage planner Murray Miller said HCA designations are considered a source of pride, and a driver of property values.

“We do have current interest from certain communities asking for their neighbourhoods to be designated heritage conservation areas,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller has 29 years experience as a heritage planner, having worked in Victoria, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Manchester, London, Nova Scotia, Phoenix, Southern California and Christchurch, New Zealand. He has yet to see a heritage designation negatively affect property value.

“I haven’t in my experience seen a devaluation of heritage property values as a direct result of designation,” Mr. Miller said.

Instead, he’s seen the opposite. He compares Vancouver with Phoenix, which is similar in size and age. Like Vancouver, Phoenix is experiencing unprecedented growth and development. But for a city not known for its heritage, it’s remarkably invested. Since 2000, Phoenix has created 11 heritage districts and they already had 24. Some of the districts have 600 homes, Mr. Murray said.

“The reality on the ground is that neighbourhoods wanted to have their areas designated so much that it caused a resourcing problem for the city, in trying to cope,” he said. “They desire the stability it offers. They know their neighbourhoods are unique, they like the character. And there is value in that reflected in the real estate prices. And they get access to incentives.”

First Shaughnessy residents are also being offered incentives, by way of infill, such as coach houses and suites. But residents who oppose the HCA designation say they want privacy instead of rental units. They say it’s not an incentive.

Toronto’s comprehensive heritage program has 20 HCAs that are considered a boost to property values. “They acknowledge that HCAs are valued and desired,” said a Vancouver city staff report.

The city of Los Angeles has 32 historic districts, according to Mr. Miller. The city is currently undergoing a major battle against rampant development of monster homes that threatens its historic stock of houses. Last year, L.A. council member Paul Koretz told me city council had voted unanimously to put an emergency moratorium on demolitions in crisis areas, similar to the one that Vancouver put on First Shaughnessy last year. An ordinance is in the works to tighten up rules to prevent further mansionization.

“It really has become an emergency situation,” Mr. Koretz, who found the rampant demolitions of perfectly good houses appalling, said.

“They continue to limit the proliferation of McMansions,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller also worked in Manchester, which, he said, has similarities to Vancouver. That English city has 34 conservation areas, and it is also undergoing extensive development pressure.

In Victoria, Mr. Miller looked up 10 sites that were designated as heritage properties in 2008. He compared their property assessments from 2007, when they had no status, to their values in 2009, a year after they were designated. He found the average increase in values of those 10 properties to be 12.1 per cent.

“It’s a very small sample, but does lend some data to this discussion,” he said.

He has more. In Victoria’s Battery Street Heritage Conservation Area, he looked at seven properties and discovered an increase in property values of 129 per cent between 2002 and 2015.

There’s no evidence that the moratorium on demolitions in the last year significantly affected the market. People still purchased the big old mansions in First Shaughnessy and paid handsomely for them. Perhaps the problem isn’t that the houses are old, or beyond their best-before date. Maybe the problem is that when a real estate market is driven by speculation, things such as history, culture and architectural merit get crushed in the mad scramble to make a profit. A man named John Lee said he owned two houses in First Shaughnessy and he purchased the pre-1940 house as an investment 10 years ago, with the intention of tearing it down. He complained that rent alone is not going to give him the proper return on his investment. He needs to be able to redevelop the heritage house for his bottom line.

“It will be financially horrific for me,” he said.

If the HCA designation does knock down the speculative bubble, it’s a moot point, Mr. Kluck-ner said.

“Because you can’t make public policy on the basis of speculation.”



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Both the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada have decided to leave their trend setting interest rates where they are. In the States that is 0 – 0.25%. In Canada it is 0.5%.

The U.S. Fed appears to be more concerned about volatility internationally, especially China, while the BoC is focusing on getting inflation above 2.0% without assistance from a falling Loonie.

Market watchers now see December as a likely date for an interest rate lift-off in the U.S. – probably a 25 bps increase. In Canada at least one of the big banks sees our central bank staying on the sidelines until 2017.

Low rates continue to fuel the Canadian housing market. In its latest forecast CREA is calling for a 2.0% price increase in 2016, for an average of more than $442,000. Of course Vancouver and Toronto (which account for 60% of Canada's real estate activity) will skew what is a softer and more balanced market in the rest of the country.

