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Will Your Furniture Fit?

vancouver, real estate, todd johnson, sutton

Todd Johnson real estate

When shopping for a new house or condo, most buyers consider such factors as neighbourhood, proximity to schools, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of the kitchen, and more. These are, of course, all important considerations. But there’s one question that few buyers ask – until it’s too late. “Will our furniture fit?”

This may seem like a trivial concern. But if you’ve invested thousands of dollars in a new living room suite, you’re going to be very disappointed if it looks too crowded in your new home.

Here’s a tip: measure rooms in your current home that contain the furniture you like most. This could be the living room, rec room, master bedroom or even the patio. Then imagine how much smaller – if at all – that room can be and still accommodate the furniture.

When you view condos or houses on the market, take those measurements with you. That way, you’ll be able to quickly determine if room sizes are going to be an issue.

And don’t forget to take a good look at entry ways. If you have a large wrap-around sofa, for example, you’re going to want to make sure you can get it through the door!

Why You Should Clean Up Fallen Leaves & How to Make It Easier

leavesBrightly colored autumn leaves are one of the greatest joys of the season. However, once these same leaves drop off the trees and land on your yard or your roof, they are usually no longer so welcome. Cleaning up fallen leaves is a time-consuming chore that most homeowners do not enjoy one bit. Here are reasons why this task is necessary and tips to make your work a little easier.

Why Clean Up Fallen Leaves

While it is by no means mandatory for you to track down and annihilate every last leaf on your property, copious amounts of large leaves like maple or oak will smother your grass and flowers if left as is.

In an autumn windstorm, your fallen leaves will blow onto neighboring yards. This is not a popularity booster.

Leaf removal may be required by your Homeowners’ Association.

Fallen leaves can carry diseases such as anthracnose, a type of fungus.

Foliage in your roof gutters will cause clogs, which may result in damage to your fascia and soffit boards, as well as rainwater and melted snow backing up into your attic. Eventually, when the temperature dips below freezing, clogged gutters tend to produce ice dams.

Clumps of dead leaves on the roof itself will trap moisture, leading the shingles underneath to rot.

rakeHow to Make Clean Up Easier

Prune any trees on your property that have become overgrown. Trimming will not only cut down on the amount of leaves to be shed, it also may offer protection against limbs being detached by winter storms. Be especially vigilant about boughs that overhang your roof.

Adjust your lawn mower to cut your grass short in the autumn — much, much shorter than you would normally do in full summer, when keeping its roots covered is important to hold in moisture. This way, the leaves falling from your trees are less likely to get caught in the grass.

Make use of some simple low-tech tools to help with leaf collection. For example, an extra-wide 30″ rake with special non-clog tines will simplify and speed up your task. Keep up the good work by utilizing your new utensil to rake leaves onto a tarp. Then use a leaf chute to help load your cargo into brown paper bags for curbside pickup by your municipality.

Rake on a still day, if at all possible. Should you not have a choice, work as efficiently as you can by raking in the same direction as the wind is blowing. Raking downhill and when leaves are dry will also spare your strength.

As an alternative to bagging, transform fallen foliage into mulch, which will keep tree trunks and garden beds cozy over the winter. Mulch acts to safeguard against harsh temperatures and slows down weed growth too. NOTES: Avoid mulching foliage which has been affected by powdery mildew, rust, or tar spot. Walnut leaves are toxic to certain garden plants and thus not a good choice for mulch.

Consider composting fallen leaves to eventually enrich your garden soil. This is easier said than done, because leaves break down quite slowly. However, you can easily speed up the decomposition process by shredding the leaves with your rotary mower. (Just be sure that your blade is sharp and the leaves are dry. Go over them 2 or 3 times.) Treat the leaf shreds as brown material and combine them with nitrogen-rich greens such as grass clippings, in a ratio of roughly 25:1. Compost a variety of leaf species together for the best results.


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Competing With Other Buyers?

houseWith historic low interest rates, buyers are making the jump into homeownership as it is a great time to get into the market. However in a sellers’ market, buyers find themselves in competition with other buyers to purchase a home. The seller is not obligated to negotiate or accept any of the offers. The seller has the liberty to choose the best offer to negotiate and they will accept the offer that best reflects their needs. While price is important, that will not be the only factor they consider. They will also look at things such as subject conditions, completion and possession dates.


