Alleyne Team 

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Friends to Lead, Friends in "Deed"


Surrey Real Estate Agent Celebrates 40 free wifi hotspotsThe 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 Alleyne
Homelife Benchmark Realty, South Surrey Real Estate

Friends to Lead, Friends in "Deed"

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Real Estate SlogansWe are revamping the 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.    
We chose, 
               Friends to lead, friends "in Deed" 

Just six words, Phew!  We hope you like it!

The AlleyneTeam
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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.

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Supply and Demand

As night must follow day, prices ultimately are on the heals of supply and demand.   The Fraser Valley real estate market was hot this July and that created an interesting situation.   Sales in Surrey (which includes Central Surrey, Cloverdale and North Surrey) were up 8.6% from July 2013 (341 vs. 314 sales).   White Rock and South Surrey real estate was also heating up with a sales increase of 5.1% over last year’s July (123 vs. 117 sales).   But (and you knew that was coming) new listings were slightly down.

The rise in sales is stemming from the demand for single family homes and townhomes.   Overall the Fraser Valley had 1,615 sales in July 2014, up 10.9% over last July.  Sellers, on the other hand, are still recovering from the downturn in prices from last year and have not yet reacted to demand.   That is, sellers are still holding off on listing their home waiting for prices to rebound.  Demand is the usher of supply, so sellers will get wind of price increases and new listings will ultimately appear in the MLS listings in the coming months.

The president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, Ray Werger, was quoted as saying that “… our market has fully recovered from last year’s slump and has returned to what we typically see in the Fraser Valley, which is a steady, consistent market”.   Good news!

There is a trend towards increasing prices for single family detached homes and townhouses, but a little softening of prices of condos.  The reason for this is quite simply, back to the supply and demand concept.   The number of new listings of detached homes declined, while there is lots of supply of condos.   This creates an excellent opportunity for sellers of single family homes and buyers of single family homes and condos.  The South Surrey real estate market has been busy, particularly with all the new developments in the Grandview Corners area.

How can this be?   Isn’t it either a buyers’ or sellers’ market, not both.   In our complicated real estate landscape you can have both buying and selling opportunities playing out at once.   If your home is what the market is seeking, there are tremendous opportunities for a good price.   Also, as Mr. Werger said, over time we are in a steady consistent market.   The buyer of your home, can look at Fraser Valley trend and feel confident that they too can live in and enjoy a home that is an investment in their future.

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Professional real estate photographerWhen it comes to selling your house, yes, pictures are truly worth a thousand dollars and more.   Don't believe me?    Redfin, a well respected  Seattle technology driven real estate brokerage, studied this and published the results.   In their article, they focused on using DSLR (Digital, Single, Lens, Reflex) cameras versus point and shoot.   Redfin's conclusion was that for homes priced between $200,000 and $1,000,000, better photos resulted in a selling price increase differential of $3,400 to $11,200.   

Google studied home buying trends throughout 2011 and 2012 and found that more than 90%of home buyers search online.   Before internet, the curb appeal of your home was the single biggest selling feature.  Today, curb appeal, while still important, takes a backseat to online photos.    The first impression a buyer gets of your home is predominantly through online search.

In this era of easy photography, realtors can take out their point and shoot camera, a smartphone, or a tablet and have your home photos done in 5-10 minutes.   Snap, Snap, that's that!   These quick snap shots are a great tool to the realtor when they return to the office to do the written description of the property.  But should they post these point and shoot photos to MLS?   I say emphatically "No".    

Consider, a buyer doing their real estate purchase research on the internet.  Usually they query by area, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and type of property.   In Canada, an online (MLS) query will return to that buyer anywhere from 0-500 homes to view. That's pretty stiff competition.  The single most important factor to whether an online looky loo clicks for more information on your property is how the listing cover photo compares to the others in the search results.  

MLS allows listing realtors a maximum of 20 pictures for each listing.  Your agent should work together with a professional photographer to maximize the opportunity that provides.  Often that includes using all 20 listing photo spots, sometimes not.    For smaller properties, fewer photos often have more impact, as the wow factor can be lost with too many shots of the same room or feature.  