Note: This commentary is taken from a report that came out this week from mortgage lender, First National.
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A slew of innovative new condo towers are being proposed for Vancouver, as the city aims to take its arguably boring architecture to the next level.

Architect James Cheng is among those working on a signature building for 1445-1455 West Georgia St.— a 50-storey tower with an 80-foot glass jewel at the base, and walls that resemble the Seattle Library.

"We're saying, 'Can a building give back in a different way to the city, rather than just be another tower?'"

Cheng was inspired by repairs to the Washington Monument, which took on a whole new look when it was covered in scaffolding and then lit up.

Cheng's tower will also be lit, whether or not anyone is home.

Along the street, at 1575 West Georgia, local architect Gregory Henriquez is proposing a mixture of a traditional condo tower with origami balconies.

In between, at 1500 West Georgia, another dramatic building has been proposed by German architect Ole Scheeren, who takes his inspiration from the game Jenga.

Meanwhile, a block away at 1550 Alberni St. is a Westbank project by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, quite unlike anything Vancouver has seen before, swooping up into the sky with open gardens and sleek interiors.

Vancouver's move into adventurous architecture arguably began back in 2013, when Danish architect Bjarke Ingels revealed his design for twisting tower Vancouver House, which is now under construction.

These latest projects may just be beginning to make their way through the city's approval system, but it's a direction backed by Brian Jackson, Vancouver's planning and development manager.

"It is time that we have a few buildings along significant corridors to gateway locations that cause people to just stop and say, 'Wow! That is extraordinary architecture,'" said Jackson.

If approved, construction on these new condo towers could begin in just over a year.

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The word "recession" can sometimes cause many of us to sit back and worry about the state of the Canadian economy, the stock market, real estate prices and our job security.

A recession is generally defined as two successive quarters of decline in Gross Domestic Product (the total value of goods produced and services provided in a quarter) which is exactly what we have experienced; therefore, technically we are in a recession for the first time since 2008 and 2009. 

But wait a minute! Historically recessions trigger the Bank of Canada to lower rates but just recently the Bank of Canada announced that it was leaving the benchmark rate of .5% sensing this recession might already be behind us. Most economists are saying the recession, mostly due to the retreat in the energy sector, is already over according to July numbers.

The real estate market doesn't seem to pay much attention to the word recession either! The Financial Post reported: "Canadian housing starts rose 12 percent in August to the highest level since September 2012." Although there are some local or regional disparities, we should be encouraged that consumer confidence is solid and the demand for home ownership hasn't slowed down at all.

Since interest rates remain low and the housing market is maintaining its strength, now is the time for someone to have a look at their own mortgage or buy the home they've had their eye on for a while.  I can help. Call or email me today.


Tony Marchigiano,
Mortgage Consultant
Mortgage Alliance Meridian Pacific Mortgages

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Borrowing RRSP funds to buy a home would no longer be restricted to first-time buyers under a Liberal government, the party announced today.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has proposed that restrictions on the Home Buyers Plan (HBP) be loosened to allow greater access to the program for those facing challenging or unexpected circumstances.

We will modernize the existing Home Buyers Plan so that it helps more Canadians finance the purchase of a home, says the Liberals houseing policy. We will allow Canadians impacted by sudden and significant life changes, such as job relocation, the death of a spouse, marital breakdown, or a decision to accommodate an elderly family member, to access the program and use money from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan to buy a house without tax penalty.

The plan would not change the maximum withdrawal limit of $25,000, however. Some call that a mistake as the HBP has failed to keep pace with rising home values. Since the HBP started in 1992, home prices have rocketed over 200%, while the withdrawal limit has risen just 25%. That's the very reason Conservatives recently promised to raise it to $35,000.

I think our proposal to extend the capacity to invest to draw from your RRSPs responsible amounts to help the cost of a new home is something that will help Canadians in concrete ways, he was quoted as saying. The reality is that too many Canadians cannot afford to buy a house.

Like the Conservatives, the Liberals are also promising to undertake a review of escalating home prices in high-priced markets like Vancouver and Toronto to determine whether speculation is driving up the cost of housing, and survey the policy tools that could keep home ownership within reach for more Canadians.

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Vancouver has been a real-estate development test site for the children of wealthy, foreign-born entrepreneurs for several decades. Now there’s a new generation with a difference: They grew up here.

