Paul Liberatore

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“Self-regulation is very much a privilege,” Christy Clark said at a press conference in Vancouver this morning (June 29). “The real-estate sector has had 10 years to get it right on self-regulation, and they haven’t. And so we are going to end the right of the real-estate sector to self-regulate.”

In B.C., home and property sales are policed by the Real Estate Council of B.C. (RECBC), an organization composed of the same real-estate agents that it is supposed to regulate.


Clark said the RECBC is losing that authority. Instead, the government is creating a role for a “dedicated superintendent of real estate”.

“Someone who will not be distracted by other duties, who will have the authority to do what is necessary to increase public confidence in the real-estate sector,” Clark explained. “That will include transferring all authority from regulation for penalties and rule making away from the real-estate council and put it directly in the hands of the superintendent.”

The government’s superintendent will have the power to take commissions away from agents found to have committed malpractice.

In addition, Clark said fines for real-estate agents who break the rules would “dramatically increase”, up to as much as $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for brokerages.

The government announced it will also streamline a complaints process for the industry and establish a phone line where members of the public can file grievances.

Finally, B.C. real-estate agents will no longer be allowed to represent both a buyer and a seller in home and property transactions.

The province’s announcement was made in response to a June 28 report on B.C.’s real-estate sector that details a wide range of abuses and misconduct within the industry.

The independent panel found that some agents were failing to represent the best interests of their clients, not complying with provincial and federal tax laws and anti-money-laundering regulations, and engaging in contract assignments for personal gain (commonly known as shadow flipping).

That document includes 28 recommendations for reforms.

“Alleged misconduct, combined with the perception that the Real Estate Council is unable or unwilling to take strong action to address it, has resulted in a loss of public trust,” it reads.”

B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong spoke alongside the premier this morning.

“At a time when home prices have been rising at an unprecedented rate, it is fundamentally important that when people seek professional guidance in the purchase or sale of a home that they can have confidence that their realtor is acting ethically and in their best interest,” he said.

According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), over the past three years the benchmark price for all residential properties in the region it describes as Greater Vancouver increased by 48.3 percent. As of May 2016, the benchmark price for a single-family detached home on the city’s East side was $1.46 million. On the West side, the benchmark price was $3.44 million.

Shortly before the government’s press conference, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and Point Grey MLA David Eby held an event of their own.

Horgan spoke of a need to address the role of foreign investment in Vancouver real estate, a subject that was not discussed at the premier’s press conference.

“We’ve already done the first step with our private-members bill on taxing speculation,” he explained. “Making it less appealing to speculative investors to come to the Lower Mainland, to just drop down their money as if it was a safety-deposit box, not a place for people to put down roots, establish themselves, raise their families, and participate in the economy.”

Horgan also called for the province to work with federal regulators to curb money laundering in the real-estate sector.

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I don't save lives, teach people, heal people or develop infrastructure to improve the city. I am not a doctor, nurse, teacher, or city worker. Those are professions I hold in high regard, people I respect a lot.  The heaviest thing I lift for work is an iPad, and my greatest work-related injury has been a paper cut. 22,000 other people in BC have the same license that I have and it's very easy to get, and apparently, very easy to keep. I am not special, I don't do anything really great.


Now that we've got that out of the way: I work very, very hard. This is an 'open letter' to whoever needs to kill ten minutes out of their day. What spurred this was a recent Twitter debate between myself and a writer at Postmedia that that basically slagged realtors. As a realtor, we have thick skins. You need one, or you wont last long in this business. The thick skin is necessary to survive the barrage of comments, jokes, and articles about the industry. “Glorified car salesmen,” “scum,” and “snakes” are some of the nicer terms realtors are often referred to as. I'm going to start with what my day looks like on a Monday...


6:30am: A text message comes in from a client. He works in construction, is up early, and needs me to send his bank a strata document that they've requested. Text sent.


7:00 am: I look up the new listings in my area because I know people are going to ask me, "Hey, what's the asking price of that house on Frances Street?" It is a realtor's job to be in the know and research hot listings.


8:00 am: As I brew a cup of coffee, two notaries email me. One is asking for a phone number for a mutual client, the other one can't figure out why the numbers weren't adding up on her statement of adjustments. I go through my files and discover she is missing an addendum. I send it to her.


9:00 am: I arrive in Maple Ridge (I live in Burnaby) to let a home inspector in to inspect a townhouse. I bring my aforementioned iPad  (1.6 pounds) so that I can do work while the inspector does his thing. He takes two hours, in that two-hour span, I read strata documents for a buyer I have interested in a building in Langley, so I read 232 pages of strata documents from the last two years to make sure their pit bull dogs are allowed, that there aren't any upcoming assessments, confirm the listing agent screwed up on the square footage, as it is actually smaller than he advertised, etc. etc. etc.


11:00 am: The inspector is done and we do the walk thru but the deal falls apart because the plumbing in the unit was PolyButylene. I have to explain to my buyers exactly what that means; the pros, the cons, the good, the bad, and the ugly.


11:30 am: I hit a Wendy's drive-thru as I have to make it from Langley to Port Moody to show my condo listing to a realtor and their buyer. I eat my lunch in the car, on the drive back in... This is not unusual for me.


12:00 pm: realtor and buyer show up, are in and out in two minutes and say "Oh, we thought rentals were allowed here." They are not. I kindly tell them that the MLS listing I wrote clearly states no rentals are allowed... They smile and look at me like I am alien....There is a language barrier, I move on.


12:30 pm: I swing by a home to take a look for a potential new listing. I have done my homework, know the area, know the building, know the sales. The guy has his dad there with him. He's a younger Italian guy, a nice guy. His dad on the other hand is also nice, and knows everything - and if you think I am kidding, just ask him and he will tell you. I let him know that the unit upstairs recently sold for $345,000 and the dad says, "Ma, no way. Are you a crazy? This unit has the crown moldings I put them in a myself, this a one is worth $20,000 more!"


I quickly do the math in my head: $1.35 per linear foot x 150 linear feet = two hundred bucks. "Um sir, the moldings look great - I really like how many joins there are, you don't see that often, were you going for an 'unfinished' look?”


He replies, "This apartamento, she's the besht one in the building. We no gonna sell for less than $365,000. You are the Real estate, make it happen." I told him I would go back to the office, look for a magic wand, and get back to him. I leave.


1:30 pm: I am back in the office to price out a condo in East Vancouver. It is a referral from a friend. I spend 30 minutes creating this report with comparable sales, photos, pricing etc. and send it off. Chances of me getting that listing? I would say 20%. Many people want second and third opinions on what their home is worth, so I find one out of every five evaluations I do turn in to a listing. Ah well, on to the next....


2:00 pm: I meet buyers I have been working with for months at Starbucks at Brentwood Mall (my go-to spot). I order a tall London Fog and wait for them to show up. We write an offer. I have pre-read the strata documents and we chat about the building and what's happening with it. After writing the offer, they tell me that their mortgage broker told them their dad needs to be on title for them to get financing. The dad is not there, but "he's available anytime” (offers need to be in by 4pm) and “he's close by” (Blundell Road in Richmond) and surprise surprise, “he doesn't know how to use technology to digitally sign.”....Off to Richmond I go.