Here are some things you can consider and help you feel more in control of the situation when going into multiple offer situations:

  • Prepare thoroughly and have all your financial documentation ready: It is important that you provide your mortgage expert all the documentation the lender is going to require upfront. Especially since time will be of essence, you don’t want the added stress of getting documentation when you are in the middle of negotiations and during the subject condition period.
  • Have the right real estate agent: It is critical that you work with an agent that has your best interests in mind. As a buyer it is not your job to seal the deal, it’s your agent’s responsibility, so make sure they know what your limit is and respect it. Don’t let your agent try to upsell you on the price and encourage you to go above your budget. It’s their job to research comparable in the area and advise you but you are the one that makes the final decision after all it’s your money.
  • Set your boundaries: Once you set your budget, stick to it. Determine exactly how much you can go over if you end up in multiple offers. Don’t get sucked in by emotion and peer pressure because in the end it can end up costing you a lot more money.
  • Consider doing a home inspection ahead of time: The buyer could consider your offer more readily, if it doesn’t include a “subject to inspection” clause.
  • Be flexible: Winning a multiple-offer situation might be as easy as agreeing to the seller’s conditions such as closing dates, buying the property “as is” or even tightening the subject removal dates. This is important if the seller has already bought another property and is anxious to moving on. Agreeing to make the transaction as easy as possible could mean winning over a more generous offer. When buying a property “as is” and limiting the subject conditions – such as requesting that a missing knob or floor tile be replaced – might work in your favour too. If your agent is aware of any information about the seller’s situation and if you can be flexible in any way, take advantage of this opportunity that might help you get your offer accepted.
  • Write it down: Perhaps you might want to write a quick letter to the seller explaining who you are and why you want to buy their home so much. Buying and selling a home is an emotional time for everyone, especially if the seller has lived in that home for a long time and raised their family there. Sometimes, it’s not about the highest offer but it can certainly also be about an emotional connection. Even though your offer might be lower than the others, some sellers might feel a strong connection to your story and decide that it’s not about the money but about someone who will really appreciate a great home.
  • Know when it is time to walk away: Multiple offer situations can be stressful and sometimes listing agents strategically set the price of the home below market value to start a multiple offer situation. Make sure you stand firm on the top end of your budget, and don’t give in to the pressure of the situation. If the seller doesn’t accept your best offer, it’s time to move on.

Buying your home is about getting a great investment and you have to be smart about it. In the end, it’s about being comfortable on what you are paying each month and happy with the decisions you make. After all it’s about finding a home that will be a great place to start building equity and creating memories.

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How to Renovate Condo Kitchen on a Budget

saveThe Vancouver condo market is hot and kitchen design is sizzling too! As condo square footage decreases, kitchen space is changing. Condo kitchens today are often more of a culinary wall in the great-room concept, with an island serving as the eating station, and extra storage and work space. With this new trend, condo kitchen renovations will most likely require wall removal, upgrades in appliances, cabinetry, and flooring, and maybe the addition of an island. To keep costs down, keep the following in mind when renovating:

  • Roll up your sleeves and pitch in with the demolition. And, for that matter, you can help with rubbish, recycling and general cleanup too. This can save you upwards of three to five per cent of your overall renovation costs.
  • Existing appliances can be resold or recycled. Check with BC Hydro for appliance rebate programs in your area. If not available, list them for free, and eliminate removal costs.
  • Culinary walls typically feature flush-mounted appliances, adding to the seamless, opening living feel. Tap in to your certified builder or renovator’s contacts. Chances are they will get better deals on appliances, saving you money to upgrade.
  • Re-use existing cabinetry. If cabinets are in good shape, door panels can be replaced or recovered.
  • Cabinet space-saving systems can exponentially increase your existing usable space per square foot, eliminating the need for excessive cabinetry.
  • If you are removing walls, the space will naturally lighten up. Look to under-cabinet lighting to warm up darker corners versus more expensive, recessed overhead lighting.
  • If you don’t have to move the kitchen sink, don’t. It will save you plumbing costs, and potential issues with your strata/bylaws. If however, you are working with a plumber, and have access to include natural gas in your kitchen, this would be a cost-efficient time to upgrade.
  • Open-concept living generally features a single floor covering. Buy in-stock flooring rather than making custom orders. This will save you on both time and money. And, make sure wall removal is complete before installing. Have your plans in place.
  • Countertops often become the statement piece in open plans, with a focal point around the island. You might like to splash out here, given all of the other dollar-saving ideas.
  • Finally, but most importantly, work with a professional contractor/renovator with condominium knowledge. There will be strata rules to consider, city bylaws, and limitations with common walls, supporting walls, and windows, just to name a few.

