Bob Sethi, B.Comm | 604.273.2828

 

Bubble? What Bubble?

Alberta homebuyers eyeing B.C. again

British Columbians love talking about their real estate.
 
And nowhere is that topic hotter than in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver, where average housing prices upward of $700,000 are not uncommon.

Yet in the wake of recent news reports about a housing market swoon on the West Coast due to price plunge headlines, the talk of a housing bubble has popped up yet again.
 
The average residential price in B.C. dropped 10.9 per cent in April compared to a year ago to $532,855, but B.C. Real Estate Association Cameron Muir says that decline was offset by a 14 per cent increase in the rest of the province.

He says Kamloops, the Okanagan and the North all posted double-digit increases in home sales compared to levels one year ago.
 
In Kamloops, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of the Central Interior executive officer Patsy Bourassa says she has noticed a definite pick-up in the market compared to the same time a year ago.
“With this spring, things have started moving again,” she says.
 
Bourassa credits a few things for spurring the current increase, which she describes as slow but steady, such as the First Time Homebuyers’ tax credit and HST transition measures announced by the provincial government earlier this year, as well as a generally robust resource economy – she notes there are five mines in the Central Interior – and homebuyers from Alberta.

UBC Sauder School of Business real estate economist Tsur Somerville also notes the Interior and the North are doing better than the Lower Mainland lately.
 
“A lot of that is being driven by the second home purchase market in Alberta,” he says.
 
Those areas are popular for Albertans who purchase vacation properties and with that province’s economy recovering, more consumers are thinking about buying in B.C., Somerville said.
 
He points out the B.C. market now is very different form one or two years ago, as high-end market sales and the foreign source of wealth market have both slowed down.
 

Somerville doesn’t think British Columbians needs to worry about a housing market bubble.

“I never thought there was a bubble to begin with,” he says.
 
While there’s a lot of inventory in the new-home market, there are locations with a lot of starts happening, he notes.
 
Despite a lot of inventory – depending on where you live in the province – Somerville doesn’t go so far as to say B.C. is experiencing a buyer’s market.
 
“When average prices are in excess of $700,000, I don’t think you can really say it’s a buyer’s market,” he says.
 
He advises potential homebuyers not to base big decisions on what the market may or may not be doing.
 
“If you’re buying real estate for yourself to live in, I think you need to do that based on your life cycle and not try to time it with the market.”
 
When you get listings to sales ratios rising, consumers don’t have to approach the market with as much anxiety and can take their time to choose a product they really love, he says.

In the Central Interior, “Everybody’s cautiously optimistic” the housing market will continue to move, Bourassa said.
 
 
Excerpted from BCHomesmag.com.  Article written by Tricia Leslie. 
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Balanced real estate market prevailed through much of 2011

The 2011 Greater Vancouver housing market began with heightened demand in regional hot spots and concluded with greater balance between seller supply and buyer demand.
 
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that total sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in 2011 reached 32,390, a 5.9 per cent increase from the 30,595 sales recorded in 2010, and a 9.2 per cent decrease from the 35,669 residential sales in 2009. Last year’s home sale total was 6.3 per cent below the ten-year average for annual Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) sales in the region.
  
The number of residential properties listed for sale on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver increased 2.7 per cent in 2011 to 59,549 compared to the 58,009 properties listed in 2010. Looking back further, last year’s total represents a 12.8 per cent increase compared to the 52,869 residential properties listed in 2009. Last year’s listing total was 11.1 per cent above the ten-year average for annual Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) property listings in the region.
  
“It was a relatively balanced year for the real estate market in Greater Vancouver with listing totals slightly above historical norms and sale numbers slightly below,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said.
  
Residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,658 in December 2011, a decrease of 12.7 per cent from the 1,899 sales recorded in December 2010 and a 29.7 per cent decline compared to November 2011 when 2,360 home sales occurred.
  
More broadly, last month’s residential sales represent a 34.1 per cent decrease over the 2,515 residential sales in December 2009, a 79.4 per cent increase compared to December 2008’s 924 sales, and a 12.6 per cent decrease compared to the 1,897 sales in December 2007.
  
The overall residential benchmark price, as calculated by the MLSLink Housing Price Index®, for Greater Vancouver increased 7.6 per cent to $621,674 between Decembers 2010 and 2011. However, prices have decreased 1.5 per cent since hitting a peak of $630,921 in June 2011.
  