4:00 pm:Got the offer all signed up by all three parties, get to my home office, scan it, send it to the listing agent, and cross our fingers.


5:00 pm: I sit down to eat dinner with the girlfriend, and my wrist (Apple Watch) is going off like fireworks. I try to avoid checking the messages, but peek when she looks down to take another bite. She's going on about how she needs to bring groceries to her grandmother, do the laundry, and maybe get a manicure... Meanwhile a realtor is calling me off the hook trying to get in to one of my listings and the alarms going off. I am trying to listen to my girlfriend and quickly type back alarm code when my girlfriend says, "You're not even listening to me....I snap back, "YES I AM! You need to take your grandmother to get a manicure and put the groceries in the dryer!"....She's not amused.


6:00 pm: I head to my indoor soccer game at 8 Rinks. The listing agent for the offer we wrote tells me to "be by my phone between 6-7" when we are discussing offers in case "your offer is close, and we need to make changes." So it's on the field I go, run around for three minutes, come off and check my phone, rinse and repeat for a half hour when he calls, and I have to excuse myself from the game to take the call. Game over for me, good luck boys.


7:30 pm: I receive a text from said realtor, "Sorry (he wasn't) we decided to go with a stronger (more money) offer." I call my buyers... Some tears are shed (I won't say if it was by them or me) when I give them the bad news. They are now 0/6 on offers.


8-9:00 pm: I print out all of the expired listings I need to call tomorrow to see if I can get an appointment with them to prove that I can sell their recently-expired listing that another agent couldn't sell. I then create mail out cards on my computer so that I can send them to the printer the next day.


9:30 pm: I get in to bed and watch Orange Is The New Black with the girlfriend until my phone rings at 10:45pm. It's a realtor asking me if they can see one of my listings tomorrow at 10:00am. Yes, 11 hour notice... I shake my head.


That's my day on Monday. Tuesday to Friday looks similar. I made 0 dollars, and 0 cents.


A colleague of mine has worked with the same buyer for six months-ish, and they have gone 0/12 on making offers. In this market, that's not an abnormality. That's approximately:

3,000 pages of strata documents to read

120 homes viewed

24 weekends booked off

8 tanks of gas

3 pre-offer inspections

80 hours of work

10 disappointing phone calls

and 0 dollars made.


The buyer got frustrated and decided to just rent. That's it, all done... Just rent... Thanks for the memories. 


I am not a victim. This is the profession I chose, and to be honest, it's a job I love. My phone rings from 6:00am to 11:00pm, I can't go away on weekends, I eat lunch in my car and I drive 40,000 km per year. I receive 50 emails per day, 200 texts and 30 phone calls. I miss family dinners, soccer games, am late to birthdays, and haven't had a weekend off since the last changing of the pope.


My friend calls me and says, “It's 35 degrees, lets go to the beach!”

Me: “Nah, I would rather put on suit in this heat, set up metal signs all over the city and drive around to five cities in four hours showing apartments....I'm good thanks, but you guys have fun!” and most days I do not get paid. In fact, the average realtor completed 3.8 deals in 2015. That means the average real estate agent got paid less than four times last year, yet the above is what their days look like.


Some will argue, “Well you just have to turn your phone off!” Hold it right there - do not pass go, do not collect $200, and go turn your Real Estate license in. realtors that aren't accessible will be looking for a new job soon enough.


Remember, there are 21,999 other agents in BC who will be happy to answer their phones and take that client's business. Most people do not realize that almost 50% of realtors that get licensed will hang up their license within one year... Yep, you heard me correct: 12 months, in and out, see ya.


For an industry where the media says all realtors are making tons of money, it's weird that 50 percent of people that try this line of work out say “F#$% this, I'm outta here!” within one year. Perhaps it's not all rainbows and unicorns? But that would make for a boring story in the media.


When we get paid, we get paid well. you can make 5k-6k for selling a condo in the Tri-Cities. What some people forget is that we pay our offices every month or give them a sizeable percentage of our commissions (the percentage depends on brokerage). Then we pay the Real Estate Board, the Real Estate Council, gas, mail outs, signs, advertising in print and online, insurance, website, closing gifts, pay for strata documents, pay for cleaners sometimes, pay for stagers etc. etc. etc. Oh, and of course, the client wants a "kick-back" or else there are 21,999 other agents that would give him one that he could have used. That's a lot of money going out when you are selling 3.8 places a year.


This writer I mentioned earlier blamed us realtors for not "doing anything" about the the terrible agents that have been in the news lately. What I don't understand is, does this guy think realtors LIKE hearing about this stuff in the news? I refuse to work at a company like that, and lets face it....most of these unethical realtors are with companies that are not reputable, that have not been around a long time. My office doesn't even allow our agents to purchase their own closed. It's that easy. Every realtor that I know, my colleagues, are all embarrassed and outraged with the rest of the public about this stuff. White-out on contracts, managers telling agents to convince clients to take low offers, shadow flipping, all of it - good realtors HATE it.


I wish there were less realtors, I really do. I have received phone calls from agents saying they have stumbled across my blog posts and have asked me to take them down because it 'makes realtors look bad'. I respectfully disagreed. I have no problem sharing stories about the industry with everyone, I know my colleagues/realtor friends and I do enough to separate us from those other agents. This is why when a realtor friend of mine (regardless of what company they work for) completes a deal, I am legitimately happy for them. I know how hard they work, and THOSE are the agents that should be getting the listings.


I can tell you the difference between torch-on roof vs asphalt shingles, copper plumbing vs pex, the value of the home around the corner, the difference between a healthy strata building versus one that's financially unhealthy, current mortgage rates, and pretty much anything real estate-related. I get paid to market properly, to negotiate, and to write legally enforceable contracts that will hold up in court. I get paid to be accessible and show properties.


I care about my clients as friends, literally all of them. When their offer doesn't get accepted, it takes me days to shake it. I care about my job, my profession and the integrity of it. Every industry has bad apples, if only 1% of realtors in BC are bad, it means that's over 200 bad agents lurking around. It's not hard to get weekly stories from these 200 agents, but it's a small small fraction. I am friends with so many realtors that work tirelessly, and are top class agents. Are there not 1% of bad plumbers? 1% of bad accountants? The top 1% in this business make great money, and the bottom 1% are bad apples, but the rest of us in the 98% in between work tirelessly for our clients. We put their time ahead of ours.


Should it be harder to get a Real Estate License? YES

Should it be harder to keep a Real Estate License? YES

Are there shady realtors? YES

Should the Council come down hard on them? ABSOLUTELY


We aren't all like that. Some of us care about our clients. Some of us are passionate about what we do, passionate enough to spend an hour to write an open letter and blog about it.





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We have sold a property at 309 3240 ST JOHNS ST in Port Moody.
Central location in Port Moody! Newer 2 bdrm, 2 full bath corner open layout condo! West facing balcony/sundeck. S/S appliances, microwave, hood fan, front loading washer/dryer insuite, gas fireplace. 2" blinds, custom colour paint. Bonus - 2 parking stalls! Recreation - gym, media room w/large screen TV & pool table. Walk to everything! Hurry, won't last!
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A dog hunt is underway in Surrey as police and animal control search for a pit bull that viciously attacked a woman Monday morning.

