Buying your first home is not only an exciting time, but it can also be a busy time with many deadlines and dates. Unfortunately, there are also many hidden or unexpected costs that are part of the overall home buying experience. As the premier real estate agent for UBC homes, I would like to offer you the following list of some of the hidden costs that you will incur as a first time home buyer.
Prepare for the Unexpected
The initial down payment of your home is not the only cost that you will incur as a first time home buyer. It is always a good idea to have a contingency fund that will cover costs such as:
Homeowner’s insurance – you will want to insure your new home as well as your belongings against fire, natural disasters and theft.
Closing costs – costs such as lender fees, lawyer transfer fees, appraisals fees. Sometimes these fees are part of the closing cost, but make sure that you know how much each fee is and that you have the funds to cover these costs.
Before purchasing a home, make sure to hire an inspector. Although this is another cost, it may save you considerable money in the long run. A home inspector will be able to tell you if there is any damage to the foundation or structure of the home, rot or poor electrical wiring. If any serious problems are found, you can either renegotiate the purchase price or walk away from the house.
Services and Hook Ups
Keep in mind that once you move in, you may have to pay for connection fees for many of the services that you will want in your home such as cable, electricity and internet. If you are moving from the rent world your utility bills are going to be far higher. You are responsible for heating your home now as well as paying for water and garbage pickup.
As a homeowner, you will also be paying property taxes to your local municipality. This cost can be broken down over the course of 12 months or paid as one lump sum.
When you are factoring the costs into your home purchase budget, do not forget to look past the initial home cost and factor in all the costs of improvements, upgrades or renovations. If you know that your dream home will need to be landscaped, make sure that you properly budgeted for that yard work. There is nothing worse than buying a home and hot having the funds to cover general upkeep or improvement projects. You do not want to be house poor, so budget accordingly.
There are many factors to keep in mind when you are buying your first home. That is why the right real estate agent is important. They can help you and offer advice as well as help you plan a budget so that the hidden costs of a first time home are fully understood.
If you would like any more information on the hidden costs associated with a first time home or would like to see some of the new and exciting listings that are available in and around UBC, please call me today. I look forward to working with you soon.
After a long a dreary winter and spring, summer has finally arrived at UBC. I am sure that you are ready for the season, but is your house? To fully enjoy the summer months, it is important that your home is ready for the season. As the premier real estate agent for UBC homes, I would like to offer the following tips on how to prepare your house for the summer.
Check Your Air Conditioning
Nothing can ruin your summer faster than a broken air conditioner. Ensure that your air conditioning unit is running smoothly this summer by getting it regularly serviced. Every three months, it is suggested that you:
Check and replace the filters.
Flush out drain lines with a cup of bleach.
Trim and remove any vegetation around the outdoor unit to ensure that your air conditioner has room to breathe.
Rotate Ceiling Fans
Your ceiling fan may have a directional switch. It is important that your ceiling fan runs in a counterclockwise direction so that it is pushing air down and not up.
Upgrade or change your Thermostat
If you haven’t already, think about replacing your thermostat with a “smart” version. This type of thermostat will not only save you money on your monthly energy bills, it will also allow you far more flexibility on how you cool your home. A “smart” thermostat will allow you to cool only certain rooms if you choose and run your air condition during the hottest times of the day. You can also operate your thermostat from your phone giving you ultimate flexibility and control over your home’s cooling.
Fix Your Lawn
After a long and wet winter and spring, now is the time to reseed your lawn to fill in any bare patches. A reseeded lawn will also make it harder for weeds to grow, which will alleviate the dreaded job of weeding.
Here’s the deal:
When reseeding your lawn, also spread a thin layer of topsoil to protect the grass seed. It is a good idea to irrigate for at least two weeks.
Before cutting your newly seeded lawn, make sure that your lawnmower and other yard tools are in peak working order. To properly maintain your lawnmower, make sure to:
Change the oil and clean or replace the air filter.
Check and change the spark plug, if necessary.
Sharpen the mower blade and make sure that it is at the desired height.
Inspect all Downspouts
While you are outside preparing your home it is a good idea to check your downspouts and gutters for debris. Make sure that all gutters are securely fastened to your home and seal any gaps or cracks with silicone. While you are on your ladder, inspect your roof and replace or repair any broken or missing shingles.
By following these simple home preparation tips, you will be ready for summer in no time. A well prepared home will free up time for you and your family to enjoy your favourite summer activities. If you would like any more tips on how to get your home ready for the season or would like to see some of the new summer homes that are available in the UBC area, please contact me today.
With home sale activity dipping below long-term historical averages, the supply of homes for sale in Metro Vancouver reached a three-year high in June.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,425 in June 2018, a 37.7 per cent decline from the 3,893 sales recorded in June 2017, and a 14.4 per cent decrease compared to May 2018 when 2,833 homes sold.
Last month’s sales were 28.7 per cent below the 10-year June sales average.
“Buyers are less active today. This is allowing the supply of homes for sale to accumulate to levels we haven’t seen in the last few years,” Phil Moore, REBGV president said. “Rising interest rates, high prices and more restrictive mortgage requirements are among the factors dampening home buyer activity today.”
There were 5,279 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in June 2018. This represents a 7.7 per cent decrease compared to the 5,721 homes listed in June 2017 and a 17.2 per cent decrease compared to May 2018 when 6,375 homes were listed.
The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 11,947, a 40.3 per cent increase compared to June 2017 (8,515) and a 5.8 per cent increase compared to May 2018 (11,292). This is the highest this total has been since June 2015.
“With reduced demand, detached homes are entering a buyers’ market and price growth in our townhome and apartment markets is showing signs of decelerating.”
For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for June 2018 is 20.3 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 11.7 per cent for detached homes, 24.9 per cent for townhomes, and 33.4 per cent for condominiums.
Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,093,600. This represents a 9.5 per cent increase over June 2017 and is virtually unchanged from May 2018.
Sales of detached homes in June 2018 reached 766, a 42 per cent decrease from the 1,320 detached sales recorded in June 2017. The benchmark price for a detached home is $1,598,200. This represents a 0.7 per cent increase from June 2017 and a 0.6 per cent decrease compared to May 2018.
Sales of apartment homes reached 1,240 in June 2018, a 34.9 per cent decrease compared to the 1,905 sales in June 2017. The benchmark price for an apartment is $704,200. This represents a 17.2 per cent increase from June 2017 and a 0.4 per cent increase compared to May 2018.
Attached home sales in June 2018 totalled 419, a 37.3 per cent decrease compared to the 668 sales in June 2017. The benchmark price of an attached home is $859,800. This represents a 15.3 per cent increase from June 2017 and is virtually unchanged from May 2018.
A home renovation is a great way to increase your home’s value, especially if you are thinking about taking advantage of the summer market. However, figuring out how much a renovation should cost and staying within that budget can be a bit tricky. As the premier real estate agent for UBC homes, I would like to share the following advice on how to set a renovation budget.
Estimate the Costs as a Percentage
Here’s the Deal:
You should spend no more in each room than the value of that room as a percentage of your overall house. For example – A kitchen generally accounts for 10-15% of your home’s value, so if your home is valued at $200 000, you will want to spend $30 000 or less on a kitchen renovation.
