June 29, 2011
Langley Canada Day Celebrations
As if you didn’t know, it’s Canada Day long weekend. No Open Houses for me this weekend, so let’s all go to the party!
LOCATION: McLEOD ATHLETIC PARK (56 Ave & 216th St)
Every community has their own Canada Day celebrations so I will simply highlight what is going on in Langley. A competing real estate company and certain political party have paid money for “Provincial” sponsorship so I won’t go on and on
But really, it will be a good time and there is a little bit for everyone: bike shows, mini-golf, magic shows, face painting, henna art, dog shows, concerts, etc.
As I post this, “The Oh Wells” should be hitting the stage, followed by “The Pilkey Sisters” and “Nickle City Slim”.
Old family friend and Top 5 Canadian Idol star Greg Neufeld should hit the stage around 7:15pm and BaDD HaBBits on around 8:00pm. The night will close with Elvis and Patsy Cline with fireworks taking to the skies around 10:30pm.
Tomorrow will of course be the full day event.
July 1st Lineup as follows:
11:00am – Bobs & LoLo (if you don’t know who it is, you don’t need to know – for the rest of us with small children, you know you’ll be there)
12:00pm – Janina Russell
12:45pm – Nickle City Slim
2:15pm – BaDD HaBBits
3:15pm – Orbit
4:00pm – Damian Marshall
5:15pm – Elvis & Patsy Cline
6:30pm – Trevor Watters Show
8:15pm – Mowtown
9:30pm – ABBA Cadabra (yes, I fully expect my in-laws to be out there dancing to this one )
10:30pm – Fireworks
10:45pm – ABBA Cadabra
June 26, 2011
Are You Working With A REALTOR®?
If you’ve ever even pondered looking in a house for sale, you’ve likely heard this question from a REALTOR®. Whether you have walked into a presentation center at a new development, a re-sale open house, or called to view a house, this is likely one of the first things you are asked. Believe it or not, this isn’t because we want to immediately give you our sales spiel. No doubt, we do want your business, but there is another reason for asking.
The Real Estate Services Act explicitly states
It is an offence to induce any party to a real estate contract to break that contract in order to contract with someone else (Rule 5-5)
Of course, that “someone else” is usually a reference to ourselves. That “contract” in this situation means the Exclusive Buyer’s Contract you sign with your REALTOR® before he/she starts showing you properties. In order for a REALTOR® to do their job right, they require cooperation from you, the buyer.
A REALTOR® who is acting as your exclusive buyer’s agent has an incredible amount of resources to tap into, but if you are working with a REALTOR® as your buyer’s agent and then make an inquiry to another agent, and that second agent does not inquire to whether you are working with another agent, there could be a breach of contract. RECBC does not look favourably upon agents who “scoop” clients.
If you are unhappy with your agent, confront him/her (nicely!) about what they are doing wrong. A good real estate professional would rather receive criticism that they can potentially fix than have you either stay unhappy with them or worse, just start talking to other agents. By asking “Are you working with a REALTOR®?”, we are gauging whether we have an ethical and legal duty to refer you back to your agent, or whether we can ourselves assist you properly in the purchase of your next home.
June 22, 2011
Routley Community BBQ
For those who live in the rapidly developed/developing area of Routley in the Willoughby Heights area of Langley, you’ll likely have heard of this protest. I’ll provide a brief breakdown of the issue, but first, the event announcement:
This Saturday, June 25, 2011 there will be a community BBQ in the area behind the rezoning sign on 70th Ave (198A Street). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you would like more information or can lend a hand for the afternoon. The event commences at 4:00pm. Please come out and show your support.
Now, for a brief explanation (from my view – I don’t yet have all the details).
Basically, a plot of land owned by the School Board was swapped for another plot of land east of 200th. Prior to this, there was an implicit understanding, made explicit at least by some real estate agents, that this land around 198th and 72nd would eventually become a much needed elementary school. There is currently no elementary school in the area west of 200th – the closest is R.C. Garnett on 201st and 70th, but its catchment does not reach the Routley area and it is already full for those within its own catchment. There is a private school that costs parents thousands of dollars off of 203rd and 67th. The next closest is Willoughy Elementary on 208th and 80th Ave – already suffering from overflow students from all the new development in the area (and more coming – just try driving up 208th).