At about 10:20 a.m., Surrey RCMP received a report from emergency health services that a woman had been seriously injured in an apparent dog attack in the 9100-block 120th Street, in the Whalley or City Centre neighbourhood.


Police say it appears that a 65-year-old woman was walking by a convenience store in the area when she was attacked by an off-leash grey and white pit bull. The attack was unprovoked. The victim was taken to hospital to be treated for her injuries — including multiple fractures and cuts — to her forearm.

A 65-year-old woman was walking by a convenience store ( Mac's) in the 9100-block 120th Street ( Surrey) ,when she was attacked by an off-leash grey and white pit bull.
A 65-year-old woman was walking by a convenience store ( Mac's) in the 9100-block 120th Street ( Surrey) ,when she was attacked by an off-leash grey and white pit bull.

Police were canvassing the area and speaking to potential witnesses Monday afternoon, and working with the city’s animal-control office to find the dog and owner. Cops are also looking to speak with a man who fled with the dog after the attack. He's described as Caucasian, in his late 30s to early 40s, with a heavier build, wearing a black tank top, black sweat pants and a black baseball hat.

“We don’t have confirmation that that is the owner,” said Surrey RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Alanna Dunlop. “We’re hoping someone might know something about them.” Anyone with more information is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or

It was the latest in a series of incidents involving pit bulls in Surrey. On the afternoon of June 10, four women were hurt when they tried to break up a fight between their three pit bulls, and the dogs turned on them. Emergency crews were called to a home at 113th Avenue and Loughren Drive in north Surrey, where they found the women suffering from injuries to their arms. The dogs were taken into custody by animal-control officers.

There was another incident April 8 involving a cockapoo that was mauled by a large, grey dog — according to reports, the cockapoo’s owner believed it was a pit bull — that jumped out of a vehicle near the intersection of 134th Street and 80th Avenue.

Four days earlier, a nine-year-old girl was taken to hospital after being bitten on her abdomen by a pit bull outside of her family's home in Surrey. The dog belonged to the family's landlord.

The attack in Surrey comes just days after Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said that the city’s animal control bylaws will be rewritten in the fall to ban pit bulls. Under the amended bylaws no new pit bull dogs will not be permitted in the city. Existing dogs will be required to be sterilized and when they are in public they will have to be muzzled.

On June 8, a 55-year-old woman was found mauled to death by her neighbour’s pit bull and on June 14 a woman was attacked by her friend’s pit bull and suffered leg injuries.


Ontario banned the breeding and importation of pit bulls in 2005. 

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VANCOUVER - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is concerned about the ballooning cost of housing in Vancouver but must ensure that any action it takes doesn't harm markets elsewhere in the country.

Speaking before a housing roundtable attended by local members of Parliament, developers and experts on Friday, Trudeau said the federal government has to be "very, very thoughtful" about approaching the affordability challenge in a way that allows Vancouver to continue to flourish.

"There's no question that concerted, thoughtful effort is going to be needed to address the situation but we have to be very wary of unintended consequences."

He said he has been speaking with British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and local mayors about solutions, and asked for suggestions about where he should be "nudging" provincial and municipal governments to take direct action.

Trudeau did not comment after the closed-door roundtable, but Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray said the meeting is a strong signal that the prime minister is seizing the issue.

"He committed to taking action when we figure out what makes sense from all we heard, but he also was very clear about the urgency of the situation."

She said Trudeau heard from 25 people with a range of perspectives, including those who represent homeless and low-income people, developers with ideas on increasing supply and others who believe tax policy must be overhauled.

Tom Davidoff, director of the University of British Columbia's Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, said the free market wants to build denser housing in Vancouver, but zoning policies too often limit land use to single-family homes, which are unaffordable for most Canadians.

"It's an outrageous abuse of power that provides a giant subsidy to rich guys who don't make a living here," he said referring to foreign buyers. "The problem is that local homeowners love the status quo and politicians are terrified of them."

The federal government could pressure mayors by tying transit funding to density, or by forbidding cities from having such restrictive zoning, Davidoff suggested.

He said many in the meeting expressed concern that Canada has become a destination for wealthy foreigners to launder money through real estate. Providing bargain-basement taxes for rich people who don't live in the country is "nuts," he added.

"I think the prime minister heard that loud and clear," he said. "I really do expect federal action both on taxes and on land use."

Andy Yan, acting director of Simon Fraser University's City Program, said he hopes Trudeau got the message that housing prices have risen while incomes have stayed flat in Vancouver.

"One of the most powerful things he did was begin to listen. I think that's one of the first steps, to actually understand the problem before coming up with solutions," Yan said.

Speaking earlier Friday on CBC Radio, Trudeau said overseas money is playing a role in fuelling superheated markets such as Vancouver, where the average price of a single-family detached home is $1.5 million.

Trudeau said officials are examining Australia's decision to tax homes owned by foreigners, but warns federal measures to curb offshore ownership in Vancouver or Toronto could harm other regions of the country where overseas investment can be beneficial.

"How do we make sure we are helping people (in Vancouver) in exactly the right and targeted way?" Trudeau said. "That is where the kind of collaboration we haven't had for 10 years between the federal government and different orders of government is so important to work on together."

Most Vancouver homeowners know the inflated housing market must be stabilized because the current trajectory "doesn't have any good outcomes," he said.

But any action must not completely devalue people whose retirements and equity are tied to their homes, the prime minister said.

Trudeau also toured a new Microsoft development centre in downtown Vancouver with Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Friday.

Robertson said afterwards that the province must take the lead on addressing real estate issues. But he said the federal government can take action, including creating incentives to build more rental housing, social housing and co-ops.

Robertson said any measures to deal with the housing affordability crisis could take years to have an effect, but that Vancouver needs decisions soon.

"We're seeing, certainly, a response from the federal government to the urgency," he said. "I'm hopeful, given the attention they're paying to us now, that we're going to see some movement."

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We have sold a property at 404 2351 KELLY AVE in Port Coquitlam.
La Via Condominium complex is a collection of 34 uniquely designed homes offering 9 foot ceilings, Quartz counter tops, soft close cabinets, deep kitchen sinks, engineered laminate floors, one parking and locker. Strategically located on the center of Poco if offers convenience and accessibility to all amenities and transportation. No restrictions and pets are welcome. This unit has two bedroom and two baths and it comes fully furnished and with the latest technology. Nothing to do but move in. First showing Saturday June 11 from 10 am to 11: 30 am
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LinkedIn just got one heck of a professional endorsement.

The networking site for white-collar workers will be acquired by technology titan Microsoft for $26.2 billion in an all-cash deal, the companies said Monday.

LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner will continue at the helm of the company but will report to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, according to a joint statement. LinkedIn will keep its "distinct brand, culture and independence," the companies said.

Over the past year, LinkedIn has been striving -- and struggling -- to grow beyond its roots as a resume-on-the-web service and become more of a daily hub for professionals, much as Facebook has become more than simply a site for sharing family photos. Steps in that direction include last year's $1.5 billion acquisition of online training site and a thorough upgrade of its mobile app.

