Imagine yourself living in a Victorian home from the late 1800s in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. It’s like travelling back in history and taking part of it in the modern times. Old houses, when adequately maintained, are beautiful in a melodramatic sense that are often lacking in modern houses. Owning one of them can make you the envy of your neighbours. But don’t let the hapless romantic in you cloud your judgment when making an older home purchase. As always, there are has pros and cons.
The Lower Mainland, refers to the region around and including Vancouver, British Columbia. The Lower Mainland also includes South Surrey, Langley and White Rock. Although Vancouver hosts new developments in terms of real estate, Surrey has also its own set of buildings, townhouses and condominiums rising up against the skyline. Vancouver and Surrey are dominant in the Lower Mainland, but the surrounding areas are catching up. Newer homes dominate in these communities, but there are still a lot of older homes.
Should you be interested in moving into an older time home in Surrey, Langley and White Rock, let the following things about Lower Midland area help you decide.
- According to the Real Estate Investment Network, Surrey has ranked as the top area for real estate development in British Columbia for four years in a row now. This is a booming investment market in the area and means that the lower entry price of certain older homes may be attractive, if maintenance issues are minimal.
- Although Surrey, Langley and White Rock are cities much younger than Vancouver these three areas also have their share of charming houses which were preserved despite the modernization in real estate. Just for trivia purposes, Langley’s oldest home was built in 1888 while Stuart Farm in South Surrey was established in 1894. Enclaves with the old-world charm still exist in Lower Mainland.
- Statistics have shown that homeowners below 30 years old have increased in the area. Thus, the Lower Mainland communities are starting to be populated by a younger generation of people who have a stronger drive to own properties than the generation before them.
- Old house purchases are cheaper compared to buying modern homes but be prepared to spend on renovations. Old houses have all the charm but they fall below the standards in terms of compliance with the required safety features and maintenance procedures.
- Please take note that some insurance companies are hesitant to insure old homes because of the high safety risks. For example, some insurers will not cover old homes that are still fitted with “knob and tube” wirings which is no longer compliant with the modern electrical and safety codes. This means that buyers will have to upgrade the electrical circuits before signing up with home insurance providers.
- Old homes also noticeably lack adequate storage spaces. Times have changed and people nowadays tend to buy more possessions that are stored and used for a long time. Realigning spaces to make way for storage is one of the renovations that need to be done in old homes especially if these will be used by large families. But since all these renovations and installations often need to be done by professionals, renovation cost will eat up a sizable amount of your budget.
- Old homes, because of their age, will decay in the long run. This means that buyers should be ready with a big budget for restoration if they still want to maintain the look of the old house in the next few years. However, restoration may be done one portion of the house at a time depending on the availability for funds. Buyers should get the services of an expert to conduct a home inspection to know which part of the house will be given priority.
- The good thing about old homes is their proximity to the center of the town so that almost everything is accessible – schools, hospitals, groceries, etc. Everything is almost within walking distance or just a short ride from your home.
- Another thing about old homes is that many of them already come furnished. This could be a positive or negative depending if the buyer likes the taste of the old owner and the price. A deal could be struck so that the furniture already comes with the purchase at a minimum additional cost. For many home buyers, getting an already furnished place lessens the headache of having to look for every piece of furniture yourself.
- And finally, ensure you have several viewings of the old house of your choice before deciding to buy it. In those visits, conduct a thorough home inspection of the premises inside and outside. Check out all doors, cabinets, rooms, storage, basement, roof and all nooks and crannies. You also need to take a look at the trees growing outside the house and whether their roots have possibly reached the basement. Consider bringing additional professionals into home inspection process so that they can give you an estimate of the renovation costs.
Buying old houses in the Lower Midland area has pros and cons. If you love the charm of older homes, and can afford the necessary upgrades, insurance and maintenance, then take the historic plunge. It’s like owning a piece of history that will enrich you, your family and the community.
Mike Alleyne604-785-7066Homelife Benchmark Realty, Surrey
Friends to Lead, Friends in "Deed"
Yes, you read right, pretty much 4 out of 5 home inspectors in BC challenge the credibility of their own licensing. That’s a worrisome and bad statistic, but with a sliver of a silver lining. It’s bad because, if the licensing is so lax, there was a very low bar for home inspectors that are currently holding licenses. It’s good because licensed home inspectors are challenging their own profession standards and change is coming. So let’s go through the recent history of home inspector licensing and what may change.