“Our market remained in a balanced state for most of the year, although higher levels of demand for detached properties in the region’s largest communities caused prices in certain areas to rise higher than others,” Setticasi said. “For example, the benchmark price of a single-family detached home experienced double-digit increases in nine areas within the region over the last 12 months.”

  

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,629 in December 2011. This represents a 4.1 per cent decline compared to the 1,699 units listed in December 2010 and a 49.4 per cent decline compared to November 2011 when 3,222 properties were listed.
  
Sales of detached properties in December 2011 reached 630, a decrease of 18.1 per cent from the 769 detached sales recorded in December 2010, and a 30.2 per cent decrease from the 902 units sold in December 2009. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 11.2 per cent from December 2010 to $887,471.
  
Sales of apartment properties reached 774 in December 2011, a decline of 4.6 per cent compared to the 811 sales in December 2010, and a decrease of 32.9 per cent compared to the 1,154 sales in December 2009.The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.7 per cent from December 2010 to $401,396.
  
Attached property sales in December 2011 totalled 254, a decline of 20.4 per cent compared to the 319 sales in December 2010, and a 44.7 per cent decrease from the 459 attached properties sold in December 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 4.2 per cent between December 2010 and 2011 to $511,499.

- real estate board of greater vancouver
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Important information on the HST referendum

The Provincial Government has received the results of the HST referendum. The outcome was decisive, with just under 55% of voters choosing to extinguish the HST and return the province to a system of taxation using both the PST and GST.
 
The government says no changes will occur until at least May 2013. There is no information yet on what the details of the tax system will look like at that time.
 
In terms of what this means to you, the HST is still in place and will be until at least May 2013. I will be updated this blog as we learn more. If you're interested in learning how this affects your plans to buy or sell real estate please contact me at:
 
Bob Sethi, RE/MAX Westcoast 
604-273-2828
 
 
With information provided by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
 
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Richmond

January 1st to June 30th, 2011 (Cumulative)
 

Company

No. of
Sales

Volume per
Associate

Sales per
Associate

No. of
Associates

RE/MAX
- Westcoast Realty

1022

$3,264,688

8.9

115

MacDONALD REALTORS
- Westmar & Willie S. Chan

1151

$2,005,084

4.8

242

SUTTON GROUP
- Seafair -on Blundell

801

$1,791,398

4.3

186

ROYAL PACIFIC REALTY
- Riverside Realty

390

$1,668,940

3.6

109

AMEX
- Sunrich Realty

325

$1,513,444

3.2

101

MULTIPLE GROUP
- 3 Richmond Offices

276

$1,191,818

2.5

110

REGENT PARK REALTY
- Fairchild - on #3 Rd

252

$1,044,106

2.4

107

TEAM REALTY
- TEAM Realty Ltd.

63

$720,408

2.2

29

MAGSEN
- Magsen Realty Inc

121

$636,239

1.6

77

All Others
( 13 Offices )

227

$406,837

1.5

150

INTERLINK REALTY
- Interlink Realty

49

$480,764

1.0

47

Total

4,614

 

 

1,244

 
 
NOTE: This representation is based in whole or in part on data generated by the Real Estate Boards of Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Victoria and Vancouver Island, Okanagan Mainline, South Okanagan, and BC Northern, which assume no responsibility for its accuracy.
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Changes to Canadian Immigration Rules

On June 24, the federal government instituted rule changes related to new applications under the Federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW) and the Federal Entrepreneur Program. The changes are as follows:
  • Federal Entrepreneur Program: A temporary moratorium on new applications.
  • Federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP): A cap of 700 new IIP applications will be considered for processing each year.
  • Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW): A cap of 10,000 new FSW applications, without an offer of arranged employment, will be considered for processing each year. Within the 10,000 cap, a maximum of 500 new applications per occupation will be considered each year.

BC, and Vancouver in particular, has been one of the primary recipients of immigrants under the IIP, accounting for half of total Canadian investor class immigration. From 2005 to 2010, over 30,000 investor class immigrants have located in BC, an average of about 5,000 per year. This number relates to roughly 2,000 households per year.

Implications

The Government's stated reason for instituting the application cap is to reduce a backlog in applications and to shorten wait times. In 2010 there were 3,223 applications approved under the IIP and the government has indicated that it has received applications well in excess of that number in recent years, creating a large backlog of applications. It has not indicated that it wishes to lower the number of immigrants processed under the IIP, but simply to reduce the current backlog.
 