The 13-year-old service has 433 million users worldwide. It's free to use, but charges for features such as advanced search and the ability to send messages to strangers.


After the LinkedIn acquisition closes, Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant will know your entire work history and could try to hook you up, professionally speaking.


"This relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn's network, now gives us a chance to...change the way the world works," Weiner said in a statement.

The acquisition of Mountain View, California-based LinkedIn would be Microsoft's biggest ever, exceeding the $8.5 billion it paid for video-calling company Skype in 2011. For Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, the LinkedIn deal furthers its plan to become an essential provider to businesses of cloud-based services, including its Office 365.

"This combination will make it possible for new experiences such as a LinkedIn newsfeed that serves up articles based on the project you are working on and Office suggesting an expert to connect with via LinkedIn to help with a task you're trying to complete," Nadella said in an email to employees.

That is, it's a matchup between Microsoft's "corporate graph" and LinkedIn's "professional graph," he said in a conference call for investors Monday, referring to people's and companies' interconnected relationships.

"When you connect these two graphs, that's when the magic starts to happen," Nadella said.

That magic will depend on LinkedIn's "ability to transform its mapping of the 'professional graph' into a referral network, where new business is generated, and where advertisers have targeted access that cannot be achieved on other platforms," said David Friedman, president of Wealth-X, a wealth intelligence firm.

Microsoft, though, doesn't have a great track record with blockbuster acquisitions. It spent two years, for instance, trying to dig itself out from under its $7 billion takeover of Nokia's phone business.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn had good reason to put itself up for sale after the "drama" of the past year and a half, according to analysts.

LinkedIn's struggles include a "difficult sales reorg, an expensive acquisition, very disappointing annual guidance, the slow start for Sales Navigator, [and] the start-stop-start of its ad network," Evan Wilson and Tyler Parker of Pacific Crest Securities said Monday in a note to investors.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner (left) will now report to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (center). At right is LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.


What does Microsoft get out of the deal? Information about you and your professional contacts. "We think LinkedIn's data set is one of four unique data sets on the web: Google (intent), Facebook (demographics), Amazon (purchase history) and LinkedIn (B2B)," Wilson and Tyler said.

Analysts at Stifel Nicolaus said Monday that the only other "natural acquirer" of LinkedIn would be Google, which would find LinkedIn's assets "highly complementary" to its own cloud-based productivity tools and digital advertising business.

The boards of both LinkedIn and Microsoft have endorsed the deal, which values LinkedIn at $196 per share. That's up well from Friday's closing price of $131.08. It's also a huge jump from the 12-month low of about $101 in early February, when shares plummeted nearly 44 percent in a single day after LinkedIn warned of a dramatic slowdown in annual sales. The company also said it was discontinuing Lead Accelerator, an online advertising product it launched just last year.

"We are the same company we were a day before our earnings announcement," Weiner told employees during an all-hands meeting in February, following the plunge. "The question isn't whether or not companies are going to experience this kind of issue. The question is how companies navigate through it."

That navigation apparently included looking for safe shelter. It was at about that time the two companies began discussions "in earnest," Nadella said during a conference call Monday with investors.

Microsoft's shares fell 2.6 percent to $50.16 on Monday.

The deal is expected to close by year's end.


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Have we finally found the answer to the Vancouver housing crisis? Are micro units, small condos and bachelor suites the way of the future; able to douse our city's precariously overheated housing market in a cool shower of affordable, convenient rental units?

It seems the question is still up for debate here in the, albeit beautiful, third least affordable housing market on the globe.

When it comes to micro units, there is much to talk about -- starting with how the heck to get your hands on a mortgage for one. In this case, unfortunately, it seems lenders really do subscribe to the notion that bigger is better. We're talking literally here, too.

Some time ago the city of Vancouver pushed through a bylaw prohibiting sale of any ultra-small or micro rental unit that measures less than 320 square feet total.

The city may grant exceptions at the planning stage that would allow the developer to build smaller units. But with the affordability crisis in the Vancouver housing market coming to a head these last few years, there are those who argue that the impact of this bylaw has effectively been to push out anyone who may be able to enter the market with a smaller property, and therefore a smaller financial investment as well.With Vancouver's one per cent vacancy rate, and density becoming a major issue, something's got to give.


Financing a small unit will present more challenges and some lenders will only lend if the mortgage is insured. Other options would include monoline lenders, B lenders and even private lenders.

Interestingly, micro units tend to secure more rent per square foot, which could add fuel to the unaffordable housing cost crisis; at least, that's what the powers that be say. Due to the number of built-in necessities these tiny units demand (bath, shower, microwave, desk and so forth), developers must pay a pretty penny to outfit suites with everything a person needs. But an article in the Globe and Mail last year asked a poignant question: "Is it fair to expect people to live in less than 300 square feet and pay top dollar for it?"

It went on to say that developers like the idea of purchasing micro suites for obvious reasons: as unit size decreases and towers rise higher, their returns balloon. But even for those who don't like the idea of micro units have to admit: with Vancouver's one per cent vacancy rate, and density becoming a major issue, something's got to give.

Another shocker in B.C. is the birthrate -- the lowest in the entire country. A fact that many have blamed on the exorbitant cost of living. Upwards of 58 per cent of households don't have children in them.

There are, however, a lot of people who don't think that means living in a 300-square-foot space is the answer -- and Tsur Somerville might be one of them. The associate professor at UBC's Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate told CBC news that public spaces become "a bigger part of your life" if you're in such a small space. With such little room to breathe, the city becomes an extension of your living space. But isn't that true for all of us?

Even UBC is jumping on the proverbial micro unit bandwagon. Last summer the University, located at least 45 minutes from downtown by transit, had a staggering 6,300 students on a waiting list for campus housing.

Andrew Parr, UBC's managing director of student housing and hospitality services, opened a dialogue up with student leaders about the problem of housing affordability. By the end of these talks, 61 micro units 140 square feet in size, were scheduled to be built by 2019. These units will rent for between $670 and $690 a month, instead of the average $1,000; not a nominal gap by any standards (especially a student's wallet).

Despite the challenges posed by these tiny spaces, it would seem they're here to stay, in which case we need to focus on the positives. As pointed out by Sandra Rinomato, living in a micro unit can afford you a fantastic location as all these units are being built in dense urban areas with low rental availability and sky-high rents.

That means you get to live in some of the most exciting urban areas without paying the less-than-exciting monthly rents that come with them. They also force you to think about what truly matters in terms of material things. With space saving furniture to maximize space, trips to the nearest home design centre are unnecessary and collectibles infringe on living space. This minimalist way of life is being embraced by millennials in particular, who value experiences, environment and their community over amassing material wealth and assets.

Even with everything you need, it's not hard to see how these units could feel confining with time. So if a micro unit is on your radar, finding helpful methods to downsize and embrace the experience is paramount to your well-being.

And if that doesn't work, there's always the coffee shop downstairs

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Smyth: Premier Clark has 'new plan' to keep Metro Vancouver homes affordable
Premier Christy Clark has been slammed for doing little about spiralling Metro Vancouver real estate prices that have put the dream of home ownership beyond the reach of non-millionaires.

