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Vancouver has the highest Real Estate values in Canada. This is the price you pay for living in the most desirable city in the country. On the plus side, heating costs are considerably lower than the rest of Canada, due to plentiful & cheap Natural Gas and the mild, year round climate.
The links below take you to a Real Estate Listing service. You simply enter the area you are interested in, and then do a search for available properties of the type, and price range you select. Most listings come with a photograph. All prices are in Canadian dollars (about 65 cents US). Size is listed in Square Feet, which is odd since Canada uses the Metric System. 1000 Square Feet is equivalent to 93 Square Meters. If you are unfamiliar with the term "Basement", it refers to a Cellar. In many homes it may be large enough to finish off into several more rooms. You will also see the term "1/2 Bathroom". This usually means a toilet and a sink. A Full Bathroom includes either a Bathtub or Shower or both. A Den is a small room, suitable for an office or sometimes a small Bedroom.
Purchase of a new home triggers the dreaded GST Tax which adds 7% to the purchase price. (This does not apply to used homes) Asking prices of homes are negotiable. As a rule of thumb, offer the vendor 90 to 95% of the asking price if the asking price seems reasonable and go from there. Most appliances are usually included but must be negotiated during a sale. Make sure any fixtures (appliances, drapes, etc) are listed in the sales agreement or the vendor can take them with him. Beware of buying a residence for sale by owner unless you are familiar with buying and selling real estate in BC. Legal fees for purchasing a residence and writing up a mortgage usually run about $800. If you are serious about a particular property pay for a building inspection. This costs about $250 to $300 and should reveal any hidden problems with construction, wiring, etc. You can place a "subject to satisfactory inspection of premises" clause in your offer to purchase, giving you a way out if problems are discovered. When you sell a property expect to pay about 7% in Real Estate fees on the first $200,000 of value. It is advisable to use a Real Estate Agent rather than attempting to do it yourself.
Annual property taxes vary by Municipality and range from about $600 to $3000 per year depending on the value of the residence and the location. As an example the annual taxes on my former White Rock home which was valued at $400,000 were about $2300. I had an in ground swimming pool which added a bit. Taxes on my current Town home which is worth about $175,000 are about $1400 a year. Taxes usually include services such as garbage pickup, street lighting, water (non-metered), sewer and school taxes. Water is generally free and un-metered, although water meters are starting to appear in some areas.
If you have a mortgage, you must have property insurance, this usually runs about $400 to $800 per year, depending on whether you add earthquake coverage. I highly recommend that you do insure against earthquakes. Insurance covers fire and theft and usually damage from flood, along with 3rd party liability. On the subject of earthquakes, Vancouver is high risk. Fortunately the wood frame construction used in most homes is highly earthquake resistant. Some areas are on reclaimed river delta (especially Richmond). These areas could be subject to liquefaction during a strong earthquake. I would personally avoid living there. The area is also vulnerable to flooding, since it is diked.
If you buy a Townhouse or Condominium, expect to pay about $100 a month in maintenance fees. These cover repairs (re-roofing, etc) over a period of time. You are responsible for your own furnace, carpeting, etc. Fees are set by a Strata Council made up of representatives of the complex.
Unlike the United States, mortgage interest is not tax deductible in Canada. However, you also do not have to pay capital gains on the increase in value of the residence when you sell it, provided it is your primary residence.
For your reference here are definitions of types of residences as they apply to Vancouver:
House- A completely detached unit, on its own piece of land. Lots sizes range from very small in the city center, to a 1/2 acre or more in the suburbs.
Duplex- A House divided into two, usually identical units, on its own piece of land.
Townhouse- Row housing with private entrances, one to three levels. Multi-story ones tend to be a bit cheaper than those occupying a single level due to the more efficient use of land. Usually a small yard or large patio is included. I actually just bought one of these myself. The big advantage to this type of housing is the fact that you do not have to do any maintenance, yard work, etc., leaving you with much more spare time, but still the sense that you live in a detached house. These are becoming extremely popular as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age and looks to downsize.