Another key piece of advice:
Kitchen renovations offer some of the lowest rates of return in terms of a renovation. For every dollar you spend, your home’s value increases by 50 cents.
The highest rate of return on a renovation – a mid-range bathroom remodel.
Consider Loan Options
Once you have decided what type of renovation you want to do and have come up with a rough estimate for that renovation, it is time to think about how you are going to finance your renovations.
Refinancing – depending upon what your interest rates are on your mortgage, you may be able to refinance or add term to your loan lowering your monthly payments allowing you to save for the renovation.
Line of credit – A line of credit may be a great way to finance your renovation, talk to your lender or bank to see what type of term and rate they are willing to provide you.
Home Equity Loan – this type of loan is also known as a second mortgage and allows you to borrow a percentage of your home’s assessed value.
Make sure that you are very specific about what you want done in your renovation and get it written out in a contract. Make sure to get a quote and include even the materials that are going to be used for the job. Take your time to talk to a few different contractors and ask lots of questions, especially about the overall timeframe. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and look at past jobs and customer satisfaction before making your final decision.
Stick to the Plan
Do not change the overall outlook of your renovation by adding side projects or changing your mind part way through a job. This is the fastest way to add costs and time to any project. Strive to stick to the original plan regardless of how tempted you may be.
A renovation can breathe new life into any room and is a great way to add intrigue and interest to your home if you are thinking about selling. By following these simple steps, you should be able to enjoy a newly renovated home without breaking the bank. If you would like any more information about how a renovation can add value to your home or to see some of the new listings in the UBC area, please call me today. I'm Sam Huang. 778-991-0649
The UBC Services Levy is a charge collected annually from homeowners at UBC to fund local programs and municipal-like services. It is called a levy rather than a tax because it is collected under the terms of your lease with UBC.
If you have been thinking about listing your UBC home and taking advantage of this summer’s real estate market then this is the blog for you. The fastest way to attract potential buyers and get full market value is by cleaning up and transforming the exterior of your home. As the premier real estate agent for UBC homes, I would like to offer you the following tips on how to improve the exterior of your home.
Perhaps the easiest and most cost-efficient method of improving house is by putting in some time and cleaning the exterior and yard. An attractive exterior begins with trimming the bushes, mowing the lawn and raking the leaves in your yard. Once you have completed these tasks, take the time to wash and scrub your driveway, walkway, your home’s exterior and the fence. Finally, make sure to wash and scrub the windows with a glass cleaner or with diluted detergent and warm water.
A freshly painted home is sure to turn heads. Not only does paint offer a protective barrier against the elements, it is also a great way to attract potential buyers. If painting your entire home is not in your budget or just seems too overwhelming, focus your attention on the trim, doors and shutters.
Another quick way to transform the exterior of your home and make it more appealing is by adding shutters. Shutters give the illusion of making your windows look larger and disrupts an otherwise bland wall. Make sure to choose a colour that contrasts the exterior colour of your home to make them stand out.
Change those numbers
Changing your house numbers is another quick way to create maximum exterior appeal. Replace or add bronze or chrome house numbers to give your home a more sophisticated and updated look. Other creative ways to use house numbers include:
Paint your address on a large planter at the foot of your entrance or at the end of your home’s walkway.
Add house numbers to a post near your front porch or at the end of your driveway.
Place numbers on your front gate or fence.
Other quick changes
Other quick budget friendly changes that can make a huge difference to your home’s exterior include:
Upgrade or paint your mailbox. A new design or colour may add a whole new flair to the outside of your home.
Add a tree, new flowers or bushes. A few strategically placed planters with trees or flowers will add to the ambiance of your front porch or walkway.
Hanging baskets full of lively flowers will brighten-up your patio or front walkway.
These budget friendly exterior boosters are sure to attract a wide range of clients to your home. If you would like any more tips or advice on how to transform the exterior of your home and make it more appealing to prospective buyers, please contact me today. I look forward to being a part of your sales team.
When it comes to listing your home, the adage of ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ applies. A poorly listed home can make a huge difference in terms of dollars as well as the overall time that your property sits on the market. As the premier real estate agent for UBC homes, here is a guide to 3 do’s and don’ts when it comes to listing your home.
Do: Take a picture of your home from the curb
In the real estate game this is known as curb appeal. The importance of pictures and how you represent your home cannot be understated when it comes to attracting buyers. Make sure you get the whole house in the shot and do not let bushes, trees or cars block the line of sight.
The exterior of your home, your yard and the overall appearance of your property is equally important and needs to be represented in your listing.
Don’t: Take a crooked photo
This may seem like an obvious statement, but you would not believe the number of photos that are on listing sites where the house is crooked, and it looks like the home and street are on a downhill slope.
Make sure that when you take the picture, be mindful of your camera’s angle and that your home’s roof is parallel with the photo’s frame.
Do: Consider a bird’s eye view photo
A photo that is taken from the air is a great way to showcase a large property or a waterfront location. Make sure that your photo not only shows the house, but also the surrounding property or water. Both of these features are strong selling features and attractive to many buyers.
Don’t: Use a fisheye lens
Unfortunately fisheye lenses do the opposite of what many people think – fisheye lenses actually make space look smaller and distorted. Distorted images are a definite detractor when it comes to attracting buyers, so stick with traditional lenses to showcase your home and use design tricks to make small spaces appear larger.
Do: Stage each room before photographing it
When it comes to listing your home, you want to represent each room in as best of light as possible. Take the time to properly stage each room and make sure that the room is well lit and clean before photographing it. If you would like any tips on how to stage your home, I would love to assist you.
Don’t: Stage a mess or an unfinished room
When it comes to staging there are so many situations that you want to avoid. Some of the more common pitfalls include:
Staging a messy or cluttered room.
Photographing your pets in your listing photos.
Staging or photographing unfinished rooms.
Staging photos that are dark and make the room look smaller.
These are just a few of the staging mistakes that you want to avoid. Allow your real estate agent to be part of the listing photo process and think about how you want to represent your home.
This guide of listing do’s and don’ts should help you attract a larger list of potential buyers to your property. This should in turn equate to a faster sell for top dollar. If you would like more information on how to list your home on the hot Vancouver real estate market, please contact me today. I look forward to working with you soon.
Home buyers and sellers were less active in Metro Vancouver throughout the first quarter of 2018.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential home sales in the region totalled 2,517 in March 2018, a 29.7 per cent decrease from the 3,579 sales recorded in March 2017, and a 14 per cent increase compared to February 2018 when 2,207 homes sold.
Last month’s sales were 23 per cent below the 10-year March sales average.
There were 6,542 home sales on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver during the first quarter of 2018, a 13.1 per cent decrease from the 7,527 sales over the same period last year. This represents the region’s lowest first-quarter sales total since 2013.
“We saw less demand from buyers and fewer homes listed for sale in our region in the first quarter of the year,” Phil Moore, REBGV president said. “High prices, new tax announcements, rising interest rates, and stricter mortgage requirements are among the factors affecting home buyer and seller activity today.”