Are you old enough to remember the leaky condos fiasco? The home inspection industry has a sketchy past in BC. Although less common now, you still see tarps hanging over portions of condos and townhomes in Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. It’s a hangover from a construction disaster of days gone with the epicenter in Vancouver. Didn’t the construction industry have a proper and official building or home inspection checklist?
As a result of many past horror stories, in 2009, BC became the first province in Canada to require home inspectors to get licensed. Can you believe it? That dumbfounds me. What about home buyers in the rest of Canada? Jeez.
Well, better atrociously late than never. Effective in 2009, a home inspection in BC had to be done by a licensed inspector. The recent history of home inspection qualifications is that effective March 30, 2011 individuals deeming themselves “Home Inspectors” needed to be licensed by Consumer Protection BC who, in turn, recognized four associations
Phew! Right? Are you getting that warm fuzzy feeling? Well don’t. The answer is to remain on your toes for unqualified home inspectors. In March 2013, Craig Hostland, President of Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors (CAHPI-BC) released a rather scathing press release challenging the licensing and making the bold statement “it's just like before licensing - the wild wild west - except now inspectors are licensed to pull the wool over your eyes. Given his inside knowledge of the industry and passion to protect the consumer, I encourage you to read his article.
I think Mr. Hostland ruffled a few feathers. This became an important issue to the provincial government and BC Premier Christy Clark made it part of her platform for re-election. She made a commitment to uniform standards in BC for the home inspection industry. On June 10, 2014, she wrote a letter to Rich Coleman, Deputy Premier, and also the Minister Responsible for Housing, mandating uniform licensing of home inspectors. If you don’t want to read the whole letter that I have linked, just skip down to point number 10.
I want to end on a positive note. Despite the problems of the past and present, and the licensing question mark, the standards are going to tighten. In the meantime, there are good home inspectors out there. That’s why the inspectors are speaking up and challenging the lax licensing standards. They want to protect the home buying consumer and raise the standards of their industry. So, do your homework, choose carefully, ask questions, and ensure whoever you hire has the required licensing and diligently follows a lengthy and detailed home inspection checklist.
Mike Alleyne604-785-7066Homelife Benchmark Realty, Surrey
Friends to Lead, Friends in "Deed"
To sell or not to sell your house before buying, that is the question. We are back to the chicken and the egg. But this time there is an answer to the riddle.
What often happens, is that buyers start house hunting just to look (just peaking), not to buy. Well, as night follows day, they fall in love with a property, put in an offer, and it's accepted. The buyers are now in a bit of a real estate pickle and must rush to sell their home. They have to list their home, find a buyer, get over the price negotiation hurdle, and finally seek the mythical real estate unicorn --- concurrent closing dates. It's a journey riddled with stress.
To avoid the above scenario, the simple answer is to sell first. However; as with most things in real estate, it's complicated and depends on the circumstances and the current housing market. It also depends on your personal financial position. Overall there are three reasons to buy before selling, and nine reasons to sell before buying.
Three Reasons to Buy Before Selling
1. You need time to renovate your new home. You can continue to live in your old home while making changes to your newly purchased home.
2. You found too good of a deal on your dream home. It could be that you've had your eye on a certain piece of property for a long time. It came on the market at a fair price and you know it won't last.
3. It's a seller's market. You are fairly comfortable that your home will sell quickly. In this case you may want to ensure you have secured a place to live before your home gets snapped up. If you sell your home, time may not be on your side to find a new home.
Nine Reasons to Sell Before Buying
1. It usually is a longer process to sell than to buy. The timing is not in your control. It can take months to sell a home, sometimes longer. Suddenly you are trying to figure out how to sell your home fast. After all, when you are selling all the prepatory work is up to you. When you are buying, the prep work is done by the seller.
2. There are more uncertainties when selling because final selling price, home inspection issues, buyer's subjects, closing date and other negotiating points are unknown.
3. You are in a much stronger negotiating position when buying, if you have already sold. If you have to sell your house, you are an impaired buyer. Some sellers may even turn down your "subject to sale" offer.
4. You can hold out for a higher sales price (or not sell at all) if your back is not against the wall.
5. There may be an opportunity to sell your home and rent it back after closing. This will allow you more time to buy your dream home.
6. You may inadvertantly end up becoming a landlord. Now you have a whole new bag of problems.
7. You don't want to get stuck with two houses. It's unlikely most buyers can afford to carry two mortgages (and don't be overconfident that the lender will be willing to do this)? The good old days of easygoing banks are long gone. If you did not make your purchse offer subject to sale, you may end up carrying two mortgages.