Kevin Cheung and Scott Wang are two of the latest wave of developers, sometimes labelled as offshore, who have arrived in Vancouver within the last couple of years and caused ripples of interest and alarm.

Both graduated from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, with Mr. Cheung getting a bachelor’s in commerce at the University of British Columbia. Both have fathers in real-estate development in Shanghai who are providing the starting equity for their sons’ Vancouver ventures. They are the children of the astronaut families.

“You see a lot of this in Vancouver, where the mother and child stay here and the father is doing business in China where the opportunity is,” said Mr. Cheung, a soft-spoken and impeccably polite 27-year-old who now lives in Shaughnessy.

The launch of the company that he and Mr. Wang, 31, founded in July 2014 (then called Xpec), has been energetic.

Their Vancouver company, now called Landa Global Properties Ltd., has picked up five expensive local multifamily sites in just two years, none of which have started construction yet. One of the most talked about was the recent sale of the Burritt Bros. site on Main Street, for which they paid an unprecedented amount – reported to be between $11– and $11.5-million. (The deal hasn’t been finalized yet.)

Some critics in the development world have said the new offshore buyers – who were noticed in recent years as they outbid locals in the fierce fight for properties along Cambie Street – are pushing up the price of land and buying just as a way to park money, with no plans to develop even though the city is desperate for housing.

“There probably is a component that is parking money, but we aren’t,” said Mr. Cheung. “We are moving full speed ahead on our sites.”

It hasn’t been all easygoing for the company, in spite of his family’s experience and money.

Mr. Cheung was outbid himself on many properties before the Burritt Bros. sale in what he says is a very competitive market. He said he just edged out others on the Burritt site by a small margin. (One broker, Kirk Kuester at Colliers, says although the sale raised eyebrows then, it now looks like a good deal, given the prices of other sales since.)

Landa’s first multifamily site, the Bold at Fraser and East 19th, ran into problems because it is on the edge of the Vancouver’s Tea Swamp. The project on that site, currently assessed at $7.4-million, ended up costing more than he expected because of the challenges of building on a peat bog.

And the two are spending extra to hire some well-known Vancouver architects and to create unusual designs.

The Burritt site will be a “very cool, contemporary building” designed by architect Tomizo Yamamoto. As with all of their Vancouver sites, the Burritt building will only be four stories, all that’s allowed in current city zoning.

The Bold, designed by Walter Francl (who did Jameson House and Trout Lake Community Centre), has a courtyard so that units can have windows on two sides.


Source < TheGlobeAndMail

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Months before the debut of the newest extension of Vancouver’s rapid-transit rail system, a new station in this sleepy suburb is flanked by towering construction cranes and lumbering excavators.

The scene, an erecting of two condominium towers and a grocery store, is a familiar one throughout this lush, mountainous region. Developers, pension funds and big banks are racing to build thousands of condos and commercial complexes along the rail lines, pushing the metro area to the forefront of North American cities clustering billions of dollars of development around rail stops.

About 50 projects are under development along Vancouver’s now-49 miles of rapid-transit rail lines, representing more than C$15 billion ($11.4 billion) of development costs, according to officials at TransLink, the region’s transportation agency formally known as the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority. The boom has enticed several of Canada’s biggest real-estate developers, lenders such as Royal Bank of Canada and equity partners like Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.

Demand for apartments and store space is being fueled partly by the region’s massive population of Asian immigrants. People of Chinese origin accounted for 18% of the Vancouver region’s population of 2.3 million in 2011, up from 17.4% in 2001, according to government statistics. The city’s overall population rose 16.4% over that period.

The cranes piercing the Vancouver skyline have helped make the city a leader in one of the most popular types of development in North America since the downturn: mixed-use projects near train stations that allow people to rely less on cars and more on their feet.

“Vancouver is one of the top-performing markets in North America” among those using light-rail systems rather than heavy-rail systems, like subways, designed for larger volumes of passengers, said Cody Brandt, a senior research analyst for brokerage CBRE Group Inc. who has studied cities’ approaches to transit-oriented development.

Development around rail hubs has long been the norm in the crowded metropolises of Asia and Europe. But much of North America outside of New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington has been slower to embrace transit-oriented development due to a car-centric history.

