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How to Find a Family Friendly Neighbourhood


Now that you’ve decided to purchase a home, you may have narrowed down the neighbourhood you want to look at.  Families with kids will have different needs compared to a buyer who is single but do you know what questions you should ask if you’re looking for a family-friendly neighbourhood?  For families with kids, these are the top 6 questions you want to ask your realtor, or the neighbours in the area, to see if the neighbourhood is a good fit for you and your family.


1)      What elementary schools are in the neighbourhood?  What high school will the elementary school feed into?


North and West Vancouver schools are excellent but each nearby elementary school may offer different programs, depending on what your family is interested in.  Some schools offer early and/or late French Immersion or IB (International Baccalaureate) programs, while others will have a focus on music or art programs.  You may want to consider a home in a neighbourhood with a school that offers you French immersion so that you are in the right catchment area.


Researching which high school the elementary school will feed into can also be important because it may be a long distance from the home you want to buy.


2)      How close to the property is the transit route?


Easy access to transit can be an important need when buying a home.  Depending on which transit route the house is located on or how far away the home is from transit, the commute time can vary a lot.  If your family decides to have childcare providers like a nanny or babysitter to bus to your house, how difficult will it be for them to access your home?  The more difficult it is, the more it will limit your transportation options.


3)      How close is the nearest playground or green space?


For families with young children, green space or playgrounds may also be a big factor when deciding which neighbourhood to buy a house in.  Ideally, for younger kids, a nearby playground will make it easier for them to play outside and to meet up with friends.  You may also want a playground or green space nearby if you live in a condo or a townhouse and don’t have a backyard or lawn.


4)      What amenities are close by?


Think about how much easier it would be for you if you can just walk to the grocery store or other services like your dentist, doctor, or the local coffee shop.  Finding parking in certain parts of North Vancouver, like Lower Lonsdale, can be difficult at times but for families living nearby in condos and townhouses, they can just walk instead of driving.


5)      How many families live in the area?  Do they have younger or older kids?


Depending on the age of your kids and family, the number of families in the area and whether they have older or younger kids may be an important factor.  If most of the homeowners in the neighbourhood have young families, just like your family, it would be easier for you and your family to build relationships with your neighbours.  Or if there are older kids, this could mean more potential babysitters for your kids.


6)      What’s the layout of the road?


The layout of the road where the house or townhouse is located can really make a neighbourhood feel family friendly.  Cul-de-sacs are known to be family friendly since less traffic will enter a cul-de-sac so kids will often play on the street.  If a house or townhome is in a more remote neighbourhood, parents won’t have to worry about traffic or speeding cars.  Meandering roads will also slow down cars so they are likely safer.



These 6 questions will help you narrow down your search for the best neighbourhood for you and your family.  Ultimately, the best neighbourhood for you will depend on your needs and how you prioritize those needs.  Not only can your realtor find you the best home based on your needs, they can also find the neighbourhood for you and your family.


Contact Erin or Scott today to talk about the neighbourhoods that best fit your family.

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Find the Best Realtor for Your Needs


Finding the right realtor to help you buy or sell your home can be a challenge.  There are many realtors out there who are eager to help you list your home for sale or find the perfect home for you.  So how do you decide which realtor is the best for you?


1)      Ask for referrals


Friends and family are often the first people we turn to when looking for a real estate agent.  Ask them for names of realtors that they’ve previously worked with and had a good experience with.  Find out what made them stand out as a realtor.


2)      Check out their website and social media accounts


A realtor that is active and works full time will likely have a website and active social media accounts.  Take a look at their website and digital accounts to see what makes them unique and to see what active listings and open houses they have.  By doing this, you’ll get a better understanding of how each realtor will market your property or how big their network is.


3)      Interview several realtors


Narrow down your list of potential realtors.  Interview at least 3-4 realtors so that you can get a sense of which realtor you can feel comfortable talking with.  Buying or selling your home is a significant financial transaction so you need to be able to work with your realtor.


Before meeting with the realtor, they will likely ask you questions about the property you are selling or the home you wish to buy.


4)      Determine if they are prepared for your meeting


For your meeting, the realtor may research and prepare some preliminary information for you.  They should be able to give you an idea of your listing price if you are selling your property.  They will do this by looking at historical data and current homes on the market.  The more prepared the realtor is for your meeting, the more serious they are about helping you sell or find a home.


5)      Find out their knowledge base


Realtors who have been working full time in the real estate market have seen many ups and downs of the market, depending on the season and the area.  During your interview, knowledgeable realtors will be able to show you their knowledge by talking about the trends of the market as well as how they go about assessing homes for sales.


6)      Find out their sales and negotiation skills


A real estate agent with excellent sales skills will be able to find out and understand what you are looking for in a house, townhouse, or condo, and show you properties that meet your needs.  A realtor who has good sales skills will be persistent and also have excellent negotiation skills.  Negotiation skills could mean the difference between a buyer spending an extra several thousand dollars or the seller losing money on the deal.


7)      Use your intuition and see if your personalities mesh


Ultimately, the best judge of whether the realtor is a good fit for you and your real estate goals is dependent on your intuition and whether you feel they fit your personality.  You will likely be spending at least 1 to 6 months working closely with them, looking at open houses, preparing your home for sale, or looking through offers.  Keep in mind that you want to find a realtor that you can easily talk to about money and your finances.


