September 20, 2014
The Last Day of Summer in White Rock
Woke up to an absolutely beautiful day and decided to head down to White Rock for eggs benedict at Jan's on the Beach and take a video of White Rock Beach and Pier. It's very windy, so the audio is a very difficult to hear but the beach and ocean views are spectacular. White Rock is a wonderful community to live in. If you would like to know more about the community or about South Surrey real estate or White Rock homes for sale, I'd be happy to help you. Please call me, Mike Alleyne, at 604-785-7066.
September 19, 2014
Realtors' Slo-Pitch Tournament in South Surrey, BC
This year I decided to play in the Surrey realtors Slo-Pitch Tournament. I play slo-pitch in a regular league and our season wraps up with a tournament in Cloverdale the second weekend of August. So it had been over a month since I'd played and I had "itchy cleats" to run the bases one more time (or maybe just needed new cleats). Our team was made up predominantly of realtors from the Homelife Benchmark Titus and Homelife Benchmark Cloverdale offices. There was also a home inspector from Richmond and a realtor from Homelife North Vancouver, who joined the team (ringers, I hope). The weather was confusingly sun and rain, so as realtors do, we huddled in the dugout and talked about South Surrey real estate trends.
We held a practice at Joe Brown Park in Panorama Ridge the night before the tournament. Although the team roster had 25 people, there were only 9 at the practice (rain, rain go away). It was a small group and a good opportunity to get to know the friends and family of the other Homelife Benchmark realtors. Given the park is walking distance from our home, my wife, Janet, and our dogs came to watch. It was such a fun group and we were all able to have a quick beer after the practice and get to know each other a little more.
The tournament was to be held at Softball City in South Surrey on September 19. On tournament day it was pouring rain and no time to allow for the sky of South Surrey to clear as our first game was a 9 am. When we arrived, we faced off against a team from ReMax Coquitlam Sabres Realty, who were outfitted in brand new white shirts. By the third inning, many of the Sabres looked like they'd rolled in mud (and some go-getters really did fall in the puddles). They would need to use the "by" they had between games to visit a laudromat. Really I'm just kidding, getting dirty is all part of the sport. I was just hoping no one got hurt because it was wet and slick out there. Most of the players were newbies to slo-pitch and didn't play enough to know how to avoid injury. Despite the obstacles of the weather and mudball, we actually won 10-0. Being soaked to the skin didn't dampen our team spirit. Our Homelife group was so excited ... a big win for our ragtag, barely practiced team.
I'm glad we relished our win, because our game against the ReMax Sabres was our one moment of glory. It was downhill from there. Our next game we lost in a squeaker 9-8, but we were still optimistic. Hey, we fought hard and only lost by one run. Our skill set continued to go in the wrong direction. Perhaps too much food and beer at lunch was our downfall, because we were taken down handily in our next game .... by ... wait for it, the Remax Coquitlam Sabres, the same team we had shut out first thing that morning. Karma had played a bad blow to our team.
The good news is that the sun broke though the clouds in the early afternoon (good old South Surrey weather). It was right about the time the sun came out that we were being polished off in our final game. When I say "polished off", I mean, done for, kaput, relegated to the bleachers. These tournaments are all about having fun and meetng people and that we did. So Janet and I and the rest of the Homelife team soaked up one of the last days of summer watching The Remax Treeland Team (the Treelanders) win the tournament. Apparently, they win every year - sigh. Congratulations, but watch out for Homelife Benchmark team next year. We'll be back!
September 15, 2014
The Foreclosure Process in BC, our Day in Court
Buying a foreclosure is more complicated than buying a regular listing given the legal complexities. The foreclosure process in BC is much different than in the United States. The banks and the courts in BC (and the rest of Canada) move very carefully to ensure that the process is fair to all parties (more on that in my next blog).
When Janet and I purchased a foreclosure in 2002, the property had only been listed for about a month. It was not considered a “hot” real estate market. The bank priced the property based on their formal appraisal that took into consideration the current condition of the home. There was also a developer who had twice viewed the property and was doing some due diligence on development before putting in an offer.
We chose not to lowball an offer, as the chance of success of this strategy was low. The more time this home was on the spring market, the more it would open us up to competitors for the property. Many potential buyers had been turned off by the knee high grass and abandoned appearance. The bank had not been permitted access in the house, even to do minor yard work. This kept buyers at bay. If our offer was not accepted in the first go around in court, it may be that the banks get access for maintenance in the second round. We didn't want them to perfume up this pig and attract more buyers.
We decided to get our own independent appraisal of the property done, to confirm and/or challenge to the bank's valuation. Our valuation came back at 2.5% lower than the banks. Perfect, we now had support for a somewhat lower offer, not a lowball, but lower. We decided to present an offer in the amount of the appraisal we had done. The offer was accepted and a date with the Supreme Court of BC was set for two weeks later.