Now, Vancouver is foremost among a cadre of North American cities seeing development booms around rail stops to accommodate growing demand among young professionals, empty nesters and others . Fueled by residents’ desire to avoid owning and parking cars, as well as municipalities’ interest in accommodating growth without traffic, similar activity is taking place in other cities with expanding rail systems, including Denver; Portland, Ore.; Charlotte, N.C.; Salt Lake City and San Mateo, Calif.

In Denver, for example, developers have built 2.4 million square feet of offices and 2,100 residential units with more in planning stages around the downtown Union Station rail and bus hub. A light rail system in Silicon Valley, which has expanded to 42 miles since it opened in 1987, is “finally seeing some development” near some of its 62 stations including over 5,000 residential units and a big Samsung Semiconductor Inc. facility, according to Brandi Childress, spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

Vancouver’s surge of development near train stations was sparked in 2009, when TransLink expanded its 30-mile rail system by opening a C$2 billion, 12-mile extension, called the Canada line, from downtown to Vancouver International Airport in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It gained more momentum with the scheduled opening next year of the C$1.4 billion, seven-mile Evergreen line extending east into Vancouver’s suburbs.

Since 2012, developers in the region have constructed more than 8,700 condominiums near the rail lines, with another 13,100 in planning and development as of this year, according to residential-analysis firm Urban Analytics Inc. Several projects sold out of units within weeks, buoyed by the area’s massive population of Asian immigrants seeking real estate to live in, house relatives or rent out. Adding momentum: Vancouver and its suburbs, landlocked by mountains, sea and government-protected agricultural land, long have championed dense development such as condo towers.

When Shape Properties started offering condos at its Brentwood project in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby in May 2014, before construction had started, all but two of the 291 units slated for its first tower were sold within the first week. Roughly 100 people camped out, some for as long as three nights, outside of Shape’s sales center at the adjacent Brentwood Town Centre mall for a crack at buying condos averaging C$420,000, Shape Executive Vice President Darren Kwiatkowski said.

Speculative flipping of condos doesn’t appear to be a problem in Vancouver, despite rising prices. Urban Analytics studied 10 condo towers that opened along Vancouver’s rail lines since 2013 and found that an average of 14% of units were listed for resale within a year of each tower opening, often a sign of flipping. A typical threshold for a bubble-inducing level of flipping is more in the neighborhood of 40%, according to Jon Bennest, an Urban Analytics principal.

Rail systems aren’t always the magic formula for economic development. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority of Buffalo, N.Y., hasn’t expanded its 6.4-mile light-rail system since opening it in 1986. Some development has occurred around its rail stops, but it isn’t booming as in other cities.

There also are drawbacks to the transit booms. In Vancouver, land prices for parcels near some of the new rail stops have increased sharply, causing some developers to balk. Real-estate advisory company Altus Group Ltd. calculates that land values have more than doubled since 2010 along the Canada line, to an average of $463 a square foot from $191.

Investors are cashing in by assembling home sites near new rail stops to sell to developers planning condo towers or mixed-use complexes. They are still finding plenty of buyers. For example, Onni Group, a Vancouver developer, in April paid C$302 million for a 22-acre parcel slated to get its own rail stop along the Canada line.

But others have balked at certain expensive deals. Daryl Simpson, a senior vice president at developer Bosa Properties, says his company walked away from buying a parcel on the Canada line in 2012 after homeowners there tried to renegotiate the deal’s terms to get an even higher price. “The challenge along the Canada line is that the prices are so high that developers are prepared to gamble on sites,” Mr. Simpson said. “We tend not to do that.”



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According to a recent article in economists are forecasting just that. This is good news for borrowers not so sure about the economy although another article I read forecasts the technical recession we just went through won't last.


"A poll of 40 economists by Reuters reveals that the financial experts are not forecasting any rise in interest rates until 2017. The economists believe that although there is a chance of a further reduction in rates by the Bank of Canada that is also unlikely if the economy is picking up from the technical recession. The growth in the second half of 2015 is by no means agreed on by those polled though. There are of course many unknowns, not least oil prices, which may mean a change to BoC policy along the way."