The key to great photography is the house looks better in photos than in person.  In my experience, that is a good thing as the more buyers viewing your property increases the potential to sell it, and ultimately the price.  For example, in one case the professional kitchen photos in an online listing caught the eye of a buyer searching online.   When later physically viewing the property, it wasn't the kitchen but the backyard (particularly the apple and pear tree) that really piqued her interest. The backyard was very well featured in the photos, but it was the sounds, smells and "vibe" of the backyard and neighbourhood that she was drawn to.  That buyer would never even have seen the backyard if not for the professional photography that drew her there.

The benefit to the professional photos in this case didn't stop there.   What was key in keeping this buyer's attention was the professional photos were also included in a handout listing sheet that created an "offline" lasting impression.  As she viewed other properties, the handout photos were a permanent reminder of the home that had earlier interested her.  She ultimately returned to view the property again, and purchased it.

Sellers do not have to pay for professional photographs.   It's part of many realtors' service.  The professional photographers I have worked with have a keen eye for charming or elegant interiors, outstanding exteriors and landscaping.   They use proper lighting and plan and execute their shots.   They make buyers want to live in the homes realtors' feature.  To get the best return on what is likely your biggest asset, ensure your realtor is using a professional  photographer.  

Mike Alleyne, Real Estate Agent


HomeLife Benchmark







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In late October, 2013, the first bitcoin ATM in Canada was unveiled at Waves Coffee Shop in downtown Vancouver, BC.   On that day, one bitcoin was worth about $200.   Today, less than three months later, a bitcoin is worth about $917.   Actually, to be specific, at 7pm PST on January 16, 2014, the bitcoin was worth $917.30.  I really do have to be specific about the time in case there are fact checkers out there.   The value at end of today could be significantly different than the value right now.

Bitcoin house purchase surrey bcGiven that volatility, it was interesting that earlier today Global News reported that Quantum Properties, a developer located in Abbotsford, will accept bitcoins for deposits on property purchases of their residential developments.  Quantum is not aware of any other developers accepting bitcoins, so they are certainly forging a new path in real estate. Diane Delves, the president and CEO of Quantum, believes that bitcoins are the way of the future and she's willing to accept the volatility in her business model.

Bitcoins are a virtual unofficial currency.   They are on a long road towards credibility and acceptability in mainstream currency markets.   They are complicated (at first blush) and traditionally were a "bit" shady, pardon the pun.   Bitcoins originally made headlines by being the currency of choice for Silk Road, an illegal online black market, which has since been shut down.

The recent arrival of the bitcoin ATM in Vancouver, followed by the annoucement today by Quantum, shows that bitcoins are here to stay.   The bitcoin ATM is relatively simple to use and newbies to virtual currency can watch an instructional video on Youtube before venturing to Waves.   The Vancouver bitcoin ATM transactions are limited by Canadian government regulations to $3,000 per day, making the machine is a bit impractical for real estate purchases.

However; Quantum and other forward thinking real estate brokers and developers can open up a bitcoin wallet account by providing the appropriate documentation and entering the virtual unofficial currency world.   Online bitcoin transactions are relatively quick and the fees are fairly insignificant.    Bold move Quantum!


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My daughter, Jessica, recently received her mortgage renewal papers in the mail.   As the end of her first mortgage term grew near, the bank had automatically sent her paperwork for another 4 years.   

Jess said her proposed new mortgage rate was 5.3% for four years.  I thought I'd misheard, or maybe her young eyes were deceiving her.  Maybe she needed her dad's new trifocals.   Surely, she must have mistaken the 5.3% for 3.3%.  But no, the rate truly was 5.3%, which is at least 2% above the market

Good grief, don't sign those papers!  Jess and I talked about the rates currently posted in the paper, her doing online research, and her calling competing banks for quotes.   She had used a mortgage broker when she initially signed her mortgage.  But it is common practice on mortgage renewal for the bank to negotiate directly with their clients.  Once Jessica did her homework she called the bank and questioned the rate.   The bank on reflection told her that they'd inadvertently given her an old rate.   Really like from back in 2009?  Given my daughter's experience, here are eight tips for mortgage renewal:

    • Do not automatically accept the rate proposed by your bank
    • Prepare early  --- don't let the renewal date get too close and lose your negotiating power
    • Remember if you are changing financial institutions you'll have to requalify (which likely will not be a problem if your financial situation is the same or better as when you first qualified).   
    • Keep yourself informed, learn what the market is doing 
    • Get better than the bank's posted rate  
    • Watch out for the blend and extend.  Tell the bank want to know the rates they are using and compare to market
    • Don't be afraid to change lenders.   There is no penalty at the renewal time. 
    • If you don't like to negotiate, use a mortgage broker, they will get you the best rate available 

I ran a quick amortization schedule using Jess' proposed rate and the rate she ultimately received.   The difference she would have paid in interest over the four years would have been approximately $17,000!  

Mike Alleyne, Real Estate Agent
HomeLife Benchmark
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December 13, 2013 was the long anticipated deadline for British Columbia strata corporations to produce condo depreciation reports.   I imagine this had some strata councils of older buildings quaking in their boots.  In the grand scheme, the report is good for property owners, sellers and buyers in the market because decision making power and comfort comes with information.   In the short run, this report may "spook" some potential strata purchasers (particularly of older buildings).

The depreciation report is based on the onsite inspection of the major assets of the building including: roof, decks and balconies, club house facilities, air conditioning, paving, siding, elevators, boilers, water delivery, electrical, drainage systems, etc.  The depreciation report also sets out the current condition of a strata building and its life expectancy.    

This is powerful information for a buyer who will now know far more detail about their anticipated purchase than ever before.  Consider a purchaser weighing the option of buying a new townhouse with smaller square footage or an older one with a very spacious floor plan.    Both have newer finishings such as granite countertops, fixtures and cabinetry.  The older townhome has been newly remodelled.   The life expectancy and of the building and future anticipated levies are very key pieces of information.   As the building depreciates, so too does that part of your asset.   No amount of remodelling inside your suite is going to extend the life of the external building structure.  On the other hand, the building may be well built and maintained and the life expectancy of the older building is far longer than you anticipated.   The information in the report is key in this situation and will likely give the buyer the additional information needed to make the decision between new and old.

For most of us, a home is one of the most significant purchases of a lifetime.   The depreciation report may "out" potential special levies that have been long needed and not dealt with or just not known.   In the past, strata owners often were not given appropriate time to plan for these sometimes onerous and long term additional payments.   

The long term benefit of these depreciation reports will positively affect buyers and sellers.   For the first time strata owners will have in their hands a tool that can peeks decades into the future.   This will allow them to pace repairs and have a more well maintained asset to sell when the time comes.  

In the short run, I anticipate that the report may lengthen the sales cycle on older stratas (i.e., the buying decision for purchasers).  This will ultimately effect 2014 strata property sales.   Buyers simply have more information to factor into their decision.   I suspect, the winter market will somewhat mask the impact of the reports on strata sales.  We will only know the true effect of the reports on the strata market from realtor feedback and by analyzing the data in the busier real estate market the spring will provide.

I am strongly in favour of the report however I do have some concerns with its implementation.   I'll do a follow up blog(s) on two subjects concerning the report that buyers, sellers and realtors should be aware of:

1.  Stratas waiving the requirement for the report

2.  The Report Preparation


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Yesterday I blogged on the method BC Assessment values properties in BC.  I promised to do a follow up today.   Reading the title of this Blog you think I'm crazy, but I'll repeat it.    Should a Property Owner Request an Increase in BC Assessment Property Value?  Huh?  Yes, you read it right the second time as well.

The short answer is "No", but that's not the only answer.  If you let sleeping dogs lie, you will likely not have an increase in property taxes if you have made no significant changes to your property.   In fact, as newly built houses pop up with higher values in your neighbourhood, comparatively your value goes down as your house ages.    The only reason your property taxes would increase in this circumstance is if your city budget increases and the property tax percentage rate increases to meet the budget.  