Therefore, as old applications are still being processed, the implementation of the new rules may not have an impact on the number of immigrants entering under the IIP and therefore may not have a material impact on BC housing markets.
 
To view Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) press release, visit:
www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2011/2011-06-24a.asp.
 
For more information about the Federal Immigrant Investor Program, visit:
www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/business/investors/index.asp.
 
For more information about the Federal Entrepreneur Program, visit:
www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/business/entrepreneurs/index.asp.
 
For more information about the Skilled Worker Program, visit:
www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/index.asp.
 
To view CIC's Frequently Asked Questions, visit:
www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/faq/immigrate/business/index.asp.
 
 
All information subject to verification by independent legal advice.
 
 
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Active home sellers bring greater selection to the Greater Vancouver housing market

While the balance between home buyer and seller activity remains in an equilibrium range in the Greater Vancouver housing market, last month’s home sale total was below the 10-year average for July.
 

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties on the region’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) reached 2,571 in July, a 14 per cent increase compared to the 2,255 sales in July 2010 and a 21.2 per cent decline compared to the 3,262 sales in June 2011.

“We’re seeing less multiple offer situations in the market today compared to the last few months, but our members tell us that homes priced competitively continue to sell at a relatively swift pace,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said. “It’s taking, on average, 41 days to sell a property in the region, which is unchanged from June of this year.”
 
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,097 in July. This represents a 23.2 per cent increase compared to July 2010 when 4,138 properties were listed for sale on the MLS® and a 12 per cent decline compared to the 5,793 new listings reported in June 2011.
 

Last month’s new listing total was 8.6 per cent higher than the 10-year average for July, while residential sales were 17.3 per cent below the ten-year average for sales in July.

At 15,226, the total number of residential property listings on the MLS® increased 0.8 per cent in July compared to last month and declined 7.3 per cent from this time last year.

“The number of homes listed for sale in the region has increased each month since the start of the year, which is giving buyers more selection to choose from and more time to make decisions,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said.
 
The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 9.2 per cent to $630,251 in July 2011 from $577,074 in July 2010.
 
Sales of detached properties on the MLS® in July 2011 reached 1,099, an increase of 21 per cent from the 908 detached sales recorded in July 2010, and an 31.9 per cent decrease from the 1,614 units sold in July 2009. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 13.3 per cent from July 2010 to $898,886.
 
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,040 in July 2011, a 6.2 per cent increase compared to the 979 sales in July 2010, and a decrease of 39.1 per cent compared to the 1,708 sales in July 2009. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 4.5 per cent from July 2010 to $405,306.
 
Attached property sales in July 2011 totalled 432, a 17.4 per cent increase compared to the 368 sales in July 2010, and a 45.5 per cent decrease from the 792 attached properties sold in July 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 6.9 per cent between July 2010 and 2011 to $524,909.

Courtesy Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
 
 
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May 2011 Stats
 
Greater Vancouver housing market holds steady and favours sellers in May
 
Home sales remained at typical springtime levels on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Greater Vancouver in May.
 
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver reached 3,377 in May 2011, a 7 per cent increase compared to the 3,156 sales in May 2010 and a 4.7 per cent increase compared to the 3,225 sales in April 2011.
 
Looking back further, last month’s residential sales are 8.1 per cent below the ten-year average for sales in May. The three highest selling Mays ever recorded occurred in 2005, 2006 and 2007 when sales exceeded the 4,000 mark each year.
 
“With a sales to active listings ratio of 23 per cent, conditions continue to favour sellers in the Greater Vancouver housing market, but activity has eased away from the near record-setting pace we saw in March,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said.
 
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,931 in May 2011. This represents a 15.4 per cent decrease compared to May 2010 when 7,014 properties were listed for sale on the MLS®, which was the second highest total for May on record. Last month’s new listings increased 1.4 per cent compared to April 2011.
 

At 14,656, the total number of residential property listings on the MLS® increased 2 per cent in May compared to last month and declined 16 per cent from this time last year.

The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver over the last 12 months increased 6.2 per cent to $627,568 in May 2011 from $590,662 in May 2010.
 
 “We’re seeing more activity at the high end of our market this year than we did one year ago. This is causing today’s average prices in the region to be less reflective of the total activity occurring in the marketplace,” Setticasi said. “The Housing Price Index benchmark prices are more accurate, reliable indicators of housing prices compared to averages.”
 