But with prices up more than 40 per cent in the last year, Clark says she now has a new plan to deal with the situation.

“We're going to see prices go up and our government needs to take action,” Clark told a $500-a-plate Liberal party fundraiser this week.

She said the government has already imposed a new tax on homes over $3 million, eliminated the property-transfer tax on new homes under $750,000 and is building 2,000 new affordable-housing units.

More measures are coming, she said.

“In the coming weeks, you will see our plan to do everything that we can … to make sure the dream of home ownership remains in the reach of those in the middle class, especially in the Lower Mainland.”

This is a new tone from a government that has resisted intervention in the overheated market.

NDP housing critic David Eby is dubious.

“I don't know what's gotten into the premier's mind, other than the latest poll shows she's taking a kicking on this issue and if she wants to get
re-elected she better start pretending that she cares about it,” Eby told me Wednesday.

Why “pretending”? Because the government's moves so far have been “laughable,” the NDP critic said, including those 2,000 new affordable-housing units.

“That's over five years and that's for people with serious mental-health and addiction issues,” Eby said. “That's nothing to do with middle-class housing.”

He also thinks the governing Liberals are too beholden to the whims and wishes of big real estate companies and property tycoons who have donated more than $12 million to Liberal party coffers as they reap record profits.

“I have a hard time imagining she will do anything to distress this industry,” Eby said.

Clark said her plan will require co-operation with municipal governments. That likely means it will involve new measures and incentives for municipalities to fast-track approvals of new home construction.

That will not satisfy critics demanding an anti-speculation tax or controls on foreign property buyers. Anything less risks economic damage to the region because highly skilled workers won't move here, Eby argued.

“These talented folks can go anywhere and they choose to go to a place where they can actually afford to live with their family. Vancouver is increasingly not one of those places,” Eby said. “We have an economy that's really at a fork in the road — between an economy based on clean-tech and high-tech jobs in Metro Vancouver and one that's basically a resort community for the super-rich.”

This one is shaping up as a key election issue. Clark's next move will be interesting.

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Kemp Edmonds and his wife were both born and raised in Vancouver.

But they won’t be raising their own child in Vancouver – or in Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam or Surrey.

“We started to look for a home in Kelowna and, to our amazement, a house by the lake cost virtually the same as a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo in East Vancouver,” Edmonds, 34, told Business in Vancouver. “So we made the change.”

Real estate statistics show there is a growing trend of Vancouver residents moving to Kelowna, a city of just under 200,000 five hours east of Vancouver. 

In January 2016, buyers from the Lower Mainland overtook purchasers from Alberta, reversing a previous trend for out-of-region homebuyers, said Corie Griffiths, manager of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission. Buyers from the Lower Mainland now represent between 11% and 15% of purchasers, while the proportion of Albertan buyers has dropped to 6% to 7% from the previous range of 15% to 18%. 

Two primary markets are driving the increase, Griffiths said: older families whose children are often still in school who have reaped the windfall of rapid real estate gains in Vancouver, and younger professionals who are moving to Kelowna for a combination of work, cheaper housing and lifestyle reasons.

Between January and April 2016, residential prices in the Central Okanagan jumped 18%, compared with a slight price decline between January 2015 and January 2016, according to the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board. The increase echoes the 30% rise in Vancouver home prices between April 2015 and April 2016.

Coming to Vancouver, but leaving too

Young people are still coming to Vancouver: a recent study from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver found that the population of 20- to 34-year-olds increased 18% between 2005 and 2015, while a comparison by the Conference Board of Canada showed Vancouver has the highest proportion of 24- to 35-year-olds compared with Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. 

But school enrolment numbers for Vancouver continue to decline, compared with steady increases for Metro Vancouver suburbs like Surrey and Langley and satellite communities such as Squamish. In both Victoria and Kelowna, the number of students enrolled in kindergarten through high school dipped between 2012 and 2013, but began to recover starting in 2014.

Edmonds’ journey from Vancouver to Kelowna started when he accepted his “dream job” as a marketing director with FreshGrade, a tech startup based in Kelowna. His original plan was to fly back and forth between Vancouver and Kelowna. With a baby on the way, he and his wife were looking for a three-bedroom condo or townhouse in Vancouver, but they quickly hit their price ceiling. 

“You start to reach up to $700,000, $800,000,” Edmonds said, adding that he’d long ago ruled out living in the suburbs because of the extra commuting time. “I presented this option that we could move to Kelowna.” 

Robyn Setter describes herself as a “small-town kid” who grew up in Kamloops but moved to Vancouver in her early 20s. The human resources co-ordinator for Bardel Entertainment, an animation company with offices in Vancouver and Kelowna, jumped at the chance to relocate to the Okanagan and get back to a slower pace of life.

Housing costs are much lower – the 28-year-old lives with her boyfriend and their dog in a two-bedroom garden suite she describes as “cheaper than Vancouver and more than twice the space,” including access to a yard. Part of her job now involves helping other employees relocate, and six people have joined the Kelowna office since Setter moved there in February.

Seeking more workers

But even as some make the move, technology and animation companies are still urgently seeking workers to relocate to the Okanagan.

Bardel first decided to open a studio in Kelowna in response to B.C. government tax credits targeted to the region, said Richard Grieve, vice-president of finance. The company has been able to staff the Kelowna office with junior animators who have been trained at local colleges, but it’s been slower going to persuade senior staff to relocate. 

Among Vancouver-based animation companies, competition for workers has become fierce; in Kelowna, Bardel is competing with far fewer companies for staff. The company has also had some success in recruiting senior talent from overseas to come to Kelowna.

Because of that dynamic, Bardel doesn’t plan to expand any further in Vancouver, but wants to expand its current Kelowna workforce to 120 from 50, Grieve said. The company plans to collaborate more with post-secondary animation programs in Kelowna and is considering opening its own school there.

It’s a similar story for Edmonds’ new employer: "FreshGrade is seeking senior mobile talent!" he wrote in an email

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 Brace for more housing shortages, warns Vancouver real estate guru Bob Rennie


For more than a dozen years, Bob Rennie, Vancouver’s real estate guru, has annually taken the temperature of the city’s housing market and offered a numbers-numbing report to the Urban Development Institute.

This year he’s calling quits to his annual UDI updates, but not before he delivered a bare-all speech Thursday as Vancouver continues to wither under white hot sales that have made “housing affordability” two empty words. (He’s not getting out of the real estate business, just his annual updates to UDI.)

Under his mantra of “it’s seriously time to change the narrative,” here’s five things Rennie said at the lunch.

1. Forget thinking homes in Vancouver can be affordable any more. Last year only 26 houses sold in Vancouver went for under $750,000, compared to 10,325 in Metro Vancouver. This year, 26 homes in East Vancouver sold for under $1 million, and only three on the west side sold for under $1.7 million. “The City of Vancouver should get out of the affordable ownership business.”

2. If not there, then where? It’s in the burbs, folks. “You know where the affordability is? It’s in our region. It’s in Burnaby, at 50 per cent of Vancouver prices, and it’s in Coquitlam, at 40 per cent of Vancouver prices, and it’s in Surrey, at 30 to 35 per cent of Vancouver prices.” Oh, and by the way, build more transit-oriented developments. “Any density solution in isolation of a transit solution won’t solve our problem.”