Time to Plan when to sell your homeSo ... why on earth would anyone in their right financial mind request an increase in the assessed value and ultimately pay more property taxes?    There is one reason:  Your house is undervalued and you intend to sell it within the next year.   

Buyers will look for any reason to pay less than the listed price for your home.   In fact, they almost always pay attention to the most recent BC Assessment, and in my experience they have a really hard time paying over the assessed value.      

Time to Evaluate if your Home is worth more than the BC AssessmentI'm going to create a not too uncommon situation to illustrate how this could play out.   Jill's's home is assessed at $682,000, but realistically she is very confident that it would sell closer to $750,000.  This is not just her opinion, she's also had a realtor give her a CMA (comparative market analysis) at that price as well.   If you remember my blog from yesterday, the BC Assessment valuator rarely enters your home, so the realtor would have more tools for a proper valuation.    

Buyers and realtors both know that BC Assessments can be wrong.   Despite this knowledge, as a realtor I know first hand that buyers often really fixate on the assessed value.  They are justifiably scared that they are overpaying if the assessed price is lower than the list price.   So you see where I'm going with this?    A buyer, Jack, is now interested in the property in the above situation but is only comfortable going to $722,000.  Other buyers are also   spooked by the $40,000 discrepancy the BC assessed value.   Jack will go no higher, Jill will go no lower.  They are just too far apart and that deal dies.   

So, if in the scenario above, let's start over and Jill, knowing she intended to sell, successfully got their Property Assessment increased to a level closer to what the list price would be --- say new valuation of $738,000.   Jack, the potential buyers is now far more in his comfort zone.   After all, the BC Assessment is close to the list price. The Offer and Counter go smoothly and the the property ultimately sells for $746,000.    In this case, the buyer sold for $24,000 higher than above with the wrong assessment holding them back.   A home will sell for whatever the market dictates and the market is rarely wrong, if all parties are using accurate information.  

In the first scenario, the buyer did not get the property they desired and the seller did not get their fair price.  In the second scenario above, the deal closed at the market value, and the buyer and seller are both pleased.  Also, the buyer should be neutral to the fact that the BC Assessment was increased before the purchase because, the BC Assessors keep track of sales and their subsequent BC Assessment as new owners would have gone up anyway based on the sale price.  

Like George Peppard always said on the A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together".




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BC Property AssessmentsFirst of all let me say "Happy 40th Anniversary" to BC Assessment.  Now I 'm not about to send them rubies but I am a little in awe of them this year.  It's their social media that's grabbed my attention.   They have Youtube, Linked In, Twitter and Facebook all linked to their website explaining their processes.  The technology "love in" doesn't stop there, the Property Assessment Notices now have QR codes (a code that can be scanned by a smart phone for quick information).   I must say I'm a little impressed with what traditionally has been considered a boring old crown corporation.   

Now, if you are a property owner in BC, you will have opened your mailbox this week to receive your 2014 property tax assessment.   Did you wonder how they arrived at their valuation of your property?  

Most often, a BC Assessment Appraiser does not actually enter your yard or home to value it.   They don't even drive by.  Despite this, less than 2% of assessments in BC are appealed.   Here's why.

BC Assessment has almost 300 Assessors that review the property location and view, lot size, home square footage, home age, and comparative recent sales in the neighbourhood as of July 1 of each year.  They also go further and compile information from land titles and building and reno permits.   They also send out self reporting questionnaires to property owners.   For those of you who feel compelled to fess up to a material improvement, BC Assessment would not otherwise know of, you don't have to wait to be selected randomly for a self reporting questionnaire, you can complete it online.   Part F is a comments section and you can tell BC Assessment everything you want them to know.

All the secondary information on changes in condition and material upgrades is factored in effective October 31.  In this era of online information, there is very little property information an Assessor cannot obtain from afar.   Once the value of your home is established, your property goes up and down (mostly up), just the same as Adam across the street, Neil next door, or Bal a block over.   

If your property value stayed the same, or went down, you likely breathed a sigh of relief and filed it away.   If you property value assessment went up, you likely had more thinking to do.   