Of all residential properties sold on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver in 2011 to date 21 per cent sold for $1-million or higher and 20 per cent sold for $350,000 or lower. While 77 per cent of the properties that sold for over $1-million were located in West Vancouver, the Westside of Vancouver or Richmond, the properties that sold for $350,000 or lower were located throughout the entire Board area.
 
Sales of detached properties on the MLS® in May 2011 reached 1,570, an increase of 25 per cent from the 1,256 detached sales recorded in May 2010, and a 12 per cent increase from the 1,402 units sold in May 2009. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 10 per cent from May 2010 to $890,833.
 
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,228 in May 2011, a 9.3 per cent decrease compared to the 1,354 sales in May 2010, and a decrease of 15.8 per cent compared to the 1,458 sales in May 2009. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 2.2 per cent from May 2010 to $407,419.
 
Attached property sales in May 2011 totalled 579, a 6 per cent increase compared to the 546 sales in May 2010, and a 12.8 per cent decrease from the 664 attached properties sold in May 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 3.5 per cent between May 2010 and 2011 to $517,787.

 

Stats taken from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, all rights reserved.
 
 
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Summer housing market trends toward balance after an active spring season

Home sellers outpaced buyers on Greater Vancouver’s Multiple Listings Service® (MLS®) in June, drawing the market back toward balance this summer.
 
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales of detached, attached and apartment properties reached 3,262 in June, a 9.8 per cent increase compared to the 2,972 sales in June 2010 and a 3.4 per cent decline compared to the 3,377 sales in May 2011.
 
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,793 in June. This represents a 4.5 per cent increase compared to June 2010 when 5,544 properties were listed for sale on the MLS® and a 2.3 per cent decline compared to the 5,931 new listings reported in May 2011.
 
Last month’s new listing total was 9.8 per cent higher than the 10-year average for June, while residential sales were 7.3 per cent below the ten-year average for sales in June.
 

“With sales below the 10-year average and home listings above what’s typical for the month, activity in June brought closer alignment between supply and demand in our marketplace,” Rosario Setticasi, REBGV president said. “With a sales-to-active-listings ratio of nearly 22 per cent, it looks like we’re in the upper end of a balanced market.”

At 15,106, the total number of residential property listings on the MLS® increased 3.1 per cent in June compared to last month and declined 14 per cent from this time last year.

The MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver over the last 12 months has increased 8.7 per cent to $630,921 in June 2011 from $580,237 in June 2010.
 
“The largest price increases continue to be in the detached home market on the westside of Vancouver and in West Vancouver,” Setticasi said. “Since the end of May, the benchmark price of a detached home rose more than $147,000 on the westside of Vancouver and over $80,000 in West Vancouver. Detached home prices in Richmond, however, levelled off slightly, declining $25,000 in June.”
 
Sales of detached properties on the MLS® in June 2011 reached 1,471, an increase of 29.1 per cent from the 1,139 detached sales recorded in June 2010, and an 11.8 per cent decrease from the 1,667 units sold in June 2009. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 13.4 per cent from June 2010 to $901,680.
 
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,266 in June 2011, a 0.6 per cent increase compared to the 1,258 sales in June 2010, and a decrease of 29.3 per cent compared to the 1,790 sales in June 2009. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 3.5 per cent from June 2010 to $405,200.
 
Attached property sales in June 2011 totalled 525, an 8.7 per cent decrease compared to the 575 sales in June 2010, and a 34.5 per cent decrease from the 802 attached properties sold in June 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 6 per cent between June 2010 and 2011 to $522,424.

 
Courtesy of Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
 
 
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Top 25 grants and rebates for property buyers and owners

1. Home Buyers’ Plan

Qualifying home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 (couples can withdraw up to $50,000) from their RRSPs for a down payment. Home buyers who have repaid their RRSP may be eligible to use the program a second time. Canada Revenue Agency www.cra.gc.ca. Enter ‘Home Buyers’ Plan’ in the search box | 1.800.959.8287

2. GST Rebate on New Homes

New home buyers can apply for a rebate of the federal portion of the HST (the 5% GST) if the purchase price is less than $350,000. The rebate is up to 36% of the GST to a maximum rebate of $6,300. There is a proportional GST rebate for new homes costing between $350,000 and $450,000. Canada Revenue Agency www.cra.gc.ca. Enter ‘RC4028’ in the search box | 1.800.959.8287