3. Vancouver neighbourhood groups are too white, too old and too resistant. “Neighbourhood groups seem to have lost their way and are prepared to sacrifice future generations by choking off supply and hurting affordability,” Rennie said. “The majority of participants in our planning processes are white male homeowners over the age of 55. Maybe it’s time to bring in some new stakeholders into the conversation. Neighbourhood groups require more diversity.”

4. Don’t blame China, and don’t tax foreign ownership. But a speculation tax? That’s OK. “China buys $6 billion a year in British Columbia exports. Are we going to tamper with those jobs and our economy? … A foreign ownership tax of 10 per cent on a $5-million home will not stop a sale or create affordability … It will only cause racially charged conversations to go beyond where they are now.” Rennie says he still believes a speculation tax aimed at buyers who flip a home would cool the market at the lower end.

5. There’s a glut of money heading for the market. With $197 billion in mortgage-free properties held by people over 55 ($66 billion of that with people over 75), there’s a lot of money available to help their children buy homes. But there’s no market or supply, so the result? Surging prices as people bid up those scarce listings.

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Seven-in-ten Canadians say they have a negative opinion of politicians.

Vancouver, BC – An overwhelming majority of Canadians express admiration towards two professions, a new Canada-wide Insights West poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, more than nine-in-ten Canadians have a positive opinion of nurses (92%) and farmers (91%).

More than four-in-five Canadians also hold positive views of veterinarians (87%), scientists (86%), doctors (85%), teachers (also 85%), architects (83%) and engineers (82%).

Seven other professions earned the respect of at least two thirds of Canadians: accountants (79%), dentists (78%), police officers (76%), actors and artists (73%), athletes (72%), auto mechanics (70%) and military officers (69%).

When it comes to negative perceptions, the first place on the list of professions belongs to politicians (71%), followed by car salespeople (61%), lawyers (45%), business executives (43%), realtors (43%) and pollsters (42%).

“Positive opinions towards some professions are not uniform across gender, age and political allegiance,” says Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs, at Insights West. “Women, for instance, are more likely to express respect for lawyers and realtors (52% and 55% respectively) than men (42% for each).”

Canadians aged 18-34 are more likely to have a positive opinion of actors and artists (76%) than those aged 35-54 (73%) and those aged 55 and over (71%).

Canadians who voted for the Conservative Party last year are more likely to have a positive opinion of accountants (91%) than those who supported the Liberal Party (83%) or the New Democratic Party (NDP) (69%) in the federal election. In fact, NDP voters are the least likely to express respect for priests and ministers (46%, compared to the Canadian average of 56%) and bankers (41%, compared to 53% across the country).

Conversely, teachers scored well among both Liberals and NDP voters (90% and 86%), but dropped to 80% with Conservatives.

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For more than four decades, Ethel’s Boutique has been a fixture in Kitsilano, with the last 30 of those years spent serving customers out of a quaint, one-storey storefront in the 2300-block of West 4th Ave.

Owner Margie Sheppard says her mom, Ethel Pollock, combined her love of fashion and sewing by opening the business in 1970 in the same neighbourhood where she lived.

Sheppard, who took over the shop about 20 years ago, was forced out of the neighbourhood recently, moving Ethel’s Boutique to a new site at West Broadway and Macdonald Street. The reason? Her landlord plans to redevelop the property, which means Ethel’s Boutique and five other small businesses had to go.

“It’s difficult being a small business. It’s hard to find reasonable rents. Especially when they build new, the rents are out of the ballpark,” said Sheppard.


When she went looking for a new 1,000-sq.-ft. store in the area, she discovered rents as high as $10,000 a month, which, she said, is impossibly high for a small shopowner, given the revenue they would need to earn.

“These rents push the smaller stores out. It’s just the chains and higher-end stores that can afford rents like that,” she said. “It’s sad because it does change the neighbourhood when the smaller stores are forced out.”

What happened in Kitsilano to Ethel’s Boutique, Pirate Joe’s, Babes on Fourth, Kate French Wear, William Parton Agencies and Buen Cafe (which closed permanently) isn’t unusual in Vancouver. As older buildings are either renovated or torn down and replaced with newer developments, higher rents are pretty much inevitable. What that means for independent stores is often a push further east.

VANCOUVER, BC_MAY 24_2016: Main Street area between 21 & 22 Avenues showcases some trendy shops and restaurants.

Rents on Main Street, a popular shopping and dining destination, are still reasonable for smaller businesses, ranging from $40 to $60 per square foot KIM STALLKNECHT / PNG

Rents on Main Street, a popular shopping and dining destination, are still reasonable for smaller businesses, ranging from $40 to $60 per square foot, said Sherman Scott, associate vice-president at Colliers International. He said Robson St. is more difficult for independent businesses since the rates would be around $200 per square foot in the popular 1000-block, dropping to $65 per square foot in the 1400-block.

“There’s a couple of independents in the 1000-block of Robson, but a lot are chains,” said Scott. “There’s a lot of redevelopment going on in the city, so obviously if you are tearing down a building tenants are going to be displaced, and we are seeing a lot of displacement of tenants. Depending on the scope of the development, it could take two years in some cases (for the new development to be available). People don’t want to shut down their businesses for two years, so they are moving.”

For small businesses, that move is often further east in the city because of affordability.

Jane McFadden, the executive director of the Kitsilano 4th Avenue Business Association, said the association’s motto is “Shop local, shop West 4th”, so having smaller, independent businesses is key to the neighbourhood.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to these businesses (in the 2300-block of West 4th). They were there a long time.

“The city is promoting development, which doesn’t help. It’s hard for smaller businesses to set up shop anywhere in the city. You have to have deep pockets since costs are getting more expensive. Prices have gone up and taken out smaller businesses.”

McFadden agreed that there has been a shift of smaller businesses moving east because rental rates are generally lower. And it is mainly the larger chains that can afford the higher-price retail locations in newer developments.

“If you look at the larger frame of how cities have changed over the last 100 years, there’s been a push in retail toward bigger and bigger stores,” said Sara Stevens, an assistant professor at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

But at the same time, Stevens said the legacy of architectural critic Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is very much alive in Vancouver.

She pointed out that Jacobs was instrumental in ensuring that Greenwich Village in New York remained a vibrant urban community when there were plans in the 1960s to drastically change the neighbourhood.

“It seems Vancouver has tried to carry that legacy on. To have the dry cleaner, the mom-and-pop grocery stores and shoe repair mixed with residential, like it was in the 19th century. This is the fabric of the city. It’s wonderful and it should be preserved, but it’s impossible to do it just as (Jacobs) did it in the 1960s.”

Stevens pointed out there is no such thing as a locally owned drugstore, for instance. She said the new buildings going up will have retail on the ground level, but instead of a mom-and-pop store, the retail is more likely to be a larger chain, like Shoppers Drug Mart, which can afford the higher rent.

“You won’t see a Safeway opening a small store,” she said. “They don’t know how to do it in a mom-and-pop (size).”

Anita Molaro, the assistant director of planning for the City of Vancouver, said there is nothing the city can do when a commercial property owner redevelops a property and it’s no longer cost-effective for small businesses. 