There were 4,450 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale in Metro Vancouver in March 2018. This represents a 6.6 per cent decrease compared to the 4,762 homes listed in March 2017 and a 5.4 per cent increase compared to February 2018 when 4,223 homes were listed.
There were 12,469 homes listed for sale in Metro Vancouver during the first quarter of 2018, a 0.8 per cent decrease from the 12,568 sales over the same period last year. This represents the region’s lowest first-quarter new listings total since 2013.
The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 8,380, a 10.5 per cent increase compared to March 2017 (7,586) and a 7.1 per cent increase compared to February 2018 (7,822).
“Even with lower demand, upward pressure on prices will continue as long as the supply of homes for sale remains low,” Moore said. “Last month was the quietest March for new home listings since 2009 and the total inventory, particularly in the condo and townhome segments, of homes for sale remains well below historical norms.”
For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for March 2018 is 30 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 14.2 per cent for detached homes, 39.9 per cent for townhomes, and 61.6 per cent for condominiums.
Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,084,000. This represents a 16.1 per cent increase over March 2017 and a 1.1 per cent increase compared to February 2018.
Sales of detached properties in March 2018 reached 722, a decrease of 37 per cent from the 1,150 detached sales recorded in March 2017. The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,608,500. This represents a 7.4 per cent increase from March 2017 and a 0.4 per cent increase compared to February 2018.
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,349 in March 2018, a decrease of 26.7 per cent compared to the 1,841 sales in March 2017. The benchmark price of an apartment property is $693,500. This represents a 26.2 per cent increase from March 2017 and a 1.6 per cent increase compared to February 2018.
Attached property sales in March 2018 totalled 446, a decrease of 24.1 per cent compared to the 588 sales in March 2017. The benchmark price of an attached unit is $835,300. This represents a 17.7 per cent increase from March 2017 and a two per cent increase compared to February 2018.
*Editor’s Note: Areas covered by the 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, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and South Delta.
The real estate industry is a key economic driver in British Columbia. In 2017, 35,993 homes changed ownership in the Board’s area, generating $2.4 billion in economic spin-off activity and an estimated 17,600 jobs. The total dollar value of residential sales transacted through the MLS® system in Greater Vancouver totalled $37 billion in 2017.
Theory or hands-on: how these engineering programs stack up
BY ADAM SCHACHNER - As a recent graduate in mechanical engineering from McGill, I feel I am qualified to offer some advice on how to choose a school. I did a lot of research on the four that accepted me, but I attended both McGill and Universite de Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique for the first week because I couldn't choose. I was more impressed with Polytechnique, but decided on McGill for several reasons, including its reputation. With the wisdom gained from five years of study, I would ask different questions, I would understand the answers better, and I would have chosen differently.
My main priorities would be flexibility (do they have a part-time option so you can work or take it at your own pace?), co-op experience (I prefer short, more frequent placements ), the state of equipment and access to labs (Do they have a working band saw? Are they available for personal use?) and a balance of theoretical and practical exploration. I've compiled a list of engineering schools to be considered. It's subjective, based on my own research. I consulted university websites, talked to students and lab technicians, and even interviewed a few deans. It is, however, incomplete. If anything excites or concerns you, dig deeper yourself.
Ecole de technologie superieure
The teaching structure is traditional, but the culture is practical, since the school focuses on turning technologists into engineers. Students without a technology certificate do an extra year, giving them a condensed technologist's training.
Professors have industry experience, and are more willing to trust students with technical assignments. ETS is known for its design teams, which win many competitions. Graduates are likely to be solid, classical engineers.
Co-op: Mandatory three four-month internships Notable programs: Construction, operations and logistics, automated production, information technologies
McGill is extremely theoretical and I feel the school is coasting on its reputation. There is decent access to professors, but the administration and academic advisers are not helpful. The equipment is ancient and difficult to access, and there is inadequate support and training.
Due to its theoretical nature, McGill is considered strong in preparing students for graduate studies, but grad students use the scientific method. So if your goal is advanced studies in engineering, consider doing a pure science or engineering science degree first.
Co-op: Only in mining and materials engineering Notable program: Agricultural engineering
Concordia University Concordia provides many resources for mature students and continuing education, so scheduling is pretty flexible.
Programs are traditional; students say it can be difficult to access equipment. There are more technical elective credits than McGill, but, otherwise, the programs seem similar. Space Concordia, a student club, builds and sends satellites into space on a two-year cycle. Co-op: Optional three four-month internships. Opportunities are limited, and students have to find placements if the school can't. Notable program: Building engineering
Universite de Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique Polytechnique is traditional and primarily theoretical, but is well-organized and equipped. It offers more tutorial time per course-an average of two hours, rather than one-with the idea that students should learn in school.
For those who want to continue in graduate studies, Polytechnique has an engineering physics program. It has a pure-science-like structure, covering broader topics and incorporating more intensive math derivations. Engineering physics offers an advantage over a pure-science program, because it is more difficult to be accredited as a professional engineer with a bachelor's degree. Co-op: Mandatory four-month internship Notable program: Aerospace engineering
Universlte de Sherbrooke The electrical and computer engineering programs at U de S have no classes. Instead, every two weeks, a problem-designed to teach required concepts-is posed to students, and the teacher acts as an adviser as they research the answer. The six or seven problems a semester may be physical projects or on paper. After two weeks, students present solutions.
Each semester, those concepts are integrated into a project, which also teaches project management, communications and team work. Personal projects are encouraged and lab space is extensive. Co-op: Optional five four-month internships
The integrated engineering program combines electrical, mechanical and materials engineering. There are three year-long project courses, rather than a single final-year project. UBC's second year of mechanical engineering is progressive. Students learn the principles in an integrated manner, with all second-year courses consolidated into
three theoretical and two practical courses taught sequentially. The school also offers engineering physics.
After a general first year, students are admitted to a specific program based on demand, their marks and a letter of intent. UBC supports its design teams with their own building. Labs are open for personal use. Co-op: Optional five four-month internships Notable program: Integrated engineering
Ontario Queen's University Queen's is famous for its student culture, with large study groups and a Facebook page for each program and year. It also boasts the highest graduation rates in Canada, because struggling first-years are placed in a special stream to help them succeed.
From first year, students work on projects for local clients. Equipment is extensive. Those who pass first year courses are accepted into the program of their choice. Students planning on grad school should consider engineering physics, engineering chemistry, or the mathematics and engineering program. Co-op: Optional, lasting 12 to 16 months Notable programs: Engineering chemistry, mathematics and engineering
University of Toronto The U of T focuses primarily on theory. A grad told me its strength is preparation for graduate studies. Unlike McGill, it offers an engineering science program that allows specialization in several areas, including physics. Students can apply directly to the program they want, or do a general first year before choosing their program. They can form teams and pitch ideas to the Hatchery, an undergrad start-up incubator. The U of T offers job finding services to alumni.
Co-op: 600 required hours; optional 12- to 16-month professional
University of Waterloo Although the curriculum is traditional, Waterloo encourages entrepreneurship through its start-up incubator, Velocity, and Watco, a commercialization program.
The school doesn't allow part-time studies, and there are six mid-terms in five days every semester. Students must graduate within five years and are not allowed to deviate much from their stream. They always know where they rank within their program, because the registrar emails it to them privately. And because of co-op requirements, there are no summer breaks. I'd have concerns about mental health.
