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Extend foreign buyer home tax to capital region, two Victoria councillors urge

Bill Cleverley
The Province

VICTORIA — Two Victoria councillors want the 15 per cent provincial property transfer tax on foreign buyers applied in the capital region, and say local municipalities should be given the authority to impose a tax on vacant properties.

Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday hope their council colleagues will support asking the Capital Regional District board to throw its weight behind the changes. Revenue from the foreign buyer tax — a measure introduced in Metro Vancouver last summer —should be used to invest in affordable housing, they say.

“We’re definitely hearing from the public that there’s substantial concern around escalating prices for residential real estate and also real concern about affordable home ownership being out of reach for more and more families,” Isitt said.

“When you look at the escalating price of land, it has an impact both on renters as well as on people hoping to be homeowners.”

Loveday said there are a number of Victoria properties that have “lots of vacant units in them.

The two are are not proposing immediate implementation of a tax on vacant properties, but rather the authority to levy such a tax if warranted by the data, Loveday said.

Isitt said they want Victoria city council to forward the issue to the CRD because it would be good policy to apply such taxes regionally.

If the resolution makes it to the CRD table, there’s no guarantee it would pass.

The Victoria Real Estate Board says predictions that foreign buyers would flock to Victoria after the tax was imposed in Vancouver have not materialized.

According to the board’s latest numbers, the percentage of property transfers involving foreign buyers in Victoria went from 3.9 per cent in June-August, before the tax was implemented in Metro Vancouver, to 4.6 per cent in November.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said he would want to see “an up-to-date analysis” on what impact the tax has had on the Vancouver market before making a decision.

“Now that there is a track record of approximately six months, the first step is to see how it has affected prices and impacted the Vancouver market generally,” Jensen said.

Langford Mayor Stew Young said there’s no way he would support a foreign buyer tax, and urged caution about imposing a tax on vacant properties.

Young said he views the tax on foreign buyers “a modern-day head tax” contrary to his belief in the free market.

“I just fundamentally don’t agree with it,” Young said. “I think for people who own a house, government should stay away from that. We’re already over-taxed.”

Esquimalt Mayor and Capital Regional District chair Barb Desjardins is also opposed to the idea.

“I have been watching what’s been going on in Vancouver, and I think it has had significant effects that I don’t think they really understood fully would be encountered,” Desjardins said.

“I tend to support [the idea] that the market will correct itself —and we’re already seeing that. So I would hesitate in implementing a policy that really kind of got brought in on the fly.”

© Copyright Times Colonist

Call for housing affordability task force

Steve Randall
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

The government in Ontario should establish a housing affordability task force to tackle the increasing barriers for first-time buyers, the province’s real estate body says.

“We are facing a critical housing supply shortage that is putting home ownership out of reach for Ontario’s first-time buyers and young families,” said Valerie Miles, Ontario Real Estate Association Government Relations Committee Chair. “In some markets, housing inventory is at all-time lows and prices are at record highs. Increasing the housing stock is necessary to give buyers more options at affordable levels. We need industry leaders to come together on this issue before the supply problem gets any worse.”

The association has made several recommendations to the government including cutting red tape surrounding building permits and zoning.

OREA CEO Tim Hudak says the benefits to boosting affordability of housing is far-reaching.

“Every home transaction generates $55,000 in economic spin-offs which creates jobs and supports local business, while home ownership offers endless social benefits for families and communities. If the goal of the pre-budget consultation is to build up Ontario’s future, then finding ways to make home ownership affordable is a great place to start.”

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd

Manage your risk by carefully scrutinizing depreciation reports

Focus on future costs as well

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our situation is something every first-time homebuyer should be aware of. 

We purchased into an older four-floor wood-frame apartment building in Richmond in September 2016. At the time, we were aware of a new roof being planned from the contingency fund, but nothing else was disclosed in the minutes of the strata meetings or as an immediate issue in the depreciation report. 

What we didn’t realize at the time is that the depreciation report was written by a volunteer and did not include an assessment of all the building components. We purchased the unit because it had three bedrooms and was affordable in our budget. However, buyer beware. 