Even though the bank accepted the offer, it still needed court approval. If the offer had been significantly below the appraised value, there would need to be extenuating circumstances. In our case, we provided a second appraisal which gave the court a defendable position for our price. There were no extenuating circumstances to support anything lower. The condition of the property was already reflected in the appraisal, the house had been on the market for only a short period of time, and the house was in a desirable area. A lowball offer would likely result in rejection by the court, and a suggestion for a longer listing period before a significantly lower offer would be accepted.
The court date is public and the listing realtor is obligated to tell all interested parties about the offer and the court date. Anyone interested can show up at court with a competing offer. When the date arrived, we went to the downtown Vancouver courthouses at the 10:00 am start time and waited for the docket number of our property (hopefully our property) to come up. The process moved quickly and within half an hour our property was before the judge. There was indeed another proposal being submitted. The judge had a quiet sidebar with a lawyer for a moment and our docket number was moved to the back of the list. What did that mean? Well that meant, we were in for a long long day.
What we found out during the next hour from the bank’s lawyer, was that the previous owner (before it became "bank owned") who had been foreclosed on, had shown up in court to reclaim the property. We didn't foresee this and it was major event in the courts' eyes. Even though the six month redemption period had expired, courts want to keep BC families in their homes. If financially feasible, they will err on the side of the owner and try not to displace property owners. We would have to wait for the proposal from the previous owner, but the purchase by us was looking less likely.
Given the number of foreclosures before the court that day, our docket would not likely come up again until after 3 pm. We were advised not leave the court, just in case the process moved faster. We needed to be present in case there were other bids besides the previous owner. There may be a situation where we would have to submit a sealed counter bid. (only the original accepted offer gets to resubmit new offer in court)
My wife and I were able to spell each other off and get a bite to eat. We nervously sat on the hard bench seats for five hours and 45 minutes. When the docket finally came before the judge, she asked for the previous owner to stand before her with his proposal. He just said that the home was being sold for lower than he had purchased it for many years ago and he wanted to buy it back for the price we were offering. He has no paperwork to present. He did not bring a cheque. He didn’t have a payment plan.
You could hear a pin drop for about 30 seconds while the judge collected her thoughts. When she spoke, it was clear that this was not a scenario that in her mind warranted special consideration. The judge “threw the book at him” so to speak. She sternly reprised him ... he did not live in the house, it had been abandoned for months, he did not maintain the condition of the house, he did not allow the bank to maintain the house, he refused to respond or communicate with the bank.
Her voice then softened and the gist was .... regardless of all she just said, the courts are very reticent to displace people where there is a concerted effort to keep their home. In this case, the judge found that there was no such concerted effort. In fact, she told the previous owner that if he had shown up with a payment plan, post dated cheques and even a certified $1,000 towards the back debt, she MAY have given some consideration to bridging the relationship with the bank. BUT to allow a house to fall into such disrepair, blocking all attempts to maintain it, and then trying to buy it back at a lower value was distasteful to her. No deal. Our offer was accepted, and the house was ours. We looked at each other and blinked. Did that just happen?
It was definitely not an easy way to go about purchasing a home and not for the faint of heart. In fact, we both walked away from the process feeling somewhat confused. We were elated to get the house but felt a little heavy hearted about it being at someone else’s misfortune. The possession date came quite quickly and once we were in the house we cleaned, added plants and opened the windows to fresh air (and so much more – see my September 9 blog). We made it our own and did not feel that it carried negative energy.
Since purchasing our own foreclosure, I have been through the process many times as a realtor with clients. I have encountered bidding wars, but never the courtroom drama of the previous owner showing up. That is very unusual, given the long redemption period before foreclosure.
If the property you wish to purchase is a foreclosure, the process is generally not as complicated as it was in our situation. I've gained so much experience over the years, I now find the process quite straightforward.
September 9, 2014
Buying a Foreclosure Property, My Personal Experience with Overcoming the Visual
In early March 2002, my sister-in-law called my wife, Janet, about the perfect property she had found in the Real Estate Weekly. The property was in foreclosure and located in Panorama Ridge, Surrey, BC. I must admit it sounded lovely. The "old timer" home was on an acre of property, with a view of Mud Bay, and a swimming pool. My wife is a little pool crazy, so she was quite excited about the property. I did a drive by on my way home from work and was not impressed at all. I came home to Janet and told her it was an absolute "no go" and played my trump card ... "there is no pool".
The house was off our radar for a few weeks, but my sister-in-law had driven by (and liked it, arrghh) and asked Janet if she'd seen it. Janet drove by the next day and she too thought the house had potential. I doubted we saw the same property, but called the realtor for a proper viewing just to prove Janet had the wrong address. In early April we viewed the property, and my ship was sunk. The yard was unkept but alive with rhododendrums and azaleas, the blossoms were spectacular. I was only bedazzled for a moment as my eyes were fixed on the downed trees, the blackberry bushes overtaking the yard, the falling eavestroughs ... I could go on and on.