So this developer will take away any potential for a school and replace it with a small park (the area seriously lacks in parks for children) and 103 townhomes. The buyers of these townhomes – likely young families – will not have an elementary school to put their children. Guess who gets to find buyers for those? Right, I do (well, we real estate agents do).
The next public hearing date (after being postponed because of the uproar) is for this coming Monday – June 27th. The concerned parents heading up this debate have offered four possible courses of action:
- Give up, let them build what they want, wherever they want.
- Talk the TOL into rezoning the parcel as lower density.
- Talk the TOL into keeping the whole parcel as parkland.
- Talk the Schoolboard of SD # 35 into reversing the landswap deal.
Of course they want #4. Option #3 is fallback position.
More complete details see http://rz100361.com
June 19, 2011
Mortgage Brokers vs. The Bank
You’ve probably noticed that there has been a slew of new advertising by certain mortgage brokerages and even the governing body of mortgage brokers. This doesn’t signify anything significantly new in the industry, but it appears to have the public’s awareness raised that the option is out there. I created this site for the protection of the consumer so I am going to give you my honest opinion when it comes to mortgage brokers and their “mortgage specialists” counterparts at the bank.
I’m going to admit something first though. I’m not a fan of banks. My personal banking has been with half a dozen different banks over the last 15 years. I don’t agree with the philosophy behind how the major banks make money, and I believe that much of what happened in the United States in 2008 is a result of the house of cards the banks and other financial institutions have been treating the money that we keep in their trust. The problem is, however, whether you go through the bank or a mortgage broker, it is very likely that your mortgage is still coming from the bank. So using a mortgage broker will not solve any sort of macroeconomic problem. It will, however, give you a hint to who is really on your side.
So what is better for you, the home buyer (or homeowner with a renewal coming up)?
When you walk into a bank, you’re going to be dealing with someone who litterally works for the bank, not for you – this is normal in almost every service-based industry. They understand that you are getting a mortgage through them likely because they do their personal banking there and really don’t have much of an incentive to get you the best possible rate. There are exceptions. The main advantage here, however, is that it is possible to get THAT banks best possible rate – depending on your negotiation skills, your timing, the specific specialist you are working with, and/or your bank (specialists, feel free to elaborate).
Mortgage brokers, on the other hand, are explicitly working for you. They don’t cost you anything since they make their money by getting that cut from the lending institution that would have gone to one of their employees (brokers, feel free to correct me on this). What you do get is someone who is shopping around from a dozen to maybe 5 dozen different lenders with the sole purpose of getting you the best rate on the best terms. Unlike mortgage specialists whose pay is generally reduced in direct relation to the amount they discount your rate from the banks posted rate, a mortgage broker gets paid the same no matter what rate they get you.
So is this the reason that REALTORS® are always referring you to their mortgage broker? Well, yes, and no. There is still something to watch out for: the controversial aspect of referral fees. It has become a normal way of doing business and REALTORS® are legally obligated to disclose these referral fees to their clients. While many believe this is just a smarter way of doing business because those mortgage brokers would have to spend that money elsewhere on advertising (which is probably more expensive), others think that despite the fiduciary duty to put their client’s duty above their own, a real estate agent might be tempted to refer a mortgage broker solely because of a higher mortgage broker referral fee, rather than a built relationship and trust of competency.
Many REALTORS®, including myself, however, chose to pass along those referral fees to their clients to help with closing costs (or some energy efficient appliance). So ask your real estate agent why they refer their particular mortgage broker. Ask about those referral fees. Your agent may say it goes towards marketing. This is just as valid, but make sure their relationship is built on something more than money.
There is no reason you should not use a mortgage broker. Most people use their bank just because they don’t know the advantages of using a mortgage broker.
June 12, 2011
The "Who Can I Complain To" Post
I was thinking about writing a “Who’s Who” article on the different real estate bodies out there, but I don’t think you really care. Nor do you really need to know – which defeats both purposes of writing anything on this blog. Instead, I’m giving you the No Bull answer to who you can complain to when something goes wrong (i.e. you don’t like something your agent did, or didn’t do).