When buying older units, make sure to do your due diligence: know the bylaws, use a building inspector and most of all, be sure to use a certified builder or renovator, and get the agreement in writing.

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victorian home

Vancouver learns how to make an old house pay

Vancouver’s remaining old character houses still have a lot working against them.

There are a lot of people who do care deeply about preserving the charming old houses. Author Caroline Adderson’s Vancouver Vanishes Facebook page, which archives the ongoing demolitions, has 5,131 likes.

But there are people who think old houses can never be energy efficient, and are filled with mould and rot. There are those who don’t find them aesthetically appealing, and there are others who simply don’t care about them. And then, there is the biggest impact of all – the fact that the new market demands bigger, newer houses. The more square footage, the more money for everyone involved.

As we all know, the old houses are coming down to make way for big, new ones. As a result, Vancouver’s west side, and pockets of the east side, have been completely transformed. The sale of an old house, particularly in Kerrisdale, Dunbar or Point Grey, most certainly marks the end of its existence. One Dunbar homeowner currently has an ad posted on Craigslist to sell their solid, well-built, 1,820-square-foot, four-bedroom character home for $1, if someone could relocate it before it’s demolished. The chances are probably slim.

Heritage home at 1828 West 15th Ave. A laneway home has been added to the rear of the property. All photos by Darryl Dyck for The Globe and Mail

Where houses are concerned, we’ve been on a clear-cutting frenzy these last several years. Somewhere in the order of 1,000 demolition permits are issued annually in Vancouver. As a city, we have been big pushers for the big and new. It’s not exactly the greenest of policies.

And so, in an attempt to abate the demolition of nearly 1,000 homes a year – a substantial number of them built prior to 1940 – the city approved a policy that restricts demolitions of pre-1940s houses deemed worthy as having character. The plan includes a requirement that 90 per cent of the materials from a pre-1940s character house that gets torn down must be recycled. As an incentive, if the house is retained, there’s an added floor space allowance.

Not surprisingly, there was some outcry from builders, realtors and architects whose business is devoted to new builds on the west side. Houses will be devalued, they argued. Seniors who own them will suffer financial losses. But really, could a solid arts and crafts house that sits on a 50- or 60-foot lot on the city’s west side really become so undesirable as to drop significantly in value? Is the only answer to Vancouver’s real estate market the big, bulky and generic new house that too often replaces it?

Could the new rules hurt such a robust market?

David Peerless, owner of Dexter Associates Realty in Kerrisdale, specializes in west side homes. He says the answer is no.

“We’ve found that demand for properties that are affected by the policy has not dramatically changed,” says Mr. Peerless. “The pre-1940 house has a slight stigma to it, but what we thought would have been a very big effect on the market, we haven’t really experienced.”

Instead, the value of a house, he says, is still based on many factors, not just the new restriction.

“I think people are trying to zero in on this one policy as [potentially] causing a really dramatic shift in prices in the city, but there are a lot of factors that make up the value of a house.”

Contrary to reports, the old house can be a winning proposition. Adding value to a character home with infill might be harder, more time consuming and sometimes more costly in the short run, but there are other benefits.

The Beaddies increased the value of their 1938 house a couple of years ago by adding a laneway house. They are long-time Vancouverites who inherited an old four-bedroom house at 1830 West 15th, just off Burrard. They already had a principal residence elsewhere, and they didn’t want to sell the house on West 15th and risk their tenants being evicted. So, they decided to build a laneway house on the lot in order to boost their income. They added a two-bedroom, 1,027 square-foot house that is now home to a young family. In the main house are tenants who’ve lived there for 12 years.