Shorter work terms mean students adapt to new environments and are exposed to more experiences, making them more marketable. It also forces them to perfect job-finding skills. Labs are accessible for personal projects. Students are directly accepted into the program of their choice in second year. Co-op: Mandatory six four-month internships Notable programs: Management, nanotechnology, and systems design engineering
McMaster University Engineering programs are traditional, but a former student told me his team independently built a drivable hot tub and motorized shopping cart. McMaster supports these activities, in part through its Gerald Hatch Centre for Engineering Experiential Learning. McMaster offers five-year programs, combining engineering with arts or management, and provides job-finding services to grads.
Co-op: Optional minimum of 12 months of internships Specialty: The first two years of its bachelor of technology are completed at Mohawk College, while the final two years are done on campus. It's more hands-on, but graduates can't work as professional engineers.
Source: Maclean's 2016 College and University Programs Guide
Vermin, broken locks and unethical landlords are a few of the trials faced by students looking for affordable housing, but some schools are trying to make things better.
There are familiar sights in most student neighbourhoods. Typically, these areas close to campus are filled with old, ramshackle homes, overgrown yards, discarded furniture and perhaps a student or two unconscious on a front lawn. But near York University, the student hood looks instead like a typical, well-maintained upper-middle-class Toronto neighbourhood, ﬁlled with tightly wound streets and large, modern brick homes.
As far as off-campus housing goes, it seems, on the surface at least, like a student paradise. And yet, according to Maclean’s annual student survey, York’s students were the most critical of their off-campus rental options, with 12 per cent describing their rentals as poor and another two per cent describing them as awful. Allison Pirnat is one of the disenchanted. The third-year human resources student has a litany of complaints about housing options near York, but the simplest deﬁciency is the most jarring: she can’t lock her front door.
Welcome to student living.
Going away for school is an exciting time, but many students are not fully prepared for the substandard places they reluctantly call home. Mouldy and musty rooms, cramped spaces, faulty locks, poor ventilation, suspect wiring and stained and burn-marked carpets are among the common ﬁxtures of many student rentals. The problems don’t end there. Some will encounter quarrelsome and inattentive landlords who count on students not knowing their rights or being unwilling to ﬁght back. Rough rentals have always been part of university life, but schools and cities are now trying to make housing safer and more comfortable.
“Housing affordability for post-secondary students is an ongoing challenge, and most especially in larger cities with higher housing costs, like Toronto,” says Barbara Joy, the director of media relations for York.
Meanwhile, students not only put up with bad conditions, but return to these same rentals for the duration of their schooling. Experience tells them no matter how hard they look, they are unlikely to ﬁnd anything better—at least at a price they can afford.
An unkempt front yard—unusual for York Village—offers the only clue that the place Pirnat has called home for the past two years is a student rental. The front door opens to a small foyer, with two wooden doors on adjacent walls, each secured by a ﬂimsy bronze doorknob lock. The basement has three bedrooms, a bath and kitchen. There are six more bedrooms upstairs, including a pair carved from a dining and living room.
One of those bedrooms doesn’t even have an exterior window, according to Pirnat. Instead, the landlord installed sliding glass above the door frames in the hall to allow ambient light in.
Pirnat never even saw the house before she moved in. When she couldn’t get time off her summer job, she sent her mom to York to scope out places. The listing claimed the house predominantly targeted female renters and was exclusively for students, but she says it was mostly hosting men in their 30s and 40s. To the best of her knowledge, none were students.
As many as 10 people lived in the house last year, says Pirnat. Under Ontario provincial law, any home renting to more than four individuals is a rooming house. While rooming houses are legal in parts of the city, such areas do not exist near any of Toronto’s post-secondary institutions, according to Toronto Fire Services deputy chief Jim Jessop.
Between 2010 and 2016, eight ﬁres in illegal rooming houses claimed the lives of 10 people in Toronto. At least half of those ﬁres were in areas near York University and Humber College, says Jessop. Despite these deaths, Toronto Fire continues to ﬁnd dangerous rooming houses around colleges and university campuses. In the past 22 months, Toronto Fire has issued notices to the owners of 35 rooming houses near York and Humber. It’s a challenging situation, given the demand for student housing.
And they’re not going away. If anything, Toronto’s Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020 calls for an increase in multi-tenant homes, albeit ones that are properly licensed. There hasn’t been a ﬁre in a licensed rooming house since 2010, and with home and rental prices so high, rooming houses ﬁll an important gap in the marketplace, particularly for students, seniors, new immigrants and low- or moderate-income individuals.
More licensed multi-tenant homes won’t hurt, but Luisa Sotomayor, an assistant lecturer in environmental studies at York University, fears students will still fall through the cracks. Many of the existing rules and regulations designed to protect renters don’t really apply to students, explains Sotomayor, who is part of a team of researchers from four Toronto-area schools studying student housing. She points to rules that prevent landlords from raising rents by more than a set amount per year. Since students are more likely to sign an annual contract and move on, they don’t beneﬁt from these protections.
In the meantime, concerns remain over illegal rooming houses, many of which are safety hazards. The most common deﬁciencies are the absence of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and the required number of exits, says Jessop.
One of the worst offenders Jessop can recall wasn’t far from where Pirnat lives. “What stands out most in my mind is the sheer number of individuals who were living on the third ﬂoor and in the basement without a second exit,” he says. There were 17 students crammed into the house. “That candidly appalled me.”
No one knows how many student rooming houses there are in Toronto, but a recent report from Winnipeg by Councillor Janice Lukes suggested there were more than 150 around the University of Winnipeg. That’s a lot considering Winnipeg is a more affordable city than Toronto, and that the school is a fraction of the size of Toronto’s big schools.
Security is another major concern near any campus, and the neighbourhood around York is no exception. Almost a quarter of students living off campus expressed some level of concern about the safety of their neighbourhood. York Heights, an area that encompasses York University and the village, had 97 break and enters in 2016.
Figures like that make Pirnat’s inability to lock her front door with a deadbolt even more alarming. While it can be locked from the inside, keys don’t work in it anymore. Given that anyone who locks the door must be willing to go downstairs and unlock it, the entry never gets locked. The landlord has resisted changing it because it would mean printing nine new keys, Pirnat says.
As frustrated as Pirnat is with her rental, the place doesn’t seem all that bad to the casual observer. But many of the problems only reveal themselves after living there for a while, such as how the reconﬁguration of the house disrupts air circulation, resulting in wild temperature swings from space to space.
In the bathroom, the grout is spotted with mould. On-site laundry facilities that were promised never arrived. And she’s often asked to help new tenants move in—all for $550 a month.
Subpar off-campus student housing is not a problem unique to York. According to the Maclean’s annual student survey, more than 10 per cent of students who live off-campus describe their rentals as substandard or poor. Their most common complaints are with the state of repair, including everything from appliances to plumbing, and cleanliness, including issues with pests. And as Jeremy Biro at McMaster can attest, escaping the student hood doesn’t mean you’ll avoid these problems. The house Biro rents out with up to eight others is in a well-kept area on the opposite side of campus from where most student rentals are. It’s on a street lined with trimmed hedges and perfect gardens that runs straight to the main gates of campus. But being in a nicer part of town doesn’t mean a better house.