Now I don't want to sound like I drink the BC Assessment Kool-Aid and just accept it.   In fact, my brother-in-law had his assessment spike several years in a row.   He appealed successfully.  He keeps me on the straight and narrow on accepting the BC Assessment valuations without question.   The erraticness of values in his neighborhood and stability of ours is an ongoing thorn in his side (which he good naturedly continues to imply BC Assessment favourtism towards our neighbourhood).  

The bottom line is that if you want to appeal your assessment, BC Assessment encourages you to speak to an Assessor first.  Do this, because if you go on to appeal, the information they provide will likely form part of your appeal.  Upon appeal, an Assessor will take a second look at the data, and may actually physcially view the property.   There is some risk that your assessment could actually go up, but that is unlikely if you have done your homework on comparative properties before submitting your appeal.   BC Assessment does provide EValueBC services so that you may compare your property value to your neighbourhood.

If you would like to Appeal your Assessment, the deadline for appeal is January 31, 2014 and there is an online form that you can complete and submit.

I have some thoughts on why you'd appeal to have the value increased .... more on this topic tomorrow. 

Mike Alleyne, Real Estate Agent
HomeLife Benchmark


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10 Cheap Tricks for Beautifying the Bathroom 

Winter is a great time for Do It Yourselfers (DIY) to take on a project.  This is particularly important for anyone trying to sell their home.

Bathrooms are a key feature that buyers look at when making purchasing decisions.  The number of bathrooms is a standard listing detail for all homes.   Changing the number of bathrooms or their location is a massive undertaking that I don't recommend except in very specific circumstances.   There's usually no need to go to that extent.   However upgrading bathrooms can make a positive effect in showcasing your home.   But ... will you net out more as a seller by upgrading you bathroom?  That's the key. 

Full bathroom renovations can be very expensive, particularly with multiple bathrooms.   However; there are some shortcuts I recommend. 

Here's a list of 10 tips for DIY'ers to upgrade your bathroom cheaply.

  1. Paint the walls
  2. Upgrade the mirror
  3. Change the facets
  4. Redo the grout
  5. Upgrade the window coverings
  6. If floor is dirty or very dated - install lino tiles or maybe a brand new mat.  If you bathroom is fully carpeted  --- this is one of those musts -- remove it.   There is nothing I've seen close a buyers mind more fully than a shag carpeted bathroom.
  7. Change the lighting
  8. New shower curtain.  If the curtain is out of you budget a simple clean liner works well
  9. Patch any sink or tub chips
  10. Do a mini toilet makeover.  If seat is worn, replace the seat.  If the bolts at bottom of toilet are showing, replace the cover caps.   A tasteful decorative item sitting on the back of the toilet (on the tank) draws the buyers eye up from the toilet bowl.


Remember that clean and simple is better.   Try to make your bathroom as neutral as possible.  This gives buyers a palette for their own decorating ideas. 

I'll close with the simplest of all tips.  If its not in your budget to make any of the above upgrades, just clean the surfaces of clutter and close the toilet lid, before photos or a potential buyer visits.


Mike Alleyne, Real Estate Agent
HomeLife Benchmark
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Yesterday I received a letter from the City of Surrey essentially saying fess up or pay up if I'm hiding a rental suite.   If I had a secondary suite in my house (which I do not Mr. By-law Officer), I am required to fill out the form they attached to the letter and advise the City of Surrey of its existence.    


To give you a little history, Surrey Council changed the zoning in 2010 to allow secondary suites in single family homes in Surrey.   There was a little time lag, but following that approval in 2011, a secondary suite fee of $495 per year was introduced. Given the failure to disclose a secondary suite will soon be subject to a $1,000 fine, you essentially pay triple if your unregistered suite is sleuthed out by a By-law Officer.  The math is you pay $495 if you disclose your rental ... but you pay the fine of $1,000, plus the $495 fee (grand total of $1,495) if you do not. 


