Cory Raven | 604-220-9399

 

Can Vancouver learn lessons from this developer/development?  Vancouver is hoping to bill itself as the world's green capital, and it may just be time to do something drastic. Your thoughts?

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California developer introduces 'One Planet' ethic to this coast

 "True sustainability' is the goal of 1,700-residence initiative north of San Francisco, not 'just a reduction in emissions'
 
If any organization has a truly global vision of sustainability, it's Bioregional.

The United Kingdom-based company has created an initiative called One Planet Communities. Those communities, now in place in several countries, are committed to reducing the ecological footprint of their residents to a truly sustainable level by 2020.

"The point of the One Planet program is to try to achieve true sustainability instead of just a reduction in emissions relative to something abstract like building codes or 1990 levels," says Greg Searle, executive director of BioRegional's North America office.

"The only real absolute that we know is that we have one planet and that there are nearly seven billion of us on a limited amount of bio-productive land. It's a kind of global speed limit that we're exceeding unsafely."

The One Planet initiative was inspired by BedZED, an urban eco-village Bioregional helped create in 2002 in the U.K. BedZED ended up being a living laboratory for ecological living, inspiring a new generation of design and public policy, Searle says.

"The One Planet program grew out of the observation that if we could create that much change in one country, just by building a small demonstration project, that we ought to challenge conventional ideas about sustainability with larger, more ambitious demonstration projects around the world."

Searle, a Canadian and an Ottawa resident, is One Planet's North American manager and a member of the organization's international steering committee.

There are now One Planet communities in Portugal, China, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and most recently in the U.S.: the Sonoma Mountain Village, or SOMO, in Rohnert Park, Calif., just north of San Francisco.

The SOMO project has all-encompassing sustainability as its goal. Sonoma Mountain Village is a 200-acre, mixed-use, solar-powered zero-waste community, of almost 1,700 homes that aims to have every resident no more than a five-minute walk to groceries, restaurants, day-care and other amenities offering local and sustainable products and services.

Good intentions

When asked how the initiative differs from green-building programs such as LEED, and in particular LEED for Neighbourhood Development, Searle says One Planet is goal-driven rather than point-driven, but also works to inject sustainability into every aspect of the project. For example, one development in the U.K. not only ran a sustainable canteen for construction workers, it also encouraged them to bike to work.

"Just going to the highest level of a green-building rating system like LEED doesn't get you out of trouble [with carbon emissions] in the building category, and does very little to help the waste and transportation contributions that are often very significant," he says. At last year's Living Futures Conference, Bioregional and SOMO developer Codding Enterprises presented a study on the total carbon footprint of households in various green-building scenarios.

To live truly sustainably, the report said, U.S. households would have to achieve a 75-percent reduction in their total carbon footprint.

The study found that even households in an LEED for Neighbourhood Development platinum project -- the highest ranking possible -- achieved only an 18-per-cent reduction. Green buildings and smart-growth planning are important steps, says Searle, noting that while LEED works nicely with the One Planet program, green buildings alone are not nearly enough.

Rising to the challenge

Already frustrated by the process and results he was seeing in his own LEED projects, Geof Syphers of Codding Enterprises welcomed the challenge One Planet Communities offered when developing the Sonoma Mountain Village.

"Even in the very best-case scenario, under an LEED Platinum project, we were only reducing CO2 emissions by 15 to 20 per cent relative to the status quo," says Syphers. "Even if we were beating stringent codes by 40 per cent, and we're supplying half of the power with renewable energy, we're still providing the other half with fossil fuels and causing a net detriment to the planet."

Syphers says the One Planet framework was attractive, in part, because it lays out exactly what is needed to achieve sustainability. "It makes no claim that you'll succeed," he says, "but if you fall short, you'll know exactly what the gap is and why, and then they publish that widely.

"Instead of patting ourselves on the back for reducing waste by 89 per cent, we say we made good progress, but still have a long way to go, and if you can help us, that would be great. It allows real science to happen."

Progressive Reporting

An important tool in the One Planet program is a publicly available annual audit. Searle

describes this aspect as particularly timely in light of recent negative press over green buildings found to be underperforming. "Monitoring is generally a huge gap and it's rare to find a real estate developer that's willing to take risk over a 10-year period to have their progress reviewed. I think it makes a much better product for the consumer and raises the integrity and credibility of a project enormously."