Instead of selling off the property, the Beaddies discovered that they could increase its value for the community and make it work for their pocketbook as well. As a result, the house is not only saved, but the property now offers housing for two families.

“It’s an income for us, now that we are retired,” says Mrs. Beaddie, who prefers not to give her first name. “And it also does provide housing, and we try to maintain the houses and be good landlords. If you have property, you have to take care of it, and do the best you can. And you have to provide housing where you can.”

It wasn’t an easy process, mind you. Mrs. Beaddie says there were several headaches, including the fact that they couldn’t install double-glazed windows on the main house, in keeping with the character. That meant expensive storm windows had to suffice.

But asked if she’d go to the bother again, she responds, “Oh yes. I would recommend it.”

The city’s attempt to protect character houses is commendable, albeit far from perfect. It doesn’t make sense that only houses built prior to 1940 are protected, for example, when there are many great architectural designs from the 1950s, 1960s and yes, even the 1970s.

As well, the only way to protect what’s left of the historical housing is to offer bigger incentives to boost their value. When square footage is at such an all-time premium, it’s essential that the old houses become so valuable that the development community is motivated to work with them. That’s the only way they’ll survive.

Laneway housing builder Jake Fry proposes zoning that would allow for laneway strata-titled homes that could be sold off. Such zoning has been used in Kitsilano in years past.

“Those houses are intact and more valuable because they are beautiful and old and had other value components. So it’s in everyone’s interest,” he says.

“The city needs to be credited for taking a step in the right direction. [The new plan] hasn’t been negative. It’s been neutral. But my personal feeling is it should be more rigorous in preserving what’s left of the character stock, by using bigger enticements.”

Rick Michaels, former assistant director in development services for the city, agrees that the current policy isn’t incentive enough to boost the dollar value of character homes. He says the builders and architects are turned off by the many codes and requirements they have to fulfill in order to retain an old house in exchange for more floor space.

“We can do better than the laneway house,” says Mr. Michaels, who is now a development consultant. “Put three units on the site, stratify them and look at different forms of home ownership. It may not impact the market. I don’t know. But you need to go there. There’s no choice in the matter. There has to be a reward there.

“It doesn’t punish the existing neighbourhood by its form and massing and density. It does the exact opposite. It builds the community rather than making it a bunch of strangers or whatever.”

As well, the added density will offer housing for retirees who want to stay in their community.

“That’s a healthy attribute, and it’s needed. They’ve got their doctor in the neighbourhood, family and friends, shopping. They want to stay but want less of an entity.

“You could do that in all of the small density areas.”

From Kerry Gold, Special to The Globe and Mail

Vancouver’s New Building Bylaw

real estate vancouver

Vancouver, BC        Canada

Unlike any other city or municipality in British Columbia, the City of Vancouver is authorized by the Vancouver Charter to pass its own building bylaws regulating the design and construction of buildings as well as administrative provisions for permitting, inspection and enforcement.

On 1st April, 2014, Vancouver City Council adopted the 2012 British Columbia Building Code, with additional requirements and revisions specific to Vancouver, to create the 2014 Vancouver Building Bylaw (the “Vancouver Building Bylaw”). The Vancouver Building Bylaw was originally scheduled to come into effect on 1st July, 2014 but that date has been extended to 1st January, 2015. The current 2007 Vancouver Building Bylaw will remain in effect until that date.

The Vancouver Building Bylaw includes amendments to improve housing for seniors and people with disabilities as well as amendments to promote the City’s objectives of the “Greenest City 2020 Action Plan”. This environmental action plan contains specific goals addressing issues such as reducing carbon footprint, achieving zero waste and preserving the City’s ecosystems, which the City hopes to achieve by 2020 to constitute the world’s “greenest city”.

The Vancouver Building Bylaw may affect how professionals, including architects, engineers and building envelope consultants, design projects subject to the bylaw and may impose additional administrative requirements associated with a project. It may also impose further obligations upon professionals during the construction process in the form of field review to ensure that the additional requirements of the bylaw are being met.