Buying a home can be a lengthy process.  You may spend several months looking for the ideal home for you and your family so you’ll need to make sure that you have a realtor that you can talk to openly and candidly.  When selling your home, you want to feel confident that you have a realtor that will accurately price your home to sell within a reasonable time frame.  By interviewing several potential realtors, you will get a feel for their different styles and their commitment to clients as well as their knowledge of the real estate market.


Call us today to set up an appointment to find out how we can help you buy your dream home or sell your current home.

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The Globe’s Real Estate Beat offers news and analysis on the Canadian housing market. Read more on The Globe’s housing page.

One of the largest real estate companies in British Columbia says that more than one-third of all the single-family detached homes it sold last year went to people with ties to mainland China.

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Macdonald Realty Ltd., which has over 1,000 agents and staff in B.C., said 33.5 per cent of the 531 single family homes sold by its Vancouver offices in 2013 went to people who the company said were a mix of recent immigrants and Canadian citizens.

Those buyers, the company added, tended to spend more money, too, with the average cost of a house sold to these clients topping $2-million, compared to $1.4-million on average overall.

The figures did not include Macdonald’s sales in suburban areas such as Richmond, Burnaby or North Vancouver.

“This is our snapshot of Vancouver,” says Dan Scarrow, vice-president of corporate strategy at Macdonald Realty.

The information is based on reports from the firm’s sales, anecdotes from its agents and Mr. Scarrow’s own experience working with mainland Chinese clients, and it’s a glimpse into the influence of mainland Chinese money on Vancouver’s real estate market, which is considered among the most expensive in North America.

Vancouver has been flooded in recent years by tens of thousands of investor-class immigrants from mainland China, who have seen the west coast city as a stable – and picturesque – place to park their capital in luxury property.

That has helped drive up the average price of a single-family home in Vancouver to around $1.2-million.

Mr. Scarrow, who noted the firm does not query buyers about immigration status, believes that investment flowing from mainland China into Vancouver real estate is a quantifiable phenomenon, but has not personally seen much of the more controversial type of buyer: Those from abroad who buy for investment purposes but never live in the city. “We still see very few pure investors from China who have no connection to Vancouver,” he says.

Getting a handle on foreign buyers is difficult and Macdonald’s survey is far from exact – though one major property developer in Richmond said “that sounds about right.” The federal government does not collect meaningful data on the number of foreign buyers purchasing Canadian real estate, leaving industry participants to debate the impact of foreign capital on the local market. And that debate has gotten heated recently, with some developers accusing others of racism and criticizing those who want to slap curbs on foreign investment. The issue is complicated by the fact that some of Vancouver’s ethnically Chinese-Canadian citizens with ties to Hong Kong view newer immigrants from mainland China with a degree of suspicion, assuming their wealth might have been accumulated in part by proximity to China’s Communist Party, rather than in a free market with the rule of law like Hong Kong.

The lack of hard data has also complicated discussions about the city’s affordability crisis and fuelled a local cottage industry where analysts attempt to decipher the scope of foreign money by looking at things like electricity usage in downtown neighbourhoods where some suspect foreign buyers have bought condos in which they never live.

“People always say there are no stats. Well, here are the stats,” says Mr. Scarrow. “This is actual evidence.”

There have been some reports and statistics about the scale of foreign money in Vancouver real estate before, but few have been conclusive – and none have settled the debate. One Sotheby’s report based on a survey of its agents found that 40 per cent of the luxury properties it sold in Vancouver were to foreign buyers – but not all of them were from China. Many developers trying to downplay fears about Chinese investment cite a statistic showing that only 1 to 3 per cent of Vancouver real estate purchases are “foreign” buyers – but, as is the case with Macdonald’s sales, many more expensive homes are still sold to people based here but who have come, at some point, from mainland China. A 2011 study by Landcor Data showed that 74 per cent of luxury purchases in Richmond and Vancouver’s expensive west side were by buyers with mainland Chinese names.

Mr. Scarrow says his company is “indicative of the overall market,” since his firm has some real estate agents who target overseas Chinese buyers, but is also firmly oriented toward domestic sales, unlike other real estate firms that deliberately target Chinese buyers.

At the same time, Mr. Scarrow and Macdonald are so bullish on the potential for Chinese investment that he is spearheading the company’s efforts to open an office in China. “While there is very little data about foreign investors in Vancouver real estate, our own internal data is enough for us to commit to investing in a representative office in Shanghai,” said Mr. Scarrow, whose mother Lynn Hsu, who came from Taiwan in 1979, is the majority owner and president of Macdonald.

Others remain unconvinced – not about whether there is an influx of Chinese money, but whether the flow of foreign capital will continue unabated.

Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who works with wealthy Chinese immigrants, believes Vancouver may see a slowdown in foreign investment. He said some wealthy Chinese buyers might get anxious and sell off second properties because of the current crackdown on corruption in China.

In meetings with top real estate agents earlier this year, Mr. Kurland predicted that luxury residential real estate could drop in value by as much as 25 per cent as foreign investment dips. As evidence, he points to July real estate figures that showed 106 homes for sale on the west side in the $3-million to $3.5-million price bracket, and just nine sales, compared to 73 active listings and seven sales during July of 2013.

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