An old bar fridge, used mattresses and discarded furniture are strewn across the backyard. Inside, grease and dirt blacken a white oven in the kitchen and surrounding tile ﬂoor. It’s a mess, but not unlike what you’d expect from an unsanctioned fraternity house (McMaster doesn’t allow frats, so it’s not an ofﬁcially registered organization).
As messy as the property is, most of the problems are found in the basement. “It’s a short, kind of sketchy basement,” he says. Two of the three rooms below ground are tiny, and one of them gets mould on the walls every few years.
In a shared common area in the basement, occupants dodge wires that dangle at neck level. This is a particular concern for Biro given there is a ﬂood at least once a year due to overﬂowing toilets and outdated plumbing.
And because the frat manages the rentals, the landlord shirks his responsibility to clean between tenants, says Biro. He feels the landlord should be doing more, but adds that he isn’t sure what is required. “There is no way for us to know what our rights are and when we are being taken advantage of,” he says. “I believe some of the things that I don’t like are well within his rights, but I’m pretty sure a lot of them are not.”
Some students may not know if they are being taken advantage of, but Veronica Hendrick-Lockyer isn’t one of them.
For the past 14 years, Hendrick-Lockyer single-handedly raised four kids while living below the poverty line. Throughout that time, she dedicated herself to helping other at-risk mothers and children. But it was a three-bedroom rat-and-cockroach-infested apartment in Toronto’s east end that nearly drove her to give up on her dream of getting a degree.
Finding a place that was big enough to accommodate her, her four adult kids, a dog and a cat was an exhausting task. She had no credit rating, and without a signed lease, her son was unable to enrol in high school. She was desperate by the time she found a place. Needing to move in right away, she agreed to the landlord’s demands for three months’ rent and a security deposit even though she knew those payments were illegal.
Despite being more than an hour and a half by bus and subway from York, it was the best of the affordable options available to her. She looked closer to the school, but she describes the places she could afford as terrifying. “Around York is the scariest I’ve ever been in,” she says. “They were showing us places where people were still in them with garbage and ﬁlth all over the ﬂoors.”
Other students might have caved to the landlords, but Hendrick-Lockyer isn’t the type to back down. In the two years she’s lived in the apartment, she has endured intimidation from the landlord’s representative.
Power was illegally cut off one May when she was told she never paid her bill. In court, she was accused of damaging new carpet when no such work was done. When the landlord’s representative visits her unit, he seems more interested in her possessions than looking at the problems, she claims. And she came home to eviction notices plastered in the hallway of her building and on her door when she was slightly behind on her rent.
When Hendrick-Lockyer isn’t battling her landlord in court, she is at war with cockroaches and rats. She bleaches her kitchen countertops every morning and stores all her food, right down to her spices, in the fridge in an attempt to keep pests away.
It’s been hard on Hendrick-Lockyer’s family too. Her daughter, Sammantha, who is a recent graduate of a program run by Seneca College at York, says the family’s living arrangements kept her from enjoying university to its fullest. “I felt like I couldn’t connect with a lot of my peers because my problems are completely different from my peers’,” she says, although she’s not using poverty as an excuse. “If I’m not working toward something, I’m going to be living in poverty for the rest of my life.”
Now that her two daughters are ready to live on their own, Hendrick-Lockyer hopes to ﬁnd a spot in residence where she and her son can live with their dog, Junebug. She credits her program director and staff from the university for helping her get through some of the challenges she faced in her rental.
Universities wrestle with how to address off-campus housing, especially since it’s a matter they have little control over. Yet they recognize it has a signiﬁcant effect on the student experience. Pirnat, for one, doubts she would have gone to York had she known more about the lack of affordable and high-quality off-campus housing options.
To better understand this challenge, Ryerson, the University of Toronto, York and OCAD U have just launched a comprehensive two-year study into student housing in a project dubbed StudentDwellTO. This study follows up on the concerns identiﬁed in an earlier report on student travel behaviour. Among the ﬁndings of the transit report was that the amount of hardship students are willing to endure to stay close to class increases when campuses are more isolated. This is a particular challenge for York, given its situation in the north of Toronto (although the school hopes the subway extension that’s about to open will alleviate that concern).
York is one of several schools that offer support programs to help students learn their rights as tenants. Starting this fall, the university is also going into its residences to educate students about what they can do to protect themselves when they enter the off-campus housing market. It also goes door-to-door in student neighbourhoods to provide useful information and recently opened an 812-bedroom housing building, run by a third party, to give students more options.
Toronto Fire Services is getting more proactive too. Starting next spring, Toronto Fire will launch a pilot project at Humber College to teach students about the ﬁre code. “We are trying to arm the individuals and parents with the information they need as they leave residence,” says Jessop.
The question is whether students will take advantage of these programs. Despite their complaints, Pirnat and Biro both say they have no intention of moving.
Innovative inclusive offerings have student residence struggling to meet demand.
Concordia University feted its new student housing residents last year with a breakfast at midnight, games of bubble soccer, excursions to IKEA and an electronic music parade. Concordia’s residence life manager Lauren Farley is a serious believer in fun—especially since many of her new dorm-dwellers arrived on campus knowing nobody.
Ryerson University has taken inclusiveness to a new level by making disclosure of gender identity optional when it comes to housing assignments. Fifty per cent of last year’s applicants said they’re cool with all-gender housing. Applicants who feel more comfortable cohabiting with those who identify as the same gender have that option.
And the University of British Columbia is introducing self-contained micro-suites (with rent set just under $700 a month) in response to Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis. At 140 sq. feet, they’re tiny, but students say the price is right.
This is what on-campus housing looks like now, as residence managers strive to meet the needs of a new generation of students. But these innovations have one downside—Canadian universities do not have nearly enough room to satisfy growing demand. More and more students now seem to appreciate the beneﬁts of living and studying on campus.
In the past, students moved off campus after one or two years in residence. More of these upper-year students now want to stay, says Andrew Parr, UBC’s managing director of student housing. His waiting list topped 6,000 in 2017. Vancouver’s tight rental market is one factor, but not the only one, he says. Even ﬁrst-year students who could live at home with their parents in the Greater Vancouver Area often take advantage of UBC’s guarantee of residence for ﬁrst-years rather than commute.
“There’s evidence that suggests pretty clearly that living on campus enhances your academic experience,” Parr says. “It really opens up tons of opportunities that commuter students don’t have if they are spending two hours a day on a bus or in a car”—opportunities to interact more closely with faculty advisers and professors, to get more involved with student clubs, to participate in sports and to become more immersed, generally, in campus life. Or to research at the library until midnight without worrying about how to get home and back for that 8 a.m. class.
A recent joint research study by the University of Toronto, OCAD University, York University and Ryerson found that long daily commutes for students “were leading to lower campus engagement and, in some cases, limiting students’ class choices” at their universities.
A follow-up study commissioned by the presidents of the four universities will explore the options for creating more affordable housing on, or close to, campus.