Requirements of New Vancouver Building Bylaw

The Vancouver Building Bylaw covers one and two family dwellings, including single family homes, townhouses and secondary suites (buildings classified as Part 3 or Part 9 non-residential buildings), and is intended to address issues such as: accessibility, energy utilization, and rain screen cladding systems. It includes new requirements and improvements for:

  • Building permits;
  • Building envelope requirements;
  • Equipment;
  • Health and life safety;
  • Energy efficiency;
  • Adaptable housing;
  • Certified Energy Advisor evaluation of energy efficiency prior to City insulation inspection;
  • Energy modelling report prior to application; and
  • Sprinkler systems.

In connection with Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, the Vancouver Building Bylaw requires that all new buildings subject to the bylaw be designed to meet strict energy standards to reach energy reduction targets for new buildings of 20% below 2007 levels by 2020, and to be carbon neutral by 2030. A 240-volt electrical vehicle outlet is required in each carport or garage.

To address accessibility issues, the bylaw requires that all doorways and corridors be wider to accommodate wheelchairs. There are new requirements with respect to the placement of kitchen and bathroom faucets, kitchen sink drains and dimensions for bathrooms. Also amended are the requirements for the placement of outlets, electric switches and living room windows.

As part of building envelope requirements, improved insulation is mandated for windows, sliding glass doors, skylights, walls, attics and under slab insulation. There are also new requirements for air tightness.

“Noise pollution” from exterior and interior sources is becoming a bigger issue in construction and has been the subject of at least one known claim in the context of the remediation of the building envelope of a condominium complex. Explicitly addressed in the Vancouver Building Bylaw is one aspect of noise control; the bylaw requires HVAC equipment to conform to the noise-control bylaw.

No More Doorknobs

One new requirement in the Vancouver Building Bylaw has attracted considerable attention, as well as some derision. With the bylaw, Vancouver has become the first city in Canada to ban doorknobs. In place of doorknobs, all new construction under the bylaw will require the use of accessible levered handles. This is part of the minimum accessibility standards.

Other Requirements

Prior to obtaining a building permit under the Vancouver Building Bylaw, a new house plan must be evaluated by a Certified Energy Advisor (“CEA”) using EnerGuide Rating System and the “P-File” submitted with the plans.

Prior to the City’s insulation inspection, an authorized Energy Advisor must: (1) provide confirmation of visual verification of window ratings; (2) complete a Vancouver Thermal Bypass checklist; and (3) complete a pre-drywall blower-door test.

Prior to final inspection, the builder must submit a copy of the final EnerGuide Report, prepared by the CEA. Further work may be required if the home performs significantly worse than the 3.5 ACH. Also required is a completed checklist by the CEA confirming that electrical, pipe insulation, and other energy requirements of the VBBL were met.

Transition Between 2007 and 2014 Vancouver Building Bylaw

If an application for a building permit is made before 1st January, 2015, the applicant can choose to apply under the 2007 bylaw or the 2014 bylaw.

Applications for building permits under the current bylaw must be submitted to the City of Vancouver by 19th December, 2014.

Not surprisingly, the City of Vancouver has received a large number of development applications under the current bylaw and reports that applications have increased by 40% from the same time period the previous year.

As a result of the influx of applications, builders have reported increased delays in the processing of their permit applications from a time period of one week to up to three months, which builders say have resulted in construction delays and increased costs.

While the new Vancouver Building Bylaw is intended to make buildings more accessible and environmentally friendly, opponents have criticized it on the basis that the changes will result in increased construction cost. The bylaw imposes new design criteria on those professionals involved in the construction of buildings subject to the bylaw, and may impose additional administrative and field review obligations. Time will tell whether these obligations will result in new types of claims against building professionals.

Article by: Karen L. Weslowski

Let’s Make You Some More Money!


Most people don’t know where to start once they’ve decided to sell their home. Do you start with those creaky stairs you’ve been meaning to fix, or repaint that outdated color in the kitchen? A lurking question for many sellers is how will this add to the resale value of my home? I’ve created a checklist to help clients focus on key areas that can woo potential buyers. Follow these 10 simple steps to get your home ready for the market and add more value to your investment.

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