“It’s a private matter between the property owners and the tenants,” said Molaro.

However, she said, in some areas of Vancouver, the city does put restrictions on the size of retail to encourage “an active streetscape with a number of active smaller retailers instead of one big one.”

“We want a diversity of retail sizes in a lot of our commercial areas to accommodate and support the smaller retailers,” she said.

But in the case of the 2300-block of West 4th, Molaro pointed out it is not one of the city’s designated areas that ensure property owners continue to accommodate small businesses.

Neighbourhoods that once were vibrant during the street-car era are typically those that continue to have smaller, commercial buildings that attract independent business owners, said Patrick M. Condon, the chair of UBC’s Master of Urban Design Program.

“Visually, you can see a difference between the smaller commercial structures — the legacy of the street-car era — and the newer, larger and more substantial buildings with a different kind of tenancy and a higher percentage of national chains,” he said. “The evidence suggests that as neighbourhoods are altered, there will be fewer commercial services and less local entrepreneurial activity. The city should, can and does try to encourage local entrepreneurship. It would be unfortunate to lose that.”

He said that losses are happening in some locations, giving the example of Cambie and West Broadway where national chains are moving in, and near the new Rise commercial/residential building. But it will take a long time before the city loses the thousands of small commercial buildings in areas such as Commercial Drive, Hastings Street and Main Street, which still have retail inventory that a small business can afford.

“The larger problem is the changes happening to neighbourhoods where commercial services like hardware stores, dry cleaners and entrepreneurs are having a harder time, places like Dunbar. There’s quite a few vacancies there which are a consequence of hyper-investment and an absolute decline of population,” he said.

“Dunbar is a poster child for what can go wrong to a once-thriving neighbourhood.”

VANCOUVER, BC_MAY 24_2016: Main Street area between 21 & 22 Avenues showcases some trendy shops and restaurants.

Main Street in Vancouver has changed tremendously in recent years, with the addition of many trendy shops and restaurants. KIM STALLKNECHT / PNG

He said 20 years ago, there was a concern that Main Street was also floundering. But, unlike Dunbar, Main Street has undergone a rejuvenation with a younger demographic. Condon noted that foot traffic on Main Street is augmented by a good transit system, creating a vibrant neighbourhood “akin to the strength of West Broadway, Hastings and Commercial Street.”

He said those three areas are still quite healthy because they have the right combination of people walking and using transit.

“The buildings are substantially occupied and the residents are walking and using transit, creating an opportunity for commercial services to capitalize on people. They’ll get fruit in one store, then go to a drug store — doing many of their errands in a block close to their home.”

Condon said both the city and the transit system have helped encourage that growth and should now turn their attention and work on a similar revival for Victoria Drive.

“That is a street that could become more vital over the coming decades. But it’s not receiving the kind of city services it deserves with additional transit and investment. When that happens, you’ll see a much healthier neighbourhood,” he said.

VANCOUVER, BC_MAY 27_2016: Sabrina Faas, owner of Bayswater Tea Company, is affected by a downturn of business due to West Broadway ongoing business developement.

Sabrina Faas, owner of Bayswater Tea Company. KIM STALLKNECHT / PNG

Sabrina Faas, the owner of Bayswater Tea Company in the 2900-block of West Broadway, said what would help small businesses the most is a decrease in property taxes. She said since commercial properties have risen in value, so too have their taxes, and that cost has been passed along by the property owners to the retail tenants.

“Every year, property values go up, and so do the taxes. A lot of stores have had to leave because of the costs,” said Faas, who has been in the same building for 11 years. If the trend continues, she said she will have to consider a move.

“A lot of people want to shop locally. It’s a draw if you have an area that has a lot of small businesses. They add character, depth and care to a neighbourhood,” said Faas, who is encouraged that in her neighbourhood a number of new small businesses are opening.

She said it has been a struggle in the past few years since many of the nearby residences have been sold to absentee owners, which translates into fewer customers. And a new development project right next door to her shop took two years to complete, resulting in a 20-per-cent decrease in business.

“It was a huge inconvenience to customers, so they didn’t bother coming. When it takes so long (for a development project to complete), people will find somewhere else to shop. I think developers are very unaware of the magnitude of their impact on small businesses in the same area,” said Faas.

Michelle Barile, the executive director of the West Broadway Business Improvement Association, said in most cases there is no compensation to small businesses when a new development is being built. But she pointed out there are some exceptions.

“For recent property developments in the West Broadway BIA (from Collingwood to Larch Street), developers have assisted tenants in relocating within the business area, and have also provided rental housing options,” she said.

“Small businesses rely on people who shop locally and live in the area, and developments carried out in consultation with the community to mitigate negative impacts … can enhance and bring people to the area.”

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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is calling on the federal and provincial governments to intervene with measures to cool off the region’s scorching real estate market.

The frenzied sales activity within Vancouver’s city limits has spilled into the suburbs over the past three years. Record-high prices have been set across the Lower Mainland, including properties in the Fraser Valley.

“These trends are not sustainable and we need to be wide awake to the risks they pose to the stability of our economy, let alone the impact they have in pushing local residents, especially young people, families and seniors, out of our neighbourhoods,” Mr. Robertson said in a statement on Sunday.


He reiterated his call for the provincial government to introduce a speculation tax to discourage houses from being flipped by investors for short-term gains.

Mr. Robertson had raised the idea of such a tax in May, 2015, when housing critics at a Vancouver rally sought to draw more attention to the lack of affordable accommodation, especially for millennials. On Sunday, he said the chorus is growing louder about the impact of soaring real estate prices in the region.

“While adding more housing supply is crucial, it is not an affordability solution on its own,” Mr. Robertson said.

“With unregulated, speculative global capital flowing into Metro Vancouver’s real estate, we are seeing housing prices completely disconnected from local incomes. First and foremost, housing needs to be for homes, not just treated as a commodity.”

Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC World Markets Inc., said last month that while it is unclear how extensive foreign investment is within the Vancouver region’s housing market, it makes sense to implement a speculation tax, notably on overseas buyers who engage in flipping.

Data from BC Assessment from Jan. 1, 2014, to early 2016, shows a general flipping rate of 5.6 per cent of the single-family detached properties surveyed within the City of Vancouver. But some observers say that rate understates the impact on prices because in a rising market, three or four homes flipped in a neighbourhood will influence the value of similar properties listed in that area.

The mayor also suggests B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal government implement a luxury tax on high-end sales.

“I urge the provincial and federal governments to heed the warnings from the financial sector and implement clear measures to rein in the excesses of Vancouver’s housing market,” Mr. Robertson, who has been lobbying Ottawa to invest money to create more affordable housing, said.

There have been red flags raised recently by the banking industry about consumer debt levels. Some bankers have urged Ottawa to raise minimum requirements for down payments.

Generation Squeeze, a lobby group formed to represent the views of Canadians in their 40s and younger, complains that the federal and B.C. governments have resisted calls to move aggressively to dampen the Vancouver area’s housing scene.

The B.C. government has said there are undesirable consequences to intervening, especially the potential reduction in value of properties held by existing homeowners.