Concordia assigns its 900 beds on a mostly first-come, first-served basis. “Applications open in March, we ﬁll up quickly, and we have a pretty long waiting list,” says Farley, who returned to Concordia to pursue graduate studies and serve as resident life manager after a stint as manager of crew activities for Disney Cruise Line.
Those who aren’t assigned a bed can turn to a year-round, student-run service that posts apartment rental ads and alerts students to any prior complaints that have might have been lodged against certain landlords in the area. Unlike Toronto and Vancouver, Montreal has a good supply of affordable housing close to its universities.
Still, the on-campus residence experience is far more enriching for students, says Farley, who endeavours to make orientation week as welcoming and fun as possible before students begin serious studies in September. Residence advisers—upper-year students who live on every dorm ﬂoor—are available 24/7 to support students with any academic or other concerns that might arise. But they are also there to help foster a sense of community for the new residents.
And while no one was compelled to play bubble soccer (perhaps running around with your upper body encased in a giant inﬂatable ball isn’t everyone’s idea of fun), new residents were strongly encouraged to explore the wealth of opportunities available through student-run clubs. (At Concordia, there are clubs for chefs, entrepreneurs, game developers and those interested in artiﬁcial intelligence, along with a moot court club, a debating society and a chess club. There’s something for snowboarders and skateboarders, actors and playwrights, dragon boaters, hip-hop artists, cyclists and students who want to volunteer for worthy causes in the broader Montreal community.)
In Toronto, York and U of T have enough housing to guarantee residence beds to all ﬁrst-year students who apply on time and make a deposit, regardless of where they live (students should check individual university websites for exact deadlines and costs, because they vary). But Ryerson can only offer space to out-of-towners, and there was a wait-list of 900-plus at the beginning of last summer. “It’s never been that high,” says Ian Crookshank, Ryerson’s director of housing and residence life.
Under the university’s new all-gender housing policy, applicants for housing no longer have to declare they ﬁt into any one category—male, female, transgender male, transgender female or non-binary—unless they choose to do so.
“This is the ﬁrst year we have removed gender as a function of how we assign rooms,” Crookshank says.
“If it matters, you tell us it matters and we will accommodate that. If a student would like us to use gender identity to assign them a space in a single-gendered environment, they would have to indicate that, and they would have to indicate what their gender identity is,” he says.
The fact that 50 per cent of students applying for housing this year selected the all-gender option “was eye-opening,” according to Crookshank. “What we heard from students is it’s great, it’s inclusive . . . and it’s not really a big deal,” he explains. “But it is a really big step from a residence [management] perspective.”
Well-intentioned efforts to be inclusive in the past had the unintended effect of emphasizing the gender-identity differences of young students who just wanted to go to school, be themselves and learn.
“We used to force students to check a box . . . and, in many cases, the housing ofﬁce would then phone and say, ‘We are just trying to get a sense of what you would like. You have identiﬁed as a trans student, so we need to know what type of person you would like to live with,’ ” Crookshank says.
This often meant that students who had identiﬁed as transgendered or non-binary would then be relegated to a separate residence ﬂoor designated as “gender inclusive space,” rather than be included in the general mix of students.
The majority of residence rooms at Ryerson—95 per cent—are designed for single occupancy, but more than half of those occupants share bathrooms with two or more others. They wait their turns to use the shower and toilet stalls, which have privacy locks. So, in practical terms, an all-gender bathroom interaction might involve brushing one’s teeth alongside someone with a different gender identity, Crookshank says.
When UBC’s micro-units—referred to as nano suites—come on stream in 2019, residents will be able to shower, ﬂoss and brush in the privacy of their own very small bathrooms.
Parr says 70 of these suites will be included in a new 651-bed residence being built on campus. They have double beds that fold up into the wall when not in use, desks that fold down, a small private bathroom, closet and kitchenette area.
More than 20,000 students toured a prototype that was set up in the Student Union Building in 2016, Parr says, and 83 per cent of students surveyed indicated they would live in a nano suite for the quoted cost of just under $700 a month. That’s considerably less than the more than $1,000 a month rent for a standard self-contained studio apartment on campus.
Graduating high school students should research the housing options before they commit to a speciﬁc university, residence advisers say. Is there a ﬁrst-year residence guarantee? If not, does the university or student union provide guidance on off-campus options? Most do.
Even if ﬁrst-year residence is guaranteed, what happens in second year? At Queen’s University in Kingston, for instance, most students move out of residence after their freshman year—either by choice or because their rooms are needed by the incoming ﬁrst-year class.
Political studies student Erin Moore lived in a shared residence room during her ﬁrst year at Queen’s, but moved into a four-bedroom townhouse off campus in second year with three friends. “I think for ﬁrst year, residence is great. It’s a lot of fun.”
But it can be noisy, making it difﬁcult to concentrate “and it’s nice not having to line up with 10 other girls for the shower.”
The townhouse, part of a development built speciﬁcally for the student market and managed by Kingston-based Varsity Properties, has a shared common living room and kitchen, private bedrooms, a rooftop patio with a gas barbeque and bi-weekly housekeeping service.
Moore’s share of the rent works out to $750 a month plus utilities, which she says compared favourably with the $1,730 monthly cost of a double residence room and mandatory meal plan at Queen’s. “Residence was really expensive. I much prefer to buy my own food. All the local grocery stores have student discounts and I love to cook,” Moore says.
However, quality housing close to campus is in high demand. “It’s very competitive,” says Moore, whose townhouse is a 10-minute walk from campus. “I would deﬁnitely advise students planning to move off campus to start looking as early as possible. I know a lot of people start looking as early as October in their ﬁrst year [for properties to move into the following year].”
Similarly, students who want to live on campus beyond ﬁrst year should also apply early—applications are accepted on a ﬁrst-come, ﬁrst-served basis. “For many people, continuing in residence does work. If you’re an athlete or you have a crazy schedule and you don’t have time to cook, it makes a lot of sense,” Moore says.
At UBC, sociology major Paige Lougheed recalls feeling lost and nervous when she ﬁrst set foot in residence ﬁve years ago. She grew to love it, never left, and now guides the new crop of students in her role as residence coordinator.
Among her roles is helping ﬁrst-year students overcome the shock of their ﬁrst set of marks, which is common for those accustomed to being at the top of their high school class. “It’s a different method of grading and evaluation than what a lot of students who come to UBC are used to.” A dip in marks is not unusual, Lougheed says, “but some of them really struggle with that.”
Peer tutors—typically senior students who excel in their ﬁelds of study—visit the residences on a weekly basis to conduct group tutoring sessions in ﬁrst-year math, chemistry, biology, physics, political science and economics. Residents can also book free one-on-one sessions by appointment.
There are professors in residence available to offer advice on course selection, or simply hang out for a discussion after a ﬁlm night. “They are there to kind of break down the barrier between faculty and students . . . because sometimes students aren’t comfortable going to ofﬁce hours for professors,” Lougheed says.
At Concordia, Farley and her team of residence advisers keep the fun factor going with regular social events throughout the year. They help new students make the connections to join intramural sports teams or direct them to one of the executive chef’s demonstrations at the self-cooking stations in the dining hall. Students can borrow the equipment and ingredients to make anything they want. Broccoli stir-fry? Not so much. “They seem to like making smoothies,” Farley says.