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In their most recent commentary, Mortgage Lender First National, discusses why world stocks markets have been on a wild ride lately at what that might mean for interest rates moving forward: 

"The U.S. Federal Reserve has triggered the latest round of speculation about interest rates with the release of the minutes of its July meeting. Those notes seemed to indicate a bias toward an interest rate hike.

At the time that might have been true but since then there have been some changes, in particular China's devaluation of its currency and the growing strength of the U.S. dollar. American exports are hindered by a strong greenback and a rate hike would only add to that problem. There are also concerns U.S. employment is still not as robust as the Fed would like.

There are concerns the Fed needs to worry about its "credibility" if it does not implement a rate increase during its September 16 – 17 meeting. But, all but a handful of analysts expect the Fed to leave its policy rate unchanged.

In Canada the central bank announces its next interest rate decision on September 9th. Between now and then both unemployment and GDP stats will be updated.

The GDP numbers are widely expected to show Canada has dropped into a technical recession and the unemployment figures are expected to show, continued, uneven job growth."

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The first six months of last year saw record levels for building permits being issued in Vancouver, but this year’s total has eclipsed that by almost 20 per cent.

Last year, the value of building permits issued until July 1 was a record setting $1.12 billion. This year’s total to July 1 is $1.34 billion.

Much of the building activity is in the development of new office space in the downtown core, but there are also seven major projects underway elsewhere in the city. Among those being built are: The Exchange at 819 West Pender (305,000 square feet); the Renfrew Business Centre at 2665 Renfrew Street (480,000 square feet with the 170,000-square-foot first phase under construction); and Marine Gateway at 400 Southwest Marine Drive (269,000 square feet).

Another 14 projects have been approved with a total of 3,592,400 square feet of office space for development.

A total of 4.5 million square feet of new office space is presently under development in the city.

Brian Jackson, the city’s general manager of planning and development said it wasn’t just commercial development fuelling the record levels of building activity.

“This is Vancouver firing on all cylinders. It’s everything from laneway houses to mid-rise development, to rental housing that are getting under construction now, to highrise residential projects. It’s office development like we haven’t seen in decades, it’s industrial development such as at the Renfrew industrial park — it’s in all sectors of the economy,” said Jackson.

Asked if he was concerned about the amount of new office space being built and the likelihood of the market being saturated, Jackson said the city leaves that concern to the private sector.

“We don’t restrict the amount of office development — it’s entirely up to the market. It does tend to happen in cycles and they usually overbuild for a year or so and nothing happens for a while and then it gets filled. It’s usually on a seven-year cycle and we are at the tail-end of a cycle and likely the projects under construction now will be the last for a few years until the market takes up the capacity.”

Jackson said it wasn’t too long ago that there was a two or three per cent vacancy rate in office rentals in the downtown which “was absolutely remarkable.”

“Now we are up at around nine per cent in the core area which means you can get slightly better office deals for leasing. But of the projects under construction, the major one is The Exchange and they are continuing to try to find tenants and continuing to build,” said Jackson.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said it was clear the city’s economic strategy was working “with 2015 on pace to see records surpassed for the value of new construction activity, for new office space completed and for growth in our city’s tourism sector.”

“Together we are demonstrating that a strong economy and our Greenest City progress go hand in hand and city hall will continue to use every available resource to support job creation, investment and innovation in Vancouver,” said Robertson.

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If you're looking to update your home décor this fall, you'll find new furniture profiles, accents and textures galore, in everything from rugs to wall coverings to ceramics and bedding.

The trend toward mixing things up continues, from rustic to contemporary with a dash of traditional.

"What's interesting is the warm breath of traditional style that infuses the season's midcentury influence: Furniture, textiles and accessories, no matter how sleek-lined, are warm, inviting and touchable," said New York designer Elaine Griffin.

Also coming on is the handmade or "collected" vibe.

"Our desire for authenticity, as well as for finely crafted and small production design, is resonating," said Jackie Jordan, color marketing director for the paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams. "We want to know whose hands actually created the object we're purchasing, and how and where the materials were sourced."

Griffin concurs: "This season, the handmade look reigns supreme, with highly-textured fabric weaves, wallpapers (faux bois, faux hand-painted murals, and multicolored and metallic-layered geometric prints) and appliquéd effects on upholstery."

Expect more tabletop accent pieces and furniture labeled with place of origin and/or maker's information, whether they were crafted in Indiana or India.

