When selling your house, first impressions are everything. Whether or not a potential buyer will actually get out of his car during a drive-by viewing to see the inside depends largely on how good the outside looks. This is where a little exterior staging makes a big difference. After all, getting the buyer to come see the place is one of the hardest parts of selling, but if he pulls up and sees overflowing gutters, overturned planters and an unkempt lawn, he may decide he's seen enough and just keep driving.

Improving the curb appeal of your home can be as simple or intense as you like but the more you put into it, the better the chance of attracting a buyer. For front yard landscaping, the goal is to make your house look as inviting as possible: highlighting driveways and walkways with flowerbeds or potted plants on the borders, sweeping the sidewalk and walkway, keeping the lawn neatly trimmed and edged. Remember, though, that while the yard does a lot for appeal, it's the house people are here to see. Make sure gutters are clean, you've taken in the garbage cans from the morning pick-up, and you've touched up the paint job.

Landscaping House in VancouverCurb appeal has become a whole industry within real estate. Several television shows have dedicated entire episodes to explaining and demonstrating the importance of curb appeal and how to best achieve it. There was even a show called
Curb Appeal that aired on HGTV. Curb appeal has become so prominent that there is even software available that lets you virtually alter your front yard to see the changes before even touching a rake or hammer. A bit much, I think, when all you really need is some hard work and gardening gloves, but the point is still the same: In order to get people out of their car to see your house, it has to look good from the curb.
 
-- Sarah Mah
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Reports from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver show a continuation of the trend that has been running in Metro Vancouver for several months. Sales of residential detached, attached, and apartment properties reached 3,377 in May of this year.  That's a 7 per cent increase from May 2010 (3,156 residential properties sold) and a 4.7 per cent increase from April 2011 (3,225 residential properties sold).

Million Dollar House in Metro VancouverOne significant, though somewhat misleading stat, is the Housing Price Index (HPI) for residential properties in Greater Vancouver. The HPI over the last 12 months rose in May 2011 to $627,568. In May 2010 it was $590,662. This stat means that the prices for housing in Greater Vancouver rose from last year but because there has been more activity in the higher end of housing, the numbers are a little skewed. 21 per cent of residential properties sold on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver sold for $1-million or higher, while 20 per cent of residential properties that sold in Greater Vancouver sold for less than $350,000. Keep in mind also that these HPI stats are only for properties sold on the MLS® and do not include sales by owners, or properties that were not listed on the MLS®.

With high end property sales making up an increasingly large part of the market and with talk of
geographic restrictions inhibiting Vancouver's housing development, Vancouver's housing market continues to favour sellers this spring.
-- Sarah Mah
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Sometimes it feels like these two terms – "common sense" and "home purchase" – don't really belong in the same area code. Buying a home is an emotional process, especially if it's your first time. AApartment Tower in Downtown Vancouvers hard as it is to peel back the layers of excitement and anxiety when searching for a property, a cool head and a healthy overdose of common sense will help keep you within your means and get you into a suitable home.

Common Sense: Go see the house before making any decisions.
I know. This one is pretty obvious. But there are people who see pictures on-line
or read a general description and are suddenly and irrevocably convinced the house is the perfect fit. On many occasions, it's not. Chances are the staging was incredible or the description was written by a retired novelist. Go see the place for yourself. It may back onto the highway or situated beside an apartment block. Overlook the wow factor and see if the house makes sense to you. Are there sufficient rooms for your needs? Does the kitchen work for you? Are there are any obvious flaws? This is where the home inspector comes into the picture where he may find defects where you may need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on repairs.

More common sense to come.
-- Sarah Mah
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We have heard reports for many years about the affordability, or rather the lack Vancouver Home Mortgagethereof, of real estate in Greater Vancouver. The latest report from RBC suggests that the typical home is now about 10 times the median family income. This means that if your family income is $60,000, then the typical home would be about $600,000 which is about the GVRD benchmark. Let’s have some fun when factoring mortgage rates and going back in history.

 

 
In 1981, the typical home was about $150,000 and the mortgage rate was around 20%. Assuming the $60,000 income the house would be 2.5 times that amount. Yet with 20% down on a 5 year term, you would only qualify for a $115,000 home.

 

 
In 1991, the home became $275,000 with mortgages at 11%. Using the same income, the home would be 4.6 times that amount; however that income now qualified for a $189,000 property.

 

 
In 2001, the same house became $360,000 with rates at 7%. The income was now 6 times the amount while the same income qualified for a $260,000 property.

 

 
In 2011, the rates dropped to 4%. The same $60,000 income now qualified for a $350,000 property while the typical home is about $700,000 which is about 11.5 times that.

 

 
You get the idea. Over the past 40 years, real estate has proven to be a sound long term investment. This is another reason to buy when you have the opportunity to do so instead of waiting and renting. Typical incomes will never catch up to hard assets. I have heard so many people waiting for prices to drop. Remember that you are buying a place to live in, not a short term investment. Cycles do come and go, but prices have always surpassed the previous high. You would think that increased mortgage rates should have the opposite effect on house prices. Yet Vancouver has become a destination city where others want to live from around the world. What do you think?

 

 
-       Arthur Ng
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