3. BC New Housing Rebate (HST)

Buyers of new or substantially renovated homes priced up to $525,000 are eligible for a rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion (7%) of the 12% HST paid to a maximum rebate of $26,250. Homes priced at $525,000+ are eligible for a flat rebate of $26,250. www.hstinbc.ca/making_your_choice/faqs/new_housing_rebate | 1.800.959.8287

4. BC New Rental Housing Rebate (HST)

Landlords buying new or substantially renovated homes are eligible for a rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion of the HST, up to $26,250 per unit. http://www.hstinbc.ca/making_your_choice/faqs/new_housing_rebate | 1.800.959.8287

5. BC Property Transfer Tax (PTT) First Time Home Buyers’ Program

Qualifying first-time buyers may be exempt from paying the PTT of 1% on the first $200,000 and 2% on the remainder of the purchase price of a home priced up to $425,000. There is a proportional exemption for homes priced up to $450,000. BC Ministry of Small Business and Revenue www.rev.gov.bc.ca/rpt | 250.387.0604

6. First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (HBTC)

This federal non-refundable income tax credit is for qualifying buyers of detached, attached, apartment condominiums, mobile homes or shares in a cooperative housing corporation. The calculation: multiply the lowest personal income tax rate for the year (15% in 2010) x $5,000. For the 2010 tax year, the maximum credit is $750. Canada Revenue Agency www.cra.gc.ca/hbtc | 1.800.959.8281

7. BC Home Owner Grant

Reduces school property taxes by up to $570 on properties with an assessed value up to $1,150,000. For 2011, the basic grant is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of value over $1,150,000, and eliminated on homes assessed at $1,264,000. An additional grant reduces property tax by a further $275 for a total of $845 for seniors, veterans and the disabled. This is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of assessed value over $1,150,000 and eliminated on homes assessed at $1,319,000+. BC Ministry of Small Business and Revenue www.rev.gov.bc.ca/hog or contact your municipal tax office.

8. BC Property Tax Deferment Programs

Property Tax Deferment Program for Seniors. Qualifying home owners aged 55+ may be eligible to defer property taxes.

Financial Hardship Property Tax Deferment Program. Qualifying low-income home owners may be eligible to defer property taxes.

Property Tax Deferment Program for Families with Children. Qualifying low income home owners who financially support children under age 18 may be eligible to defer property taxes.

BC Ministry of Small Business and Revenuewww.sbr.gov.bc.ca and enter ‘Property tax deferment’ in the search box or contact your municipal tax office.

9. Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) Grants

This federal program provides financial aid to qualifying low-income home owners to repair substandard housing. Eligible repairs include heating, structural, electrical, plumbing and fire safety. Grants are available for seniors, persons with disabilities, owners of rental properties and owners creating secondary and garden suites. www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/prfinas/prfinas_001.cfm | 1.800.668.2642 | 604.873.7408

10. CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance Premium Refund

Provides home buyers with CMHC mortgage insurance, a 10% premium refund and possible extended amortization without surcharge when buyers purchase an energy efficient mortgage or make energy saving renovations. www.cmhc.ca/en/co/moloin/moloin_008.cfm#reno | 604.731.5733

11. Energy Saving Mortgages

Financial institutions offer a range of mortgages to home buyers and owners who make their homes more energy efficient. For example, home owners who have a home energy audit within 90 days of receiving an RBC Energy Saver™ Mortgage, may qualify for a rebate of $300 to their RBC account. www.rbcroyalbank.com/products/mortgages/energy-saver-mortgage.html | 1.800.769.2511

12. Low Interest Renovation Loans

Financial institutions offer ‘green’ loans for home owners making energy efficient upgrades. Vancity’s Bright Ideas personal loan offers home owners up to $20,000 at prime + 1% for up to 10 years for ‘green’ renovations. RBC’s Energy Saver loan offers 1% off the interest rate for a fixed rate installment loan over $5,000 or a $100 renovation on a home energy audit on a fixed rate installment loan over $5,000. For information visit your financial institution. www.vancity.com/Loans/BrightIdeas and www.rbcroyalbank.com and in the search box enter ‘energy saver loan’.