Older affordable homes are not necessarily a bargain, as we discovered. We are now facing a $37,000 special levy for major exterior repairs, and that is just the beginning.

Brad and Margaret M.

Dear Brad and Margaret:

Buying a new home, whether a condo or detached house, is often charged with nothing but enticement and it’s exciting the day we sign the papers for our first home. 

Because we are so intent on purchasing a first home, we are unwilling to look at the disadvantages that may discourage our purchase. As buyers, we are often willing to accept information as reliable on face value without closely scrutinizing the source, reliability of the ters and whether the information is relevant or dated. 

The strata corporation provided you with a depreciation report attached to your Form B information certificate. It was the obligation of the strata corporation to ensure the report met the requirements of the Strata Property Act and Regulations. If the strata failed to provide you with a reliable report, you may have a valid claim against the strata corporation for the undisclosed liabilities (the additional repairs it was hiding). As a result, you may want to file a claim through the Civil Resolution Tribunal for damages against the strata corporation for the undisclosed projected repairs.

There are three conditions in depreciation reports I always double check. Who was the writer and their qualification? Is the writer insured for the purpose of providing a depreciation report? And lastly, I check a summary of the common property/assets and their projected renewal dates. 

I am surprised at how frequently the summary of common assets omits critical items, like an elevator or pipe replacement. Even if the strata is planning for a new elevator, there is no authority to remove it from the report as it only exposes the owners in the strata corporation to a possible claim from a buyer.  

The B.C. Home Partnership Interest Free loan program launched this week is a great opportunity for new homebuyers to get into the market and build equity into their future, but buyers still have to manage their risks. Newer buildings will generally have predictable fees for the first one to 10 years of operations, but as building components age, maintenance and renewal cycles will increase. 

No investment is 100 per cent secure. Before you buy, try to set a date and value to the next major repair the property will experience and whether you can pay the levy. If the plan is for a new roof in 2018 and the cost is $200,000, how will the strata pay the cost?  Are there enough reserves to cover the new roof or will it be special levies? If there are special levies, do you know what your share will be? Apply this test to all know future costs and then make your decision. 

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Zetter Place 8520 204th Street Langley 82 townhomes by Lanstone Homes

Zetter Place merges country living with an ?urban esthetic?

Mary Frances Hill
The Province

Zetter Place

Where: 8520 204th Street, Langley

What: 82 townhomes at Yorkson Creek, Langley

Residence sizes and prices: 1,232 — 1,978 square feet from $419,900 for A plan (two-bed-plus-den); from $489,900 for C plan (three-bed with side-by-side garage); from $599,900 for B plan (four-bed)

Developer and builder: Lanstone Homes

Sales centre: 8520 204th Street, Langley

Hours: noon — 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs

For Lisa Hansen, working on a small scale can make a big difference in creativity and design.
Hansen, an interior designer with Area3 Design, says she relishes working with boutique designers like Lanstone Homes, the developer behind Langley’s new Zetter Place community. Spared from the lumbering bureaucracies that can plague much larger companies, designers who consult with boutique developers often find that their creative ideas are heard, respected and embraced.

“We love working with boutique–style developers for various reasons,” says Hansen, who led the interior work for Zetter Place’s two display townhomes.
“They are often more open to creative ideas brought forward and the chain of command is smaller. The communication is easier throughout the project.”
That ease of communication certainly helped Hansen and her team bring their esthetic and creativity to the fore at the Zetter Place display homes.

One of the first ideas Hansen entertained for the spaces focused on the background of the buyers. Many come from Vancouver, where they may be priced out of the market, and although they’re attracted to the bucolic beauty around Langley’s Yorkson Creek, they still prefer to live within what Hansen calls the “urban esthetic” as far as finishes and interior décor are concerned.  So she says combining modern design with the homes’ relatively rural surroundings was a must. At Zetter Place, Area3 Design proves that country living doesn’t have to dictate a traditional or rustic interior.

The bright white kitchen, for instance, is contemporary design defined: a model of clean crisp angles that sets the tone for the rest of the space.