8. You will know how much you have to spend on your new home
9. You can't enjoy your new home if you are consumed with worry about finances and worrry about the old one.
A home seller never wants to be in a position to have to sell their home fast. Instead of quiet evenings relaxing and dreaming of your new home, you are scouring the internet for tips to sell your home fast. When you are buyer the timeline is up to you. You can take as little or as long as you like to find a home.
There are lingering old stories of buyers purchasing their dream home and then turning around and selling their current home before the ink dried on the purchase contract. These stories are from a bygone era and don't count today. If buyers and realtors were clairvoyant and all uncertainties were known, then maybe buy first.
In most markets and circumstances your realtor will recommend that you sell before purchasing. It is your realtor's job to negotiate the highest possible price when selling and the lowest possible price when purchasing. Selling your current home before buying is in most instances the best case scenario -- it gives more power to negotiate to both you and your realtor.
The City of Surrey has one upped Vancouver. We will soon have 40 free WIFI hotspots located throughout the city. Vancouver has been working on a similar deal for over 10 years but has still not inked it.
Surrey carved out the deal in only six months and is the first city in the Lower Mainland to get it. Best of all it's free to the City of Surrey and to those connecting to the service. OK, I know, there's no such thing as free, it's just kind of free. The City of Surrey gave Shaw the right to install WIFI equipment in city buildings as a trade off.
As a Surrey and South Surrey real estate agent, I'm curious as to the breadth of coverage the 40 hotspots will provide in the vast City of Surrey. I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth; 40 locations will suit me just fine. The hot spots will be community centres.
Realtors in Surrey, South Surrey and White Rock, find themselves doing a lot of work on their phones and tablets. Zooming from our home offices to our brokerage offices and then on to see clients. We are often asked to provide information on Surrey and White Rock homes for sale to clients and time is of the essence. Many real estate agents are fairly paperless these days, but we are very dependent on a strong wifi signal. Sometimes we battle with unstable internet connections. These back up hot spots will definitely be handy, particularly in South Surrey and nearer to White Rock, where cellphone and internet reception is sometimes intermittent.
White Rock, Surrey and South Surrey real estate agents will be able to get a map of the hot spot locations and just pull over to do work for their clients. My crystal ball shows real estate agents saving a little fuel, having better wifi reception (the deal includes good bandwidth), and being able to serve our clients even faster. How great is that? I won't fight City Hall on this one. Thank you City of Surrey, I appreciate the efficiency.
Mike Alleyne604-785-7066Homelife Benchmark Realty, South Surrey Real Estate
Friends to Lead, Friends in "Deed"
We are revamping the www.alleyneteam.com real estate website this month and needed to have a slogan or tagline that represented us. We wanted to develop our own slogan so it would be more meaningful. The slogan needed to portray us as realtors.
A real estate slogan needs to be short, original, and meaningful. We want to convey that we love working in real estate, that we act as advisors, and that we are skilled negotiators. We also wanted to express the importance of the friends we have made along the way. That's alot to pack in to a tagline. So, what do the marketers really mean by "taglines should be short" --- experts recommend a tagline be eight words or less. Are you kidding us?
We needed time to think, to create, to toss slogan ideas around. Luckily my wife, Janet, and I had lots of time on our hands on a recent road trip to Yellowstone Park. Driving through the rolling countryside, beautiful properties, and big skies of Montana gave us that time. For inspiration we picked up real estate magazines at gas stations, read real estate signs along the roadside and perused realtor websites when we could get wifi. We saw these slogans:
Outstanding agents, outstanding results
Real Estate is our Life
Real Estate for Your World
Service you deserve, People you Trust
Nobody Does It Better
Now we like these, but they are a little vanilla and definitely not very memorable. These are from major real estate companies and people would likely not know which slogan was from ReMax and which was from Century 21 and so on. Imagine not knowing which company was "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz", or "Just do it" or "Where's the beef". In all our real estate slogan searching, the only one that stood out was the Brel Team in Toronto. Their real estate slogan was "No BS, no fridge magnets, no broken promises". It's unique, it's funny, and youthful. As much as we liked it though, we needed something original for us (remember the rules, no copycatting).
Lucky our road trip was long. We were able to develop a slogan that really worked for us, one that incorporated friendship, guidance and property transactions AND was eight words or less.
Friends to lead, friends "in Deed"
Just six words, Phew! We hope you like it!