13. LiveSmart BC: Efficiency Incentive Program

Home owners improving the energy efficiency of their homes may qualify for cash incentives through this provincial program provided in partnership with Terasen Gas, BC Hydro, and FortisBC. Rebates are for energy efficient products which replace gas and oil furnaces, pumps, water heaters, wood stoves, insulation, windows, doors, skylights and more. The LiveSmart BC program also covers $150 of the cost of a home energy assessment, directly to the service provider.www.livesmartbc.ca/rebates | 1.866.430.8765

14. BC Residential Energy Credit

Home owners and residential landlords buying heating fuel receive a BC government point-of-sale rebate on utility bills equal to the provincial component of the HST. www.sbr.gov.bc.ca/documents_library/notices/HST_Notice_010.pdf or go to Google and in the search box type in ‘Residential Energy Credit rebate program.’ It is the first item. | 1.877.388.4440

15. BC Hydro Appliance Rebates

Mail-in rebates of $25 - $50 for purchasers of ENERGY STAR clothes washers, refrigerators, dishwashers, or freezers until March 31, 2011, or when funding for the program is exhausted. www.bchydro.com/rebates_savings/appliance_rebates.html | 1.800.224.9376

16. BC Hydro Fridge Buy-Back Program

This ongoing program rebates BC Hydro customers $30 to turn in spare fridges in working condition. www.bchydro.com/rebates_savings/fridge_buy_back.html | 604.881.4357

17. BC Hydro Windows Rebate Program

Pay no HST when you buy ENERGY STAR high-performance windows and doors. This offer is available until March 31, 2011. www.bchydro.com/rebates_savings/windows_offers/current_offers.html | 604.759.2759 for a free in-home estimate.

18. BC Hydro Mail-in Rebates/Savings Coupons

To save energy, BC Hydro offers rebates including 10 % off an ENERGY STAR cordless phone. Check for new offers and for deadlines.www.bchydro.com/rebates_savings/coupons.html | 1.800.224.9376

19. Fortis BC (formerly Terasen Gas) Rebate Program

A range of rebates for home owners include a $50 rebate for upgrading a water heater, $150 rebate on an Ener-Choice fireplace (both good until March 31, 2011) and a $1,000 rebate for switching to natural gas (from oil or propane) and installing an ENERGY STAR heating system (good until February 29, 2012). http://www.fortisbc.com/NaturalGas/Homes/Offers/Pages/Residential-Water-Heater-Program.aspx | 1.888.224.2710

20. Fortis BC (formerly Terasen Gas) Efficient Boiler Program

For commercial buildings, provides a cash rebate of up to 75% of the purchase price of an energy efficient boiler, for new construction or retrofits. http://www.fortisbc.com/NaturalGas/Business/Offers/Pages/default.aspx | 1.888.477.0777

21. City of Vancouver Solar Homes Pilot

This rebate of $3,000 (about 50% of the cost) is for a Vancouver home owner upgrading to a solar hot water system from a gas system. Offered by the City of Vancouver, SolarBC, Terasen Gas and Offsetters on a first come, first served basis until March 2011 or until the City reaches its target of 30 solar homes. www.vancouver.ca/sustainability/SolarHomes.htm | 604.873.7748

22. City of Vancouver Rain Barrel Subsidy Program

The City of Vancouver provides a subsidy of 50% of the cost of a rain barrel for Vancouver residents. With the subsidy, the rain barrel costs $75. Buy your rain barrel at the Transfer Station at 377 W. North Kent Ave., Vancouver, BC. Limit of two per resident. Bring proof of residency. www.vancouver.ca and in the search box enter ‘rain barrel program.’ 604.736.2250. Other municipalities have similar offers.

23. Vancity Green Building Grant

In partnership with the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Vancity provides grants up to $50,000 each to qualifying charities, not-for-profit organizations and co-operatives for projects which focus on building renovations/retrofits, regulatory changes that advance green building development, and education to increase the use of practical green building strategies.

www.vancity.com/MyCommunity/NotForProfit/Grants/ActingOnClimateChange GreenBuildingGrant | 604.877.7000

24. Local Government Water Conservation Incentives

Your municipality may provide grants and incentives to residents to help save water. For example, the City of Coquitlam offers residents a $100 rebate and the City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, and District of West Vancouver offer a $50 rebate when residents install a low-flush toilet. Visit your municipality’s website and enter ‘toilet rebate’ to see if there is a program.