One new kid in town is Scandinavian style. Simple, clean lines, gentle colors and charming motifs make for a look that's contemporary and accessible.

And the dark horse? With the popularity of midcentury modern, some designers are ready to move forward to a 1980s redux. Decorators have welcomed ‘60s- and ‘70s-era macramé, flame stitch, classic furniture and retro fabric prints. Will they also embrace Memphis style — the ‘80s design movement characterized by disparate geometric shapes and contrasting colors? Griffin thinks there'll be more to this trend come spring.


Jordan sees a shift "to soft monochromatic palettes," citing creamy whites and mineral tones — gray, khaki, earth tones, and nature-inspired hues like spruce, smoke, pond and shell pink.

"The serenity of these colors provides a sense of calm to balance our hectic lifestyles, and celebrates natural materials, honed, soft and sheer finishes," she said.

Stronger hues are in play, too. Griffin sees last spring's pale pastels evolving into deeper, Southwestern hues like terra-cotta, pale pumpkin, deep salmon, dusty rose citron, and smoky French and teal blues.

Look too for boozy, midcentury modern hues: brandy, burgundy, whiskey and merlot, as well as navy and olive.


Again, it's all about the mix. "For both furniture and accessories, when it comes to finishes this fall, one is a lonely number," Griffin said. "The freshest looks combine at least two colors and materials, like black lacquer with metallic accents (especially brass and copper); white enamel with gleaming metallic, acrylic pieces in harvest hues; and industrial iron paired with chrome."

Patinated and polished brass, marble, copper, steel and mirror clad everything from accent pieces to furniture. See West Elm, Wisteria and CB2 for examples.

While silver and chrome are big players, Michael Murphy, design and trends producer for Lamps Plus, said brass and gold will be especially strong, especially in softer, burnished tones.

"These metals can be easily introduced in the home with a table lamp, chandelier or distinct accessory like a large vase or unique table sculpture," he said.

Jordan said the handmade look extends to metals: "We're seeing materials hand-carved, forged and assembled. Imperfections and flaws in materials like iron, wood, concrete and hand-woven wool only add to the character of the piece."

One interesting place to see this trend is the bathroom: vintage-style, weathered-bronze and cast-iron fixtures. Stone Forest introduced the Ore vessel sink, inspired by an antique steel pipe cap. The Industrial series, with a cast-iron sink, towel bar and paper holder, has an old-school factory quality.

Interesting woods continue to make inroads in furniture, flooring and doors. Watch for acacia, walnut, birch, maple and beech, and finishes ranging from weatherworn to highly lacquered.

Pottery Barn's new Bowry collection of tables and storage units uses reclaimed acacia, teak and mango hardwoods. The Warren pulley lamp's rustic-finished iron and functioning pulleys make for a steampunk-style fixture.

Konekt designer Helena Sultan's Pause chaise lounge perches a comfy upholstered seat on brass or chrome legs, in several finishes.

And saddle and butter-soft leathers are strong players in ottomans, director's and club chairs, and benches.

The flip side is the proliferation of translucents like acrylic and glass, often combined with other materials.

"These materials are being combined with unique fabrics like fur to create a clearly contemporary trend," Murphy said. "We see this where the tops of settees, benches and stools are covered with a luxe fur and fabrics, and the legs are made from clear materials."

Jonathan Adler has a Lucite étagère with polished brass joinery, and a burled wood desk on Lucite legs. Gus Modern's acrylic end table is etched with a white grain pattern to look like a piece of timber.


Channel quilting, in which stitching runs in one continuous line, is another trend to watch for. The straight lines, even spacing, design detail and comfort all add to its appeal. "This is part of the continued resurgence of Art Deco, which is synonymous with fluid lines, bold shapes, lavish ornamentation and metallic finishes," Murphy said.

Look for rattan and other woven fibers in items beyond basketry, like wall art, bowls and ottomans.

Shags, nubby wools, Southwest-patterned flat weaves and Impressionist-patterned Indian silks will be on the floor of rug departments this fall. West Elm has some graphic kilim rugs and pillows.

Geometrics and facets cover textiles, vases and mirror frames. Some have an organic quality — think beehives or reptile skin. But rendered in iron or wood, they can have an industrial vibe.