The residence advisers also serve as sounding boards as their younger peers learn to navigate the challenges of university. If they see a need, the RAs will conduct information sessions on study tips, how to budget, how to party responsibly and safe sex.
“That peer-to-peer support is really crucial. If they feel that they have someone to talk to who is not going to judge them, their success is higher in terms of their academic success but also their personal success.
“Res is not just for parents to feel their kid is in a safe place, but for them [the students] to start university and start it off right because it is a lot for them to take on,” Farley says.
Since opening its doors 50 years ago in Burnaby, Simon Fraser University has spread to the downtown core of Vancouver, as well as the fast-growing suburb of Surrey. All three campuses have developed strong ties with their local communities.
One example is UniverCity, a model sustainable community that SFU is developing on Burnaby Mountain. The main campus is known for its Arthur Erickson-designed buildings, which have since fallen into disrepair, though the chemistry wing was recently renovated. Still, the mountain views are stunning. A three-semester system provides flexibility and the university has extensive co-op offerings. SFU also runs a grants program that parallels the governmentfunded Undergraduate Student Research Awards in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. The university, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, does well in international rankings. "SFU has become internationally recognized for the quality of its educational programs and research, and we're committed to building on these strengths as we continue to engage the world," says president Andrew Petter.
Standout Programs • Interactive Arts and Technology: Students work in cross-disciplinary teams to study the use of computational media, good design principles and technology in everyday life. • Bachelor of Environment: This young program combines earth sciences and social studies to give students an interdisciplinary understanding of environmental problems and how to fix them. • Archaeology: SFU is home to one of North America's leading archaeology programs. Students analyze real artifacts in a state-of-the-art lab and on field projects in B. C. and around the world.
Cool Courses • Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Innovation: This business course is open to students from all disciplines. It focuses on generating ideas that meet a real need, then bringing them to fruition as part of an interdisciplinary team. • Major Crime and Forensic Analysis for Law
Enforcement: Students learn to use the same technology and techniques found in real forensic labs to analyze criminal cases from scientific and legal perspectives. • Science of Brewing: This course explores the plant biology, chemistry, fermentation technology, microbiology and marketing involved in making beer. Classes are held in a distilling plant.
Housing market update for Metro Vancouver with REBGV President Jill Oudil
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in the region totaled 2,207 in February 2018, a nine percent decrease from the 2,424 sales recorded in February 2017, and a 21.4 percent increase compared to January 2018 when 1,818 homes sold.
Last month’s sales were 14.4 per cent below the 10-year February sales average. By property type, detached sales were down 39.4 percent over the same period, attached sales were down 6.8 percent, and apartment sales were 5.5 percent above the 10-year February average.
“Rising interest rates and stricter mortgage requirements have reduced home buyers’ purchasing power, particularly for those at the entry level of our market,” Jill Oudil, REBGV president said.
“Even still, the supply of apartment and townhome properties for sale today is unable to meet demand. On the other hand, our detached home market is beginning to enter buyers’ market territory.”
There were 4,223 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Metro Vancouver in February 2018. This represents a 15.2 percent increase compared to the 3,666 homes listed in February 2017 and an 11.2 percent increase compared to January 2018 when 3,796 homes were listed.
Vancouver Magazine's annual ranking of the The 10 Best Neighbourhoods in Vancouver provides a valuble resource for first time home Buyers looking to buy a home in Vancouver. For many first time home Buyers in Vancouver, purchasing a condo or apartment is the only viable options for them. To assist First Time Home Buyers in their search for condos, this pages also provide list of condos for sale in each of the neighbourhood.
The ranking used many criterias including: Lots of good restaurants and cafés, Great for biking, walking or transit, Plenty of green space, Low crime, Long-term residents, A mix of owners and renters, Affordable, Ethnically diverse, Educated and civically engaged neighbours.
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Hit up Score for out-of-control Caesars; the seawall for dodging rollerbladers and taking in the ocean views; Maple Leaf Bakery for giant apple fritters.
Locals Say: “You’ll never feel unwelcome or out of place here. It’s a cute residential neighbourhood in the middle of downtown, next to a beach so beautiful they called it ‘Sunset.’ Eat it, every other neighbourhood.” —Caitlin Howden, 35, director at Blind Tiger Comedy and member of the Sunday Service
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Japanese-Italian fusion at the always-busy Kissa Tanto; the best barbecue buns at New Town; east- side-cool workouts at Tight Club.
Locals Say: “One side of my family originally settled here when they arrived in Canada. The other side owned one of the first Chinese restaurants in Vancouver; if it were still standing, it would be only a few blocks from my apartment.”—Geoff Louie, 29, accountant
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Grab chi-chi drinks at West, then fulfill your reno fantasies at the dozen home decor shops that line the SoGra strip.
Locals Say: “It’s my favourite area to stroll on a sunny day. It’s full of beautiful pre-war apartment buildings, and there are always neighbourhood dogs to say hello to. Plus, the wild mushroom gnudi at Fiore on 12th are delicious little pillows from heaven.”—Sally White, 31, creative director at Owl Crate Jr.
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Coffee at Elysian before a workout at Gymbox—gotta be fit to climb that Oak Street hill.
Locals Say: “The Laurel Street land bridge starts on the corner of West 7th Avenue and crosses over 6th Avenue. I love that you don’t really know when you’re on it—it’s a really beautiful example of landscape integration.”—Marianne Amodio, 46, architect
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Shop-hop Robson’s swanky brand-name stores and get lost in the Holt Renfrew Beauty Hall; peruse the food truck options outside the Vancouver Art Gallery as carefully as the art inside.
Locals Say: “The food court at International Village is surprisingly wonderful, especially Bali Thai and Canra Sri Lankan, and you can buy literally everything you need at Yokoyaya. But I would recommend never going to Jam Cafe because there is no brunch in the world worth that lineup.”—Michelle Cyca, 30, writer
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Work your way through the 50 beers on the menu at the Alibi Room; stock up on fashion basics at Frank and Oak.
Locals Say: “I live and work in Gastown, so I basically never leave. In the afternoon, I like to head over to Crab Park with friends for a barbecue and soak up the sun; it’s not uncommon to see something unexpected, from an interpretive dance performance to a brass band on parade.”—Kristyn Stilling, 37, film producer
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Early morning SoulCycle sweat sessions; scones at Small Victory; vodka tonics at the Distillery Bar and Kitchen.
Locals Say: “Being a first-time mom actually means I can only do one or two things out of the house a day, but spreading doggie play dates at Coopers’ Park and Hurricane Grill patio brunches throughout the week makes it a great place to live.”—Deirdré Fang, 30, standardized-patient trainer
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Cycle the seawall to earn that hot chocolate from Mink.
Locals Say: “It’s the best location for North Shore mountain views and seaplane watching, with easy access to the West End, downtown, Stanley Park and the North Shore.”—Maureen Leyland, 62, retired lawyer
Neighbourhood Dream Day: The Settlement Building is home to Postmark Brewing and excellent brunch spot Belgard Kitchen; find modern Québecois cuisine at the buzzy St. Lawrence and handcrafted furniture from Hinterland Design.
