Paul Liberatore

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A new condominium project has people intrigued about the low cost of owning real estate in Metro Vancouver.

The sales centre for the Evolve housing complex in Surrey was buzzing with potential homebuyers Saturday.

The condo complex will include 35 suites just 316 square feet in size with presale prices starting at $93,900. Dozens more micro-suites in the complex will also be under 400 square feet.

“I think they offer great space, great affordable space and a chance to own your own home in a very difficult marketplace in British Columbia,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner earlier this week.

Some prospective home buyers were shocked by the affordability of units in the project.

“I haven’t seen anything in the Lower Mainland at this price point, so it’s quite a surprise,” one said.

Another person said while the size of the smallest units was initially worrying, the tiny suites were designed efficiently.

“It will be a tight space but for a single person and even for a couple who’s out of the house most of the time I think it’s totally doable,” she said.

While there are currently 18 residential towers going up in Surrey Town Centre, trends in the area show more home buyers are looking outside of high-rises.

Last year sales of single family homes went up 19 per cent in Surrey, townhouse sales went up 13 per cent and condo sales dropped by three per cen



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Maple Ridge is in for a population boom.


According to a community profile from the City of Maple Ridge, more than 35,000 people are anticipated to move into the community over the next 25 years.

And in the next five to 10 years, many of these newcomers will likely put down stakes in the Albion, Thornhill, and Silver Valley neighbourhoods, where heavy residential development continues.

The Albion neighbourhood is projected to grow to 10,250 residents, while an estimated 9,250 people will be living in Silver Valley by 2031.

These estimates provided from the City of Maple Ridge’s Official Community Plan (OCP) are 20-year projections and reflect the total number of people who will live in an area at build-out (estimated to be around 2031.)

For the here and now, there are a growing number of homebuyers looking at Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows as an option, according to Darcy

McLeod, a local realtor who is president-elect of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

Real estate activity in 2014 varied from month-to-month, McLeod said, adding “some months, it was surprisingly busy.”

“I would characterize it as a fairly balanced market,” McLeod said. “It wasn’t super hot but I also wouldn’t call it a depressed market, for sure.”

Affordability continues to drive the market in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Take from the equation the Sunshine Coast, where the benchmark price of a single detached home is $350,800, and you won’t find a cheaper place to buy a house among the 21 regions covered by the REBGV than Maple Ridge, with a benchmark price of $478,500 this past December.

It costs slightly more for a detached home in Pitt Meadows, at a benchmark price of $526,400.

Among REBGV communities, townhouses are also cheapest in Maple Ridge (benchmark price of $279,100 in December) and Pitt Meadows ($331,200), while apartments for sale in Maple Ridge averaged out to a relative bargain of $165,800 on average last month (by far the most affordable in the REBGV). In Pitt Meadows a condo set you back $249,100, on average, in December.

“It’s probably the most affordable area in Greater Vancouver in terms of real estate,” McLeod said, regarding Maple Ridge.

“For a home you can buy in the Albion area, to buy a similar home in Coquitlam would be 20 per cent more money,” McLeod said. “We’re seeing a lot of people moving from North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Burnaby, and they’re starting to look at Maple Ridge. You can sell a home in Vancouver, go to Maple Ridge, and buy a new home and be mortgage free.”

So what’s keeping home prices so relatively low? As they say in the real estate biz, location, location, location.

“What keeps prices a little lower is the distance from downtown Vancouver,” McLeod said. “As you travel further east away from core of Vancouver, prices go down.”

Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge are the easternmost regions under the REBGV umbrella.

And location, that key driver for keeping home prices affordable, especially in Maple Ridge, is also a big reason why McLeod feels the potential for future market growth is so strong.

“It is still affordable and it’s a great place for families to live and raise their children,” McLeod said. “There’s so much to like about the area; there are so many outdoor activities, and so many parks and trails.”

McLeod should know: he’s called Maple Ridge home for the past 19 years.

But with dense development comes the risk of market saturation.

McLeod doesn’t believe that will be the case in rapidly developing areas such Albion and Silver Valley.

“I don’t see the prices falling any time soon because of over supply,” he said.

According to the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), Maple Ridge was voted No. 5 Top Canadian Investment City, No. 2 Top B.C. Investment Town, and the place to live for lifestyle.

A community profile done by the City of Maple Ridge sees its current population of 82,861 jumping to 118,000 by 2040, and the number of local jobs more than doubling from 24,000 to 42,500 over the next 25 years.

Maple Ridge’s Town Centre area is expected to grow by close to 14,700 residents over the next decade, which is 50 per cent of the total expected population increase for all of Maple Ridge to 2021.

“You’ll see more people living in the centre of town,” McLeod said.

These growth projections in Maple Ridge haven’t had an impact on housing prices, at least for the time being.

“I see modest rises in prices but I don’t see any huge increases over the next 12 months, for sure,” McLeod said. “If I had a crystal ball I’d be a billionaire but there are no indications, or any reasons for prices to increase dramatically.”

A rise in population also means steady demand for new homes, he added.

“All these new people have to live somewhere,” he said.

McLeod noted that as a whole in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, the price of condos are impacted by the amount of new development.

“If inventory is not selling as quickly as developers would like, it puts downward pressure on pricing,” he said.

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First-time home buyers received welcome news in today’s provincial budget. Any REALTORS® currently working with first-time buyers will want to share this news with them as soon as possible.

The government has announced, effective February 19, 2014, under the Property Transfer Tax (PTT) First-Time Home Buyers’ Exemption program, qualifying first-time buyers can buy a home worth up to $475,000. The previous threshold was $425,000.

The partial exemption continues and will apply to homes valued between $475,000 and $500,000.

With this change, the government estimates 1,700 additional first-time buyers will annually be eligible to save up to $7,500 in PTT when they buy their home.

The government estimates this measure will cost $8 million in lost tax revenue each year.

The Real Estate Board, together with BC Real Estate Association, has actively lobbied to make home ownership more affordable for first-time home buyers. This increase in the threshold clearly signals our efforts have paid off as in past years.

In 2008, as a result of industry lobbying, the provincial government increased the threshold to $425,000 from $375,000. 

In 2005, the government increased the threshold to $325,000 from $275,000.

The PTT is calculated at a rate of one per cent on the first $200,000 and two per cent on the remaining value of the purchase price. 

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