In wallpaper, look to Tempaper, Wolfum and Timorous Beasties for intriguing patterns ranging from ‘80s Southwest to Japanese archival prints to nature themes.

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It's hard to believe summer is almost over and we will be back to more normal routines soon. Generally, fall is one of the best times to purchase a home and this year it might be even busier with interest rates still very low and more selection of homes than in the spring.

While the weather will begin to cool soon, the mortgage market with more lenders competing for your mortgage remains hot. Mortgage brokers have access to many specialized lenders, giving you many more options than we've seen in a long while. All this is great news for you.  This is the best time to review an existing mortgage and determine if now is the time to renew early or refinance to take advantage of all the options.

The Globe and Mail recently quoted Bank of Nova Scotia senior economist Adrienne Warren, stating: The persistence of exceptionally low borrowing costs will likely maintain a healthy level of sales in the coming months.

I can let you know if it makes sense to renew or refinance your mortgage and perhaps save thousands. In many cases it makes sense to refinance if you consolidate higher interest debt at the same time. With my expertise we can together determine if there is an opportunity to reduce your monthly payment, save you thousands in unnecessary interest cost and have your mortgage paid off years sooner.

Whether it's buying this fall or simply having a Mortgage Checkup, call me today and let's get started.

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The current Federal Government (and I say current as they may or may not be the government in about 2 months as we're currently in an election campaign) has proposed increasing the current limit on how much a person can withdraw out of their RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) under the Home Buyer's Withdrawal Plan. They have proposed increasing it from 25K to 35K. I personally think this is a great idea and every little bit counts. As a reminder, under the HBW Plan you can take out without any tax implications as long as you pay back within a 15 year period. Note: you're also given a 2 year grace period before having to start repaying to your RRSP. This allows one to get used to their new mortgage payment plus property taxes & condo fees for strata properties. 
See the full article by Canadian Mortgage Trends for full details as well as some other interesting stats:
First-time buyers with $35,000 in RRSPs may soon find it easier to buy a home. The Conservatives are proposing to increase the maximum RRSP Home Buyers Plan (HBP) withdrawal.
Today, I am announcing a re-elected Harper Government will raise this limit once again from $25,000 to $35,000, said Prime Minister Harper today. With this increase, we will continue to help families know the pride and stability of having a place to call their own.
Access to another $10,000 of down payment would let an otherwise qualified borrower purchase a home at a $200,000 higher price point, given the minimum required 5% down payment. Of course, one would still need to prove he/she can afford that much more, by meeting income, debt ratio and credit score requirements, etc.
It would be only the second hike in the limit since the HBP launched in 1992. Since then, home prices have soared 205%, but the HBP maximum has only been raised 25%.
According to CAAMP data:
  • First-time buyers account for 45% of home purchases
  • Most are between 25 and 34 years old
  • Their average purchase price is about $308,000
  • Their average down payment is $67,000 (21% equity)
Just a fraction of first-timers will benefit from this change, as the average RRSP contribution is only about $3,500 a year, and only 10% of FTBs use RRSPs to pad their down payment.
Home buyers who do take advantage of this measure and put down another $10,000 on their mortgage, would save over $1,000 of interest over five years at current rates. The trade-off, of course, is lost tax-deferred investment growth, among other risks.
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Vancouver is a city of development and some of the recent gab surrounds micro-lofts. This innovation allows a whole generation to afford owning in a city that is so unaffordable. The real challange is how to make efficent use of such a small space.

It’s really hard to make 425 square feet look spacious but Specht Harpman Architects managed to do just that in this once awkward New York City apartment that’s set at the top of a six-story building.

By creating “living platforms,” they were able to accommodate all the necessities an apartment might need while keeping the space open and bright. Helping with that was the fact that they were working with over 24 feet of vertical space, making it possible to create the multiple layers of “rooms.”

The compact bathroom is hidden away on the bottom floor beneath the staircase.

While the kitchen is small, it remains open to the living room.

They kept the cabinets and countertops white which helps keep it bright and airy. Every detail was kept simple as not to overwhelm the tight quarters and it really appears larger than the actual square footage.

The space under the stairs doesn’t go to waste…

It’s packed full of storage spaces!

Up the first set of stairs you have the bedroom layer which seems to almost float above the living room below.