Face it, we all make mistakes. Most of these mistakes are pretty minor. But when it comes to buying and selling something as large and as important as your home, we all hope that the person handling this transaction is more than just competent. But what happens when something goes wrong? Many mistakes that agents make affect only other agents, or are otherwise inconsequential to a buyer or seller, but there are some very serious infractions that an agent can make.
The answer, in British Columbia anyway, is the Real Estate Council of British Columbia – or “the Council” to agents. RECBC is the authoritative body that licenses every real estate agent in British Columbia, whether they are a REALTOR® or not. Additionally, RECBC is the “teeth” that administers and enforces the Real Estate Services Act that all real estate professionals must abide by (I’ll have a detailed post about the RESA in the near future). RECBC is not to be confused with BCREA (British Columbia Real Estate Association), which is the voluntary body consisting of REALTORS®.
RECBC is an active body that investigates valid reports from the public. These reports can be anything from allegations of false (or bloated) advertising to improper handling of documentation to failure to disclose known facts to conflicts of interest. Basically, if you think a real estate professional has done something that just “feels wrong” – feel free to let them know. Actually, RECBC encourages you to first confront agent in question. If that doesn’t work, go to that agent’s managing broker. These individuals are the pros at reconciliation and communication.
If you are not satisfied with the managing broker’s response, go here and figure out whether your complaint should be to your REALTOR®’s real estate board or to RECBC. Generally speaking, real estate boards deal with a certain code of ethics and higher standards of accountability and business practices. The Board, such as the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board or the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, will not award monetary damages. They can, however, fine or suspend a REALTOR® or force them to sit through an appropriate education course.
Complaints should be sent to the Council if there is a breach of the Real Estate Services Act, which offers the minimum requirements for all agents. This includes the really bad stuff like mishandling funds, concealing defects, misrepresentation, secret or undisclosed commissions, and/or professional misconduct. While the Council will also not award damages, they can also fine, suspend, or even expel an agent from practice.
If financial compensation is required, civil action is the only recourse.
That said, I just want to re-iterate that by using your words just to complain after-the-fact to your peers or as some sort of pseudo-anonymous being online doesn’t help our industry. It doesn’t keep people honest and it doesn’t help us enforce the rules that are put in place for your protection. I’m not talking about “ratting someone out” because your personalities don’t mesh. What I mean is don’t let greed thrive and prance all over ethics and professionalism.
June 8, 2011
Disclosing Latent Defects
REALTORS® are bound by extremely strict rules of disclosure – not only when concerning agency or finances, but also when it comes to defects in the real estate they are selling. This in itself has been one of the greatest advantages of real estate trading services in North America. While it isn’t great for those looking to slip a fast one on a potential buyers, the requirement of disclosing “material latent defects” has been a solid aspect of protection preventing some very messy situations.
The Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC) defines material latent defect as a
defect that cannot be discerned through a reasonable inspection of the property, including:
- a defect that renders real estate dangerous or potentially dangerous to the occupants, unfit for habitation or unfit for the purpose for which a party acquiring it (if the agent is made known about these purposes),
- a defect that would require great expense to correct
- a circumstance that affects the property in respect of which a local government or other local authority has given notice to the seller or agent that must be corrected
- a lack of appropriate municipal building and/or other permits respecting the property
So thanks to the Real Estate Services Act, a buyer has just that much more protection. Sellers have a legal obligation to disclose these defects in the Property Disclosure Statement provided by their listing REALTOR®. REALTORS®, on the other hand, owe potential buyers additional due diligence and must further investigate whether there are latent defects that the seller has not disclosed.
Items that are not on title that must be disclosed include, but are not limited to, archaeological sites and heritage designations, highway entitlements, stream or creek issues, former (or current *) grow ops, stigmatized property, and/or underground fuel tanks. Remedying some of these can be in the upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
*No, a REALTOR® will not sell your current grow op, not even in British Columbia. While we don’t usually play police, we will report you. Oh yea, most active grow ops are patent defects, not latent defects – not that you’ll need to worry about that.