The disadvantage of Town homes and Condo's is that you are at the mercy of the Strata Council. These are a group of residents elected to set rules and administer fees. Most Townhouses have a monthly Strata fee ranging from around $75 up to $300 a month depending on the complex and its amenities. A complex with a swimming pool, for example, will likely have a higher monthly fee. This money goes to pay for maintenance, mowing lawns & landscape maintenance, insurance, etc. It usually also contains a contingency fee that accumulates over time to help cover future expenses such as re-roofing, exterior painting or unexpected disasters. Strata councils also set rules on such things as pets, etc. Generally speaking, developments aimed at seniors or over 45's will tend to be the most restrictive and can actually make your life a bit miserable with silly little rules. A new Townhouse or Condo will generally depreciate in Value over the first few years unless overall Real estate values go up. This may not be the trend in future as this type of housing increases in popularity and land availability decreases. You can usually get a better price on a used unit than you can on a new one. On the other hand in a new one, you will have all new carpeting, appliances, etc. You have to be extremely careful purchasing any unit constructed between 1985 and 1997. This is the period of the leaky condo. See details at the bottom of this page.
One thing to watch for when, buying a townhouse is the parking situation. You may have a spot in an underground parking garage, or your own 1 or 2 car garage, an outdoor spot or a combination of the above. Most complexes also provide a small number of visitor spots. Try to look for one with an enclosed garage, as this is often the only storage space you will have. Some units have crawl spaces or even basements, but these are less common. It is also best to look for an end unit, when purchasing a townhouse. These tend to be much easier to re-sell and you only have to worry about a neighbour on one side of you. You often also will have a larger yard. Units with a south exposed back yard tend to be more desirable. You will be unlikely to find one that fits all your criteria. I didn't. The main complaint I have about mine is that both bathrooms are upstairs. You just have to try and find one that fits most of your needs, within your price range.
Avoid buying into a complex with stucco finishing on the exterior and/or flat roofs. These are more likely to have a future leaking problem. If something major happens to a unit in a complex, all units share in the cost of repairs. Insurance covers eventualities such as fire, earthquake, etc., but should there be problems such as faulty construction, the entire complex could receive assessments to cover repairs. This is one of the risks of this type of housing. On the other hand, the same thing can happen to a regular house.
Condominium- An Apartment or Flat in a High Rise or Low Rise building, usually with a common entrance. Much of what I said regarding Townhouses applies here as well. Strata fees tend to be higher, since there are usually such things as common hallways and elevators to be maintained. A Condominium is usually cheaper than the Townhouse option, and you do not usually have your own green space unless you have a ground floor unit. Read my section leaky Condos below. Both Town homes and Condos' are more difficult to re-sell than a detached house. This is due to the large number of them still being constructed.
Mobile Home - These are large trailers, usually Aluminium Frame, located on a rented or leased Pad. Sometimes 2 units are strapped together to make a larger home (these are called double-wides). Buying one of these units is risky as you are at the mercy of the Trailer park owners who rent you the pad. You must be in a designated trailer park, you cannot just place one of these units on any lot, unless you are in a rural area. Trailer Parks are slowly disappearing. These units seem cheap, but I would avoid them unless you are buying in a rural area.
Greater Vancouver-Fraser Valley-Whistler-Sunshine Coast:
Tip: Check out my Neighbourhoods section for insight into different areas of Vancouver.
This link will take to the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Boards' interactive Map: RealtyLink (please let me know if its dead, they have changed the URL on me in the past.). It does not include Surrey, White Rock & Langley. Another service that includes Vancouver and these communities can be found at MLS® Online
Another good web site is RealEstateTours.com . You can view houses at this site.
Other Areas of BC:
Rest of Canada: (from west to east)
Newfoundland & Labrador
Special Notice: Leaky Condos
This is a huge problem in Vancouver, with damage in the billions. A large number of Condos built over the last 10 years have this problem and it has driven many owners either into bankruptcy or they have simply walked away & let the bank foreclose. Those were the lucky ones with large mortgages. Those who paid large down payments or bought outright were in big trouble. Some retired seniors have lost a large portion of their retirement savings. Everywhere you go in Vancouver you will see buildings covered in tarps as they are repaired. The problem has even spread to some high rise towers. The Government has not provided any compensation, only low interest loans.