More storage is found under this staircase which leads to the roof garden.

That’s the view when you go out to the garden.

I love the simplicity of the staircases – no chunky balusters here!

source: design-milk

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Metro Vancouver home sales were more than a third above the 10-year average in July, while the number of homes listed for sale continues to trend below recent years. 

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Metro Vancouver* reached 3,978 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in July 2015. This represents a 30 per cent increase compared to the 3,061 sales recorded in July 2014, and a decrease of 9.1 per cent compared to the 4,375 sales in June 2015.

Last month’s sales were 33.5 per cent above the 10-year sales average for the month.

“Today’s activity continues to benefit sellers as home buyers compete for the homes available for sale,” Darcy McLeod, REBGV president said.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 5,112 in July. This represents a 3.8 per cent increase compared to the 4,925 new listings reported in July 2014.

The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the region’s MLS® is 11,505, a 26.3 per cent decline compared to July 2014 and a 5.5 per cent decline compared to June 2015.

"Much of today’s activity can be traced to strong consumer confidence, low interest rates, and a reduced supply of homes for sale.” McLeod said. “We have about 5,000 to 6,000 fewer homes for sale today than we've seen at this time of year over the last five to six years," 

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $700,500. This represents an 11.2 per cent increase compared to July 2014.

With the sales-to-active-listings ratio at 34.6 per cent, the region remains in seller's market territory.

“Although there aren’t as many homes for sale today compared to recent years, home buyers continue to have a range of housing options, at different price points, to choose from across Metro Vancouver,” McLeod said. “The diversity of housing options is part of what’s driving today’s demand.”

Sales of detached properties in July 2015 reached 1,559, an increase of 17.9 per cent from the 1,322 detached sales recorded in July 2014, and a 24.8 per cent increase from the 1,249 units sold in July 2013. The benchmark price for a detached property in Metro Vancouver increased 16.2 per cent from July 2014 to $1,141,800.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,729 in July 2015, an increase of 42.7 per cent compared to the 1,212 sales in July 2014, and an increase of 42.9 per cent compared to the 1,210 sales in July 2013. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 5.9 per cent from July 2014 to $400,900.

Attached property sales in July 2015 totalled 690, an increase of 30.9 per cent compared to the 527 sales in July 2014, and a 41.7 per cent increase from the 487 attached properties sold in July 2013. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 7.8 per cent between July 2014 and 2015 to $511,500.

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In a recent Expose by CBC, called "Decoding Mortgages", they discussed, once again, the positives and the negatives of a collateral mortgage when comparing it to a regular conventional mortgage. 

Working in the banking industry and now the broker one I know these differences first hand. Sometimes this type of mortgage works well for people but a lot of times it does not. This is why a good, in depth discussion with someone requiring financing is the best way to determine what type of mortgage would possibly benefit them most.


Take a read in the full article below:


Decoding mortgages

When shopping for a mortgage, it's easy to get lost in the fine print. And not all mortgages are created equal. There's a major distinction that you should be aware of: collateral mortgages vs. conventional mortgages.

With a conventional mortgage, the amount registered is the amount you need to borrow, so, for example, the value of your house minus the amount of your down payment. However, with collateral mortgages, the amount that's registered is the full value of the house, and can, in some cases be up to 125% of the value of your property.

Collateral mortgages are becoming more popular. In 2010, TD made a major shift: the bank was no longer offering conventional mortgages; all its mortgages would be collateral. ING made a similar move in 2011.

According to TD, collateral mortgages allow homeowners to more easily access credit, allowing them to borrow more without additional charges. In an e-mail, TD wrote:

"A collateral charge registration will allow a customer to borrow in the future without requiring a new registration. In contrast, a conventional mortgage would require a new registration if there are changes or increases in the amount of the mortgage."

However, many experts are concerned that collateral mortgages mean less choice and flexibility for consumers.

One concern is that while it can be relatively easy to transfer your conventional mortgage at the end of your term to another lender, a collateral mortgage can be more complicated, and expensive, to move, says mortgage broker Steve Garganis.

Shopping your mortgage around at the end of your term, experts advise, can save you a lot of money. While most homeowners renew their mortgages with their current lender, shopping around can save you 0.5% to 1% on your interest rate - which can mean a huge difference in how much you have to pay.

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