Josh Gordon, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy, is among the industry observers who argue that foreign demand is the main driver of the residential housing boom in the Vancouver region, especially an influx of buyers from China acquiring detached houses.

But Dan Morrison, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said last week that the thriving economy and job growth amid limited listings were key factors behind unprecedented sales activity recently.

Over the past three years, the median price for detached houses sold on Vancouver’s west side has jumped 68 per cent to $3.53-million and surged 72 per cent to $1.56-million on the city’s east side.

The benchmark price for detached properties sold in Greater Vancouver hit a record $1.51-million in May, an increase of 37 per cent from the same month in 2015.

The benchmark is a representation of the typical house in an area, excluding the most expensive transactions.

Within the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, which includes sprawling Surrey, the benchmark price for detached homes has surged 38 per cent to $834,200 over the past year

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Complainants puzzled by lack of action on probe of Vancouver realty firm

Four realtors who work for another brokerage found real estate contracts and other paperwork thrown in a dumpster outside the Richmond office of New Coast Realty in February, three days before the company was set to be audited by the regulator.

It was a sign something unusual might be happening at New Coast Realty, a Vancouver-area firm under investigation by the industry self-regulator.

In a dumpster outside the firm’s Richmond office were shredded real-estate contracts and other papers – some showing personal client information. On one document, signatures had been altered with white-out. Four realtors from another brokerage made the discovery by chance while checking the garbage for some missing lawn signs.

“It was very funny. There was a document of a deal I saw … we just made that deal,” said realtor John Zhou, who was the buyer’s agent at the other brokerage. “When we find documents in the garbage, it was one week after the deal was done. That was weird.”

What the group did not know is that the regulator was set to audit the same New Coast office three days after their Feb. 21 discovery.

“While the audit is confidential, there was nothing major identified or found,” New Coast told The Globe and Mail later in a statement.

The documents were found in the dumpster immediately after a Globeinvestigation first revealed questionable practices by New Coast agents, including the controversial “shadow flipping,” in Vancouver’s frenzied real estate market. The Globe’s reporting led the Real Estate Council of B.C. – the industry self-regulator – to promise a “thorough and wide-ranging consumer protection investigation” of the firm. Despite that, investigators have not contacted the realtors who found the discarded paperwork – whose names were given to the regulator weeks ago.

“Well, it may be evidence,” said a realtor who gave The Globe pictures of what the group found. He asked to not be named. “It’s very interesting they destroyed original papers with signatures.”

The owner of the firm where the four realtors work said he reported the incident in April, after the regulator asked people in the industry to come forward with information.

Brokerages are legally required to keep financial and contract records for seven years. Several managing brokers said client information should never be thrown in a dumpster.

Mr. Zhou said the agents who found the documents said they do not understand why investigators did not follow up right away. The complainant received an e-mail from the regulator asking for the pictures only after The Globe contacted the council on Wednesday about the matter.

The realtors are not alone in wondering what happened with the investigation – four months since that initial audit. New Coast has faced no penalties since.

Sukhjit Bassi filed a complaint with the council in early April. He claims one of New Coast’s top realtors deceived him, selling his house for less than market value to a speculator with whom she had arranged deals before. That buyer then flipped the property immediately for a $100,000 profit.

“I am not surprised at all that I have not been contacted [by the council],” Mr. Bassi said. “We Canadians live in a society where there are almost no consequences to bad behaviour.”

Don Stutt calls the promise to investigate “a sham.” His house was relisted by the brokerage for $400,000 more than he received for it, after the wife of New Coast’s owner snapped it up, under what Mr. Stutt calls false pretenses. The Globe reported on his case two months ago, but he has not heard from the regulator either.

“I think if they seriously want to deal with it, they should step up to the plate,” Mr. Stutt said.

The Globe also revealed in April that the firm’s owner, Ze Yu Wu, trained realtors to talk homeowners into selling quickly for less than their property is likely worth. The council put conditions on the company’s licenses as a result, including that Mr. Wu must not do any more training.

New Coast then announced Mr. Wu was “stepping aside” from the firm’s operations. Two weeks later, a Globe photographer took a picture of him arriving at the Richmond office during business hours. Two managers working at competing firms nearby said Mr. Wu is at the office regularly.

The Globe asked the company to explain that, and the documents in the dumpster, but it declined to comment.

Last month, the regulator said it has hired a high-profile B.C. lawyer, Leonard Doust, to advise on disciplinary actions for New Coast “or referral of any matters requiring a criminal investigation to the appropriate law enforcement agency.”

During the same period, James Edge said he was shocked to find a New Coast realtor advertising to sell his house for $278,000 more than he had sold it for, before his deal closed, a classic shadow-flip scenario. He said he figured a brokerage under investigation would steer clear of that practice.

“I thought it should have been stopped already,” Mr. Edge said. He filed a complaint, but no one has contacted him.

The head of B.C.’s Financial Institutions Commission is leading a review of the industry’s regulatory system, also as a result of The Globe’s reporting. Carolyn Rogers said she is surprised complainants have not been interviewed.

“That shouldn’t happen,” she said, adding that investigators in her office would have picked up the phone as soon as possible. “We try to gather more information. So we would go back to the source...and the council has similar powers that we do.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the council said everyone will be contacted “in due course.”

“The investigation of activities at New Coast Realty is a large and complex undertaking involving a number of complainants,” it said.

The regulator also heard from Port Coquitlam councillor Brad West, who wrote to say he was offended recently when his constituents were “blanketed” with New Coast flyers offering to sell their homes quickly.

“The council goes out with much fanfare saying we have heard your complaints and we are putting them under restrictions – but to regular people, it doesn’t seem to have made a difference at all,” Mr. West said.

Bryan Watkins, a managing broker from Vancouver Island, is one of several industry insiders who said they want more robust enforcement.

“It irritates the hell out of me to see this kind of nonsense,” he said. “I think the council needs to fix it … and if then they can’t do it then maybe self-regulation isn’t a good thing.”

The Globe also talked to several ex-clients who felt complaining was not worth the trouble, like 78-year-old Raymond Stolberg. He said he felt deceived when a New Coast realtor talked him into selling his house recently for $1.66-million. Days after closing, the buyer put it back on the market – priced almost a million dollars higher.

“We thought we were being looked after – for our interest – and we weren’t,” Mr. Stolberg said. “The reason I didn’t file a complaint is, what good would it do me?”


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We have sold a property at 3719 COAST MERIDIAN RD in Port Coquitlam.
Bright and spacious solid home in one of the best areas in Port Coquitlam, 'Oxford Heights'. Huge 54x122 lot with back lane access and front driveway that can fit RV and motorhome. Newer windows, deck, deck cover, furnace and hot water tank. This home is perfect to start a young family at its price, or bring your renovation ideas. Easily add a mortgage helper, tons of room downstairs to do so. Steps to transit and close to prime shopping at Coquitlam Centre. Huge West (afternoon Sun) deck to entertain and large kitchen and family room upstairs. One of the most functional layouts! 3 beds/1 full bathroom up, with 1 bed and 1 bath down. Near all levels of schools. Birchland elementary, Minnekhada Middle School, Terry Fox Secondary.
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