Although one might argue that contaminated properties are possibly discoverable upon a reasonable inspection of the property, the courts have repeatedly clarified that contamination is a latent defect, further protecting the buyer. This is important because “patent defects” are where the principle of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) applies. Patent defects have been defined as
- a defect which is plainly visible or which can be discovered during the course of a reasonable inspection
Yes, I understand that “reasonable” is just sort of…sort of… an ambiguous statement – which is one reason it is smart to disclose as much as possible. When in doubt, ask your REALTOR® (or me). If both of you are in doubt, ask a lawyer
June 5, 2011
As I alluded to in my previous post, I believe REALTORS® and home buyers should be at least knowledgeable enough about the home itself to point out places of concern to a home inspector. Don’t expect an expose on the construction of chimney’s here. Mike Holmes and Shell Busey have enough resources on chimneys and fireplaces to keep you busy for awhile. What I do want to provide is some quick notes for home buyers so that they can take a look at a home, especially an older one, and determine whether certain aspects – in this case, the chimney – need to be further investigated.
The first thing to look for is the cap. Chimney caps can be made of many different materials, from concrete to steel to copper to aluminum. Caps should overhang the sides of chimney to reduce water damage, but due to precedence of aesthetics (i.e. its just more important to be pretty than functional), this usually isn’t the case. To keep chimneys both pleasing to the eye and function, the traditional method in older concrete chimneys has been to include a beveled perimeter to prevent water penetration. On an older chimney, if you see deterioration in a specific section of the chimney, it is likely that the perimeter has been breached.
The next checking point is whether the chimney is a minimum of 3 feet in height and 2 feet higher than anything within 10 feet. Don’t get up on the roof. Just take a look from the ground and see if the chimney is right against another object, such as a roof line, another chimney, another home, a tree, etc.
An obvious final point is to check for deterioration. A chimney that is falling apart is a greater danger than just suffering from a case of the uglies. Falling brick can puncture roofs. Corrosion in metal flues can cause your chimney to be ineffective, or worse, cause dangerous vapours to re-enter the home. You can’t check the liner or condition of flues from the outside, but deterioration is the first sign that you should get a home inspector to check out the fireplace. Additionally, tall or elaborate chimneys aren’t a cheap fix – get an estimate on repairs before putting in an offer
June 1, 2011
So I’ve been writing a fair bit already about agency and title, but what about the house itself? While a REALTOR® specializes in marketing and is trained in forming legally-binding contracts, they are generally not expected to be experts in homes themselves. However, if you have a REALTOR® who is knowledgeable about the product they are actually selling, or more importantly, helping you buy, don’t you think you might have an advantage?
One of the most expensive problem areas that comes up in the purchase of a resale home is the roof. While your REALTOR® can generally tell whether the roof is “new” or not, it is important to at least preliminarily gauge the condition even if the roof is only ten years old. Many roofing products have come and gone and not all guarantees and warranties are created equal.
The best way to check the condition of the roof on that first visit is to investigate the most vulnerable parts of the roof. Look for the areas where the roof changes direction. A properly installed roof will have flashing (thin continuous pieces of sheet metal or other material preventing water from penetrating a structure from an angle or joint). Another is where there is a junction of different roofing materials, such as the shift between shingles and the chimney.
Other potential problem areas include television antenna/cable attachments or similar additions (even a poorly installed weather vane) have been attached to the roof. Also check areas of the roof where trees overhang, especially where they actually make contact with the roof. Asphalt shingles are especially susceptible to increased deterioration if in regular contact with tree branches.
Be sure to note areas of the roof that have obviously been replaced. Some homeowners chose to do roof replacement in stages due to the cost – while the lack of uniformity isn’t always aesthetically pleasing, it does work. However, patches of newer roofing could be an indication of a design flaw (including even a foundation/structural problem), defective materials, poor installation, animal or pest infestation, or of course, simply the end of the roof’s life expectancy.
WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WALK ON THE ROOF!
For your own safety and for the longevity of the roof, don’t go up there. Grab a pair of binoculars before you go out home shopping. If you see trouble spots, point it out to the home inspector. If you are in a position where you need to fix the roof, have an experienced, trusted roofer do the job.
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