Locals Say: “Railtown still feels very quiet and removed from the city, even if it’s just blocks away. Once people come here, they often stay.” —Kate Horsman, nutritionist at Rebel Health
Neighbourhood Dream Day: Snag a spot on Darby’s second-floor patio—with views for miles—on a sunny day; the beach and Arbutus Greenway offer a little nature escape from the city.
Locals Say: “Walk down to 4th for breakfast pizza at Nook, hop on the bikes, cruise the Greenway, end up down at the Kits dog beach—it’s all the perks of a regular beach, plus cute dogs.”—Colin Sharp, 28, copywriter
Now that the winter rains have finally stopped and the days are getting longer, it is time to address all of those chores and cleaning that you have been putting off. That’s right, its spring cleaning time. As the premier real estate agent for UBC homes, here are some great ways to get your home spotless this spring.
The kitchen is usually the room that takes the most abuse, so why not start here? When you are thoroughly cleaning your kitchen, make sure to deep clean the appliances, cupboards and counters.
When you are cleaning the inside of your refrigerator, don’t forget to:
Clean your refrigerator's condenser coils which are found behind the bottom grill. Use a long handled brush and your vacuum cleaner to remove all dust and build up. A clean condenser coil will ensure a longer life for your refrigerator and prevent it from overheating.
Use a combination of salt and soda water to clean the inside of your refrigerator. This potent combination makes the perfect abrasive cleaner to thoroughly clean your refrigerator’s surface.
All stainless steel surfaces need to be cleaned with a specific cleaner to make those surfaces shine and sparkle. Try using a waxed based aerosol to buff those surfaces. Continue to use this cleaner at least once or twice a week to keep your stainless steel looking like new.
Regardless of whether your countertops are granite, quartz or marble, they are porous. That means that any simple spill such juice or soy sauce can stain them. To prevent this, use a countertop sealer that will repel stains and cause liquids to bead rather than to be absorbed. Use a sealer twice a year to keep your counters stain free and looking like new.
Here’s the deal:
Countertops with lots of swirls or veins in them tend to be more porous and need to be treated more often.
Once you are finished with the kitchen, the next spring cleaning job to tackle should be your bathrooms. Make sure to pay particular attention to often overlooked areas such as tiles and glass shower doors.
For shower tiles or wall tiles, use a neutral pH cleaner or use baking soda and water. This will neutralize all mold and bacteria that thrives in humid and moist environments.
To keep your glass shower door streak and scum free, use a rain repellent product that is made for car windshields. When this product is applied it creates an invisible barrier that will not allow water, debris, or soap suds to stick.
If you have any lime or calcium build up around taps, lay paper towels over the fixture and soak them with vinegar. Allow them to set for an hour. This will allow the deposits to soften and then you can easily remove them with a brush.
Floors, Walls and Baseboards
Regardless of the season, your floors take a lot of abuse. Take the time to apply a sealer or a wax finisher. The most effective finisher is a combination of wash and wax cleaner. Make sure that the floor cleaner protects and cleans. If you have real wood floors, you will need to apply a polish as well as a new wax coating.
Once you have cleaned your floors, take the time to spot clean all of your walls and baseboards to keep them looking pristine. Use a mild detergent or just water and a sponge for this job. Make sure that the water as well as the sponge is clean, so that you are not transferring dirt onto your walls and baseboards.
These spring cleaning tips will add to the ambiance and overall presentation of your home. A thorough spring cleaning is also a great way to prepare your home for the real estate market if you are thinking about putting it on the spring real estate market. If this is the case, please contact me today and see how I can help.
British Columbia Speculation Tax Information Sheet
In Budget 2018, the BC government announced that it would be introducing legislation to impose an annual speculation tax. The tax will be effective for the 2018 tax year.
The majority of BC homeowners will be exempt from this tax.
The speculation tax will target foreign and domestic speculators in BC. These are homeowners who have removed their units from BC’s long-term housing stock – meaning they are not owner-occupied or a qualifying long-term rental property.
Satellite families - households with high worldwide income that pay little income tax in BC - will also be captured by the tax.
The speculation tax will initially apply to the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Capital and Nanaimo Regional Districts, and in the municipalities of Kelowna and West Kelowna.
In 2018, the tax rate will be $5 per $1,000 of assessed value. In 2019, the rate will increase to $20 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The majority of BC homeowners will be exempt from this tax.
Exemptions will be available for:
Principal residences (excluding satellite families)
Qualifying long-term rental properties
Certain special cases
Income Tax Credit
A non-refundable income tax credit will help offset the tax for BC residents. This will leave the bulk of the tax levied on vacant and short-term rental properties owned by individuals who do not live in BC, as well as satellite families.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When is the new speculation tax effective? A. The speculation tax will be effective for the 2018 tax year. Homeowners will receive their first tax notice in the fall of 2018.
Q. Who is going to pay the tax? A. The speculation tax will target foreign and domestic speculators in BC. These are homeowners who have removed their units from BC’s long-term housing stock – meaning they are not owner-occupied or a qualifying long-term rental property.
A corresponding income tax credit will help offset the tax for BC residents. This will leave the bulk of the tax levied on vacant and short-term rental properties owned by individuals who do not live in BC, as well as satellite families.
Q. What is the definition of a qualifying long-term rental property?
A. These details, as well as information on how to apply for an exemption/income tax credit, will be provided in the coming months, prior to the implementation of the tax.
Q. Will satellite families have to pay the tax? A. Yes, satellite families will be required to pay the tax. We will be collecting information from home owners to identify families with high worldwide income. These families will not be eligible for the up-front principal residence exemption. To the extent that they pay tax in BC, they will still be eligible to claim the income tax credit.
Q. I live outside the province and own a residential property within the area the tax applies to. Will I have to pay the tax? A. If the property is not a qualifying long-term rental, you will be required to pay the tax.
Q. What about British Columbians with two homes? A resident who lives in Vancouver and owns a vacation property in Kelowna? A. A non-refundable income tax credit will help offset the tax for BC residents. This will leave the bulk of the tax levied on vacant and short-term rental properties owned by individuals who do not live in BC, as well as satellite families.
Q. I think I have a property that might be subject to the tax. How can I avoid the tax? A. Principle residences and homes rented out long-term will be exempt from the tax. A non-refundable income tax credit will help offset the tax for BC residents. This will leave the bulk of the tax levied on vacant and short-term rental properties owned by individuals who do not live in BC, as well as satellite families.
Q. How will the tax be administered? How can I apply for an exemption/income tax credit? A. The speculation tax will be administered by the Province, outside of the normal property tax system and property tax cycle.
The Province will issue notices by mail that will direct residential property owners to a BC Government website that will contain an electronic tax form (paper and phone options will also be available). The notices will contain information on the various exemptions.
One of the goals in designing the tax and its administration will be minimizing the compliance burden for the vast majority of homeowners who will be claiming an up-front exemption and reducing the number of notices that need to be sent in future years.
Q. I have read the FAQs but need further details to know if I have to pay the tax? Where can I get more information? A. These details, as well as information on how to apply for an exemption/income tax credit, will be provided in the coming months, prior to the implementation of the tax.