Searle argues that we need to go into sustainable projects with the spirit that they are pioneering opportunities for us to learn what works, and perhaps more importantly, what doesn't.

Priceless Future

Both Searle and Syphers acknowledge that they cannot control the environmental impact residents have when the developer leaves the SOMO development, but when they consider the BedZED experience and others, they estimate that the design, planning and services of the development with help residents reduce their total direct carbon emissions by 83 per cent.

Perhaps even more impressive than this, or the development's enviable bells and whistles, are the great strides being made in changing policy and bylaw barriers.

"My main motivation is to first legalize this and enable it," says Syphers. From variances needed to narrow streets, to the three bills now pending to expand solar applications, Sonoma Mountain Village's greatest impact, like BedZed's, could well be in forging the way for others.

For more information on the SOMO's impressive attributes, visit sonomamountainvillage.com,worldchanging.com/archives/009448.html,or oneplanetcommunities.org

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This is a MUST READ 2 page PDF dealing with reflections on 2009 and the Vancouver Real Estate Market.  Will Mortgage rates rise?  Should I lock in my mortgage? Should I buy presale?
 
Cory Raven
Managing Broker
TAC Real Estate Corp.
604-220-9399
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Courtesy of Thane Stenner, published in the Globe and Mail
 
Looking west from the boardroom in our office, you can just see it: an enormous pit, perhaps 200 feet deep, where the crowning glory of Vancouver's skyline would have been.

Designed by the late, great Arthur Erickson, the Ritz-Carlton's 123 luxury residences would surely have been one of the most prestigious addresses in the city. Fully 58 storeys high, the tower featured a dramatic 45-degree twist from foundation to apex, with spectacular views of the city, the Strait of Georgia and the North Shore mountains.

At least, that was the idea. When the global financial crisis hit last fall, the Ritz-Carlton was one of the casualties. Faced with sky-high construction costs, uncertain financing and sluggish sales, the developer halted the project in October. Recently, there's been some buzz about things starting up again after the 2010 Olympics. Until then, it serves as a poignant reminder of the depth of the global financial crisis.

A time to buy?

I asked Ross McCredie about the project when we met for a working lunch late last week. As president and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty Canada, and a 10-year veteran of the industry, he knows full well how tough times have been for anyone buying or selling luxury real estate in Canada. "It was incredible how quickly the market dried up," Mr. McCredie said, shaking his head. "From October of 2008 to the spring of this year, across the country, sales literally stopped."

Since then, however, it's been a different story. "I was surprised at how quickly the market picked up this past spring," he said. "[In Vancouver,] we've sold one home well over $10-million, one at $9.5-million, as well as two in Victoria at $6.8-million and $6.5-million, all in the last six weeks."

Why the dramatic change? Mr. McCredie believes it has everything to do with the psychology of the sellers. "The past year has cut deep into the mindset of many high-net-worth individuals and their families," Mr. McCredie said. "[Many] have decided to dispose of properties they thought they would never sell."

If you're a buyer, this is the kind of mentality you've been waiting for. "In the urban centres, properties over $3-million have a limited number of buyers, and they're taking a great deal more time to sell," Mr. McCredie said. "Often, sellers feel as if they 'missed the market,' and they're panicking somewhat."

If it's a recreational property you're shopping for, the news is equally good.

"Across Canada there are rare opportunities to purchase one-of-a-kind properties at well below assessed values - and often well below replacement cost," Mr. McCredie said. "This is especially true in the recreational markets such as Whistler, waterfront homes in the Okanagan, Muskoka and Mont Tremblant."

Advice for buyers and sellers

Despite his optimism, Mr. McCredie is quick to point out that luxury real estate is far from a "slam dunk," even in this market.

Certainly, great deals are out there, but the rules of real estate still apply: "Location is still the No. 1 driver of value in the upper end of the market," Mr. McCredie said.

At the same time, he points out that buyers are looking for more than just a pretty view.

"The architectural significance of the home is becoming more important. Size has little to do with value, but the actual beauty, quality of construction, and function of a home are key components of establishing a home's value."

Mr. McCredie believes that when it comes to luxury real estate, both buyers and sellers need to think carefully about the investment aspect of their purchase.

"Whenever buying or selling any home - and especially the most expensive home on the block - think about who else would buy it," he said.

As Mr. McCredie points out, building your dream home is all well