The City has two "suite" detectives (i.e., By-law Officers) specifically assigned to outing secondary suites.    One of the most common ways they have of learning of a secondary suite is by neighbours reporting it.   Neighbours often complain anonymously given noise, pets, and the most common trigger of all --- parking.


There are more that 24,000 registered suites in Surrey right now.   If you have a secondary suite and have not reported it, I recommend that you take heed of their "grace" period and report it by January 31, 2014 or pay the piper.    The $1,000 is per rental suite, not per home.   So, if your house has two rental suites, the non-disclosure fee could be $2,000.


Here's the "fess up" form provided by the City of Surrey.

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All eyes were on the Fraser Valley at the recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) annual Vancouver Housing Outlook conference held last Friday.     Despite the focus on Vancouver, considerable time was spent discussing the Fraser Valley's future prospects as it's one of the fastest growing regions of not only BC, but also Canada.     

CMHC Market Expert on the Fraser Valley, Richard Sam, gave some interesting data.   The fastest growing city in the Fraser Valley is Surrey, followed by Chilliwack, Abbotsford and then Langley.   Strong economic growth and jobs are attracting people to the Fraser Valley.   

Industries leading the local economy are manufacturing, construction, healthcare, retail, and transportation.   Also, enhancements to the transportation infrastructure including the Abbotsford Airport are attracting people to the Fraser Valley.   Buyers know they can get more for their dollar.    Essentially a buyer could get two single family homes for the price of one home in Vancouver.   Leading the sales are single family homes with a yard. 

The demographics are interesting in the Fraser Valley in that the annual population growth is 1.9 (higher than Vancouver's at 1.7).    The two fastest growing demographics are the Millennials (25-39 year olds) and the Boomers (55-74 year olds).   Both of these groups generally covet home ownerhsip.     

Richard Sam demonstrated that with a 10% downpayment, people are better off buying than renting.  That is good news for our real estate market.    Even though rents are relatively reasonable in the Fraser Valley, the low interest rates mean that mortgages payments are comparable to rent.   

Mike Alleyne  604-785-7066
HomeLife Benchmark Realty White Rock



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If you need an extra bedroom, want to move to a quieter part of town, or just want to upgrade for any reason, the current real estate market provides the perfect opportunity for some.


The FVREB shows that September 2012 homes sales were down 26% over the same month in 2011.    People hear this news and panic --- “Ring, ring, realtor take my home off the market”.   The For Sale sign is now off the lawn, so they dig out their warm winter woolies and anticipate weathering the real estate market storm.   Not so fast …. there may be an opportunity lurking here.


As with all stats, you have to dig a little.   The benchmark price for a single family home in the Fraser Valley was $533,400 in September 2011, increasing to $549,500 this September.   Yes, that’s right, an increase.    Homes in this range continue to sell.    The reason is these homes are in the affordable range for many buyers in the market, particularly while interest rates remain low.


What has been hit the hardest are the more expensive single family homes … so dream a little.   Is now that time?   Opportunities like this do not come by very often.    Prices of more expensive homes have dropped significantly in some areas.    Also, I'll tell you a little secret, real estate is seasonal and winter is a good time to pick up a bargain.   Also, to sweeten the pot a little more, winter is a great time to buy because homes show all their flaws.   Is that a water leak ... is it drafty in here?    You won't get distracted by the magnificent hydrangea and sun streaming in the windows and will focus on more important aspects of the home.


The old adage about the stock market is buy on bad news, sell on good.    For real estate this parlays to  trade up in a down market and trade down in an up market.


You can seek advice from your realtor and financial professionals on this, but work through the numbers.     There is definitely opportunity in this market, but your financial circumstances have to be right for it.   



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Just a gentle reminder to buyers to work with a buyer's realtor and do your homework. I was recently reading that the B.C. Place huge $563 million overhaul was immediatley followed by some minor leaks. With a budget like that you'd think the stadium roof would have been sealed tight with a kiss (and a state of the art vapor barrier that couldn't possible leak in its first months).  Not so, and minor repairs are now underway.  That's not your and my bill, oh wait maybe, because it's publicly owned.  I guess we'll see what is covered by insurance.  But that is exactly my point. Buyers need to know their builders and with the assistance of a realtor, do your homework, before you sign off.