25. Local Government Water Meter Programs

Your municipality may provide a program for voluntary water metering, so that you pay only for the amount of water that you use. Delta, Richmond and Surrey have programs and other municipalities may soon follow. Visit your municipality’s website and enter ‘water meter’ to find out if there is a program.

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Why Realtors are great problem solvers

By Ari Lahdekorpi

Mar 1, 2011
If nothing else, Realtors are skilled problem solvers. The one trait that glues together all of the successful agents across Canada is the ability to work through the myriad of roadblocks that confront what seems like a simple task – that of bringing buyers and sellers together on a transaction within a given time frame.
 
Keeping a real estate deal together and navigating through the increasingly complex minefield of laws and restrictions that surround the industry is not a task that can be accomplished effectively without logical and creative problem solving skills, along with a strong emotional foundation.
 
I commented to one of our seasoned agents on how unflappable he seemed in the face of the activity that surrounds him. His response was a shrug of the shoulder and the comment, “If there is an obstacle, you just have to work around it, that’s all.” That sums up nicely one of the key skill sets to an effective long-term real estate career.
 
It is so very true that although you can’t control the circumstances around you, you can control their impact on you. There is nothing more valuable than clear-headed thinking in a time of crisis. The ability to not throw up your hands in surrender or run away when the bullets are flying around you can come only with experience, training and mental attitude. The storybook and film maker image of the steady handed protagonist who guides the frightened hoards through a crisis is not entirely fictitious. The hero of the real estate deal is a real-life agent who doesn’t allow emotional pressure to impact on his rational and logistical task of serving his client’s best interests through to the completion of the transaction.
 
Problem solving is a mental process. Considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, problem solving has been defined as a higher-order cognitive process. It is a process that has been studied by psychologists over the last hundred years, as well as by computer programmers trying to perfect the latest artificial intelligence algorithms. The key to Internet giant Google’s success is in the top secret A.I. code that they have perfected to solve the problem of searching the Internet for information that is not tainted by spammer tricks. Make no mistake; problem solving is an intelligence marker of the highest order.
 
Early experimental work centered on simple tasks so that researchers could analyze and capture real-world problems by understanding the cognitive processes involved. In clinical psychology, researchers have focused on the role of emotions in problem solving.  D’Zurilla, Goldfried and Nezu published findings in the early ’70s and ’80s demonstrating that poor emotional control can disrupt focus on a target task and impede problem solving.
 
Human problem solving consists of two related processes: problem orientation, (the motivational/attitudinal/affective approach to problematic situations) and problem-solving skills (the actual cognitive-behavioural steps, which, if successfully implemented, lead to effective problem resolution). Researchers in neuropsychology have found that frontal lobe injuries will cause deficiencies in emotional control and reasoning. Those findings have concluded that one’s emotional state can impact on the ability to solve problems.
 
Researchers have also learned that the problem-solving process differs across domains and levels of expertise and emotional wellness. There can be no universal answer to why one can resolve problems under a crisis management mode more efficiently than another. It is clear however, that experience in problem solving in a given discipline helps to calm the emotional impact of confronting problems.
 
Difficult problems have some typical characteristics, such as lack of clarity of the situation, multiple objectives, decisions hierarchy, communication breakdown and dynamic unpredictability. In all of these characteristics the resolution of difficult problems requires a direct attack on each that is encountered.
 
Even more than the emotional steadiness and expertise that a skilled problem solver must have is the creative mental process of creating a solution to a problem. Creative problem solving is a special form of problem solving in which the solution is independently created rather than learned with assistance.
 
Creative problem solving always involves using the creative side of the brain. To qualify as creative problem solving, the solution must either have value, clearly solve the stated problem or be appreciated by someone for whom the situation improves. These are all traits that apply readily to the real estate trade. The situation prior to the solution might not even be recognized as a problem. Alternate labels for hidden problems include words like a “challenge, an opportunity or room for improvement”.
 
A good Realtor knows from experience that one must be aware of the unintended consequences in any action or inaction. Sometimes a small detail can impact on many elements of a successful transaction with a ripple effect. This is pre-emptive problem solving that can only be done through experience or training.
 
The value of a real estate professional is much deeper than the average consumer sees on the surface of a problem-free transaction. It could be stated that a good agent is a problem cognoscente in the best sense of the word.
 

Ari Lahdekorpi is managing broker at Re/Max Select Properties in Vancouver.

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