This problem is a disgrace and is, in my opinion, due to previous governments policy of encouraging non-union labour in the construction business along with fly-by-night developers. If you are considering purchasing a condominium in Vancouver, make sure you get an independent inspection done of not only the individual unit, but the building in general. This may cost you about $300, but its better than having to come up with $40,000 to $60,000 later. All purchased condominiums in Vancouver are Strata Title, which means that if one unit starts to leak, the costs are split among all unit owners in that building. You have to be careful of mixed style developments where some buildings look OK, but others under the same Strata, are not. For example there are developments of apartments & Townhouse mixed, where the Apartment building has a problem, but the Town homes do not. Either way, the problem is financially spread among all the Strata members.
You should always request to look at the minutes to past Strata meetings for the building you are considering. The seller is legally obligated to provide these to you. Any problems, should show up in the minutes of those meetings. Also make sure there are no pending assessments (e.g.. for roof replacement). You will assume liability for these, with the purchase. Its probably best to avoid buying a condo that has leaked in the past, but has been fixed. Some units have been done more than once. My brother is currently renting one of these (its cheap). The owners were assessed $60,000 apiece. They are now using the money that the owner of the one he is renting paid, to fix some of the others for the second time. All the owners will now be assessed a further $20,000.
On the other hand an ex-leaky Condo can often be had for considerably less than market value, so its a trade-off. Even if the leak has been successfully repaired, however, there may be mould spores present in the unit that will never go away. These may cause ongoing respiratory problems in some individuals. You can have tests done for these. My wife will do it for $60 (she's qualified & has the equipment, phone 604-575-0901 & ask for Terry or E-Mail me). Whatever you do, make sure you get any unit thoroughly checked out, to ensure the problem is fixed permanently. More information can be found at Coalition of Leaky Condo Owners. If you are going to buy a condo, look for one with sloped roofs, good overhangs and vinyl or wood siding. Avoid stucco exterior buildings with flat roofs. Units built after 1998 & before 1990 are generally OK. All this applies to apartment type Condos & Town homes (semi-detached). Some single family dwellings may also have a problem if they have been built with flat roofs, no overhangs & stucco exteriors. Vancouver's climate is not conducive to that style.
Real Estate Links:
Here are some links to Listings and Information about Vancouver/Whistler Real Estate. Most of them will simply route you back to the info I already have above, but you might find some useful info.
|Bruce Ward Reality|
|Real Estate, Relocations Good info on Vancouver neighbourhoods|
|Whistler Properties Whistler Real Estate Site|
|Real Estate Weekly's HomeGuide|
|Greater Vancouver homes for sale by owner|
|CRS Encyclopedia For Vancouver British Columbia Canada Relocation information|
|Real Estate Buying Tips for Vancouver|
|Real estate sales in Vancouver, BC, Canada - Resource directory & Statistics|
|House and Home Vancouver Real Estate Page|
|Vancouver Classifieds Contains a realty listing section|
Rates for rentals vary widely, depending on what part of the city you are looking in & also what type of rental you are looking for. The cheapest are usually illegal suites in the basements of family homes. These can range anywhere from $400 a month for a small one bedroom up to $1000 a month for a 3 bedroom. Housekeeping rooms can also be found for as low as $300 a month, but these would not include any cooking facilities, other than a hotplate and possibly access to a communal refrigerator. In many cases the landlord of an illegal suite is not declaring the income on his tax return and will request that you do not claim the Renters grant (given to lower income taxpayers) as this will tip off Revenue Canada. This gives you a bit more bargaining power. Furnished accommodation is difficult to find as are short term rentals of a month or two. Many landlords will request a one year lease. Landlords are within their rights to request 1/2 a month rent as a damage deposit. Don't expect to get this back. Many landlords will find a reason to withhold it unless you have kept the place immaculate.
There is a pay service for locating rentals at http://www.homefinders.ca/. They charge $75 for 3 months. I am trying to find out from them what the scope of their listings are, so you can better judge if using their service is worthwhile.
You can also try www.relocate.ca . They supply Rental & Real estate services in Vancouver & Calgary.
Some links to Rentals can be found in the table below:
|Bruce Ward Reality Apartments, Condo's, Suites|
|The North Shore News Local paper in North Vancouver that has listings for that area.|
|Places 4 Rent|
|My BC Rental|