Television programs like Holmes on Homes showing disasters encountered with builders and renovators shed a light on the importance of checking out the builder of a home you are interested in purchasing. In fact, checking out the builder is a very important element of the Buyer's Checklist.  BC has a bit of a history of leaks with it's Vancouver Leaky Condo Fiasco.   It became a rule of thumb for realtors to warn buyers to do their homework particularly on any condos built between 1980 and 2000.

Times changed over the years with formation of the BC Housing division called the Homeowner Protection Office and website which provides a great deal of information.  It is this office that licenses residential builders and also provides a searchable registry of licensees.  It is important to check if your builder is licensed and, if so, are they in good standing.

Also, BC now has mandatory third party insurance on all new residential construction. There is an online guide that assists homeowners to know what is and is not covered under the new home insurance.   

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments of your life. Make sure to do your homework. Your realtor will likely have done their homework on the builder, but I encourage buyers to as well.   

Mike Alleyne, Real Estate Agent
HomeLife Benchmark
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Barry McKenna wrote an interesting article in the Globe & Mail yesterday.   The crux of the article was that are banking regulations only partially saved us from the effects of the Lehman collapse and subsequent world credit crisis.

Canada is living in a world of artificially low interest rates as a result of the crisis.     Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has warned of Canada's household debt being far too high and growing.    When interest rates increase (and they will) there will be a deflation of home values as households struggle with their debt load.    Although analysts expect a correction ... it is still impending, not yet here.   As long as U.S. interest rates stay low, Canada will too.

If you are contemplating selling your house, price it right.   If you are planning on buying a home, I recommend that you get a good mortgage broker (I can recommend several) and negotiate hard for a good long-term rate.

If you would like to read the article n full, here's the Globe & Mail story from September 10, 2012.    

Mike Alleyne, Real Estate Agent
HomeLife Benchmark
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I often wonder how my children will be able to afford a home in the Lower Mainland if they chose to live here.   More and more our adult children are either moving away from the lower mainland or living at home longer because they just can't afford accommodation here.   My daughter recently rented a room in Yaletown which was actually a kitchen pantry converted to a bedroom.   There was no window, no closet, and definitely not big enough for even a single bed ... just a cot.    I won't even get into how much the monthly rent was.

Surrey's Quattro is tackling the issue of affordability of Surrey condos and townhouses.   They have chosen Surrey, BC's most rapidly growing community for this ambitious project.   You likely heard that Quattro 1 and 2 sold out in record time.    The real estate market has certainly cooled since then, but Quattro is still a very good option for 1st time buyers and downsizing couples or others who are deciding to be a part of the up and coming area at Whalley Boulevard and 108th in Surrey.     The proximity of healthcare of Surrey Memorial and the Jimmy Pattison Pavillion are also very attractive to individuals desiring the convenience of this proximity.

The Quattro area is becoming a new "city centre" area, with significant long term plans for infrastructure, including quaint neighbourhood restaurants, a live performance theatre, a new $86 million civic centre with its crowning glory being "Celebration Plaza" which will accommodate 5,000 people.   Quattro is also walking distance (less than 10 minutes) to Skytrain and close to SFU's Surrey campus.

Given construction is complete Surrey's new Quattro 3 condo and townhouse development re-opened its Discovery Centre over the Labour Day Weekend.    This condo development is the first six story wood frame residential commercial mixed building in Surrey.   It includes studio apartments, 1 and 2 bedrooms, and live work studios - imagine that.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts who supports the new construction stated "National business and real estate organizations continue to recognize Surrey as having one of the strongest investment climates in the country, and we've been able to attract over $1 billion in new residential development to City Centre. As we continue to shape growth in our city, we are encouraging new forms of housing stock to meet the needs of our community and are excited to see Quattro pioneering six storey wood-frame construction in Surrey."

The long awaited revitalization of Whalley has begun.  

Mike Alleyne, Real Estate Agent
HomeLife Benchmark
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