The realtor had to clear branches away from the front door in order to clear a path for us to get in. None of this deterred Janet, she could see a beautiful future for this home. I still couldn't see a pool, perhaps that would be my "out". We toured the home, and it was outdated, but did had some potential. We went out on to the deck to view the pool. I mean to view where the pool should be located. Trees were so overgrown that the pool was completely enveloped in branches and groundcover. There was absolutely no sign of an actual pool.
There was a driveway that wrapped completely around the home. We stood under a magnolia tree on the driveway and talked. I remember clearly, my arms were crossed in "no" body language and my feet were entangled in the ivy covered driveway. Janet was animated, her face alive with all the possibility for the home. Wow, two completely different ends of the spectrum. She encouraged me to look beyond the maintenance issues (which I did), and I managed to convince her that this was a huge undertaking (and she knew). We laughed at the absurdity of it all. We had a very long talk that night and managed to reach common ground (I never had a chance ). This was a long term investment and significant elbow grease could pay off down the line. We decided to make an offer. I will do a separate blog on the negotiation and legal process of buying a foreclosure, so won't go into that now, but our offer was ultimately accepted.
We had an inspection and apparently the house had good bones, but needed a new roof within two years. The appliances were currently operating, but could kick the bucket any day. Other than the obvious very apparent cosmetic TO DO list, it was sturdy 2 x 6 construction.
The first few months were interesting and expensive. It rained in the livingroom within the first week. The kitchen had rodents. The upper bathroom toilet cracked (not a huge deal), but that was followed by the septic tank cracking (that was a huge deal). As predicated, some of the appliances died in the first months and all were kaput within two years. It took a month of hard labour to dig out the pool. I was stung by wasps on the nose three times in rapid succession while hauling out blackberries. Janet and her mom painted and scrubbed until they had blisters.
Fast forward twelve great years later and we are now almost empty nesters. After the first few months of complete back breaking labour for us both, we have had a great life in this home. We've hosted so many great swim parties for all the baseball teams our family has been involved with. We have made many great friends in the neighbourhood. We walk the dogs in the park across the street. In the summer, we sit on the deck night after night and enjoy the fresh air, the tranquility, and the beautiful trees of Panorama Ridge.
Despite how happy we have been here, our time in this home has come to the end. We we will be moving on to something smaller. I thank my wife for her early vision of what the house could be and personally will never regret purchasing a foreclosure.
September 6, 2014
Moon Festival in White Rock
This weekend, September 5 to 7, 2014 is very special in the Chinese lunar calendar. It's the Moon Festival celebration, the time of year when the moon reaches its peak fullness and brightness. I took a little time to learn the history of the celebration through a Chinese friend. The festival celebrates family reunion. It's a time when moon cakes, a circular pastry made from red bean or lotus seed paste, are given primarily to relatives, but also friends and business colleagues.
There is a historic legend around the festival and the moon cakes. It dates back to the 12th century when the Mongolians were oppressing the Chinese. Legend says that the Mongolians would not eat the moon cakes, so they became the perfect hiding spot for the exchange of messages and plans for the rebellion. The Chinese were able to ward off their oppressors in 1,368 AD.
As we walked down the White Rock promenade and pier last night, we found it hard to imagine the 1,000's of years of history that is steeped in the White Rock Moon Festival. The evening couldn't have been more perfect when at 9 pm, there was an amazing display of fireworks. We looked behind us and saw the houses of White Rock lit up in technocolour. So many people were silhouetted out on their decks watching the skies light up over Semiahmoo Bay. The view homes of White Rock that are clustered all the way up the hill had a front row seat to the amazing show. I wondered if they knew the history behind this amazing event.
For anyone in the White Rock area this weekend, I recommend that you get down to the White Rock beach and take in the festivities. The best place to be is on foot on the boardwalk or on the beach. You can enjoy your family and friends, listen to music, and soak up he sun. The 500 red lanterns dotting the promenade and pier are an amazing site, particularly at night.
September 4, 2014
Foreclosures in BC
As a BC real estate agent, one of the most frequent requests of my clients is how to find foreclosure homes. I'm not surprised by this request given there are so many TV programs on renovations, DIY, and flipping homes. A perception exists that there are significant bargains to be had. Buy a foreclosure, put in a little elbow grease, some stainless steel appliances, a natural stone countertop, some TLC, and a buyer can signficantly increase the value of their asset, right?
Maintaining, updating and renovating your home can definitely improve the value. But the foreclosure process is significantly different in Canada than in the United States. The same system of protection that caused Canada not to follow in the United States into a housing market crisis, protects the value of homes in the foreclosure process.
My first experience with a foreclosure began 12 years ago when my wife and I purchased a foreclosure as a family home. It was certainly more complicated than a standard home purchase. It was a learning process, and I've continued to build on that knowledge over the years. Through my experience, I have been able to walk my clients through the complexities of buying a foreclosure.
I have set up a new category of blogs called "Buying a Foreclosure". I will post a series of blogs about my personal experience, the foreclosure process, foreclosure buyer beware, and more. It you are interested in purchasing a foreclosure property in BC, please follow my blog series.