“I think for years the assumption was that if you lived in the suburbs then you only liked traditional,” says Hansen.

“With the cost of real estate, a lot of people are choosing to move away from the city for monetary reasons, but we believe they still like the urban esthetic as long as it provides a welcoming and warm ambience.”

Hansen is partial to black as an accent shade, and she uses it throughout the display homes. In one townhome, she sets off the light wood and white walls with black seating in the kitchen, dining and living rooms and with a coffee table and bold artwork. One bathroom boasts two black walls in contrast to a bright white vanity. She predicts that black’s versatility will continue to inspire professionals and homeowners for some time to come.
“This colour is fun to play with as it can be very masculine, fashionable, edgy, traditional, or modern, and it all depends on how you use it.

“A homeowner can play with this shade by adding some flatware to the dining table, picture frames or accents in their space.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc

Overheated markets fertile ground for fraud

Ephraim Vecina

In its latest study, Equifax Inc. revealed that the incidence of mortgage fraud in Canada has risen along with the runaway prices in the country’s hottest real estate markets.
The credit reporting agency stated that the number of potentially dishonest mortgage applications has grown by 52 per cent over the past 4 years. Many of these flagged applications have originated from Ontario and British Columbia, both of which play host to Canada’s most expensive housing markets.
“It could be investing in the market as a way to cleanse money. It could be: ‘I really want that home and I’m getting into a bidding war and even though I make $60,000, I’m going to say that I make $90, 000,’” Equifax vice-president of customer insight Tara Zecevic stated in the report, as quoted by The Globe and Mail.
Canada’s long-running affordability crisis is largely responsible for kick-starting the trend, she added.
“I definitely think there is this fear of a continuous rise in the cost of homes, that home ownership is starting to become out of reach.”
Banks provided around 90 per cent of the red flags. Most of the deception involved identity theft and money laundering. Many would-be buyers have also been found providing falsified or tampered tax returns, bank statements, and employment documents to qualify for mortgages larger than they are actually entitled to, Zecevic explained.
In a related online survey, Equifax found that 8 per cent of Canadians actually falsified information on their own credit applications. Meanwhile, 13 per cent believed it was okay to tell “little white lies” on their mortgage applications, while 16 per cent considered mortgage fraud a “victimless crime”.
“What ends up happening is consumers think: ‘I’m not really doing anybody any harm,’” Zecevic said.

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd

Price growth showing no signs of halting anytime soon – report

Ephraim Vecina
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

According to a report from one of the country’s leading brokerages, Canadian residential real estate markets saw a 13.0 per cent year-over-year increase (up to $558,153) in Q4 2016—the greatest such appreciation in over a decade.

Royal LePage announced in its latest National House Price Composite that the average sale price of two-storey homes nationwide grew by 14.3 per cent over the same timeframe, up to $661,730. Meanwhile, the average price of condominiums rose by 7.4 per cent, up to $356,307.

In the same report, the brokerage predicted that aggregate home prices across the country will increase by 2.8 per cent in 2017 when compared to the levels at the end of 2016.

The Greater Toronto Area saw a 16.1 per cent year-over-year increase in Q4 2016. Royal LePage president / CEO Phil Soper warned that this pace of growth will not end any time soon.

“[There] is no relief in sight for the GTA – forward momentum and supporting fundamentals in the region are that strong. And it is worth noting, Toronto area home prices are much lower than those on the west coast.”

However, the Vancouver market should brace itself for a possible home price correction this year.

“Eroding affordability in B.C.’s Lower Mainland has reached unsustainable ground. This, coupled with recently introduced public policy measures and lower sales volumes, has put visible downward pressure on home prices,” Soper said.

“While the cost of a home in Greater Vancouver will remain the highest in the country, a modest price reset will provide much needed relief in the Lower Mainland and help reignite overall buyer activity in the region.”

However, gradual upward trends in Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and Alberta home prices will help greatly in offsetting the sharp performance disparities between regions, Soper assured.

“In 2017, we anticipate a movement away from the regional extremes of real estate feast and famine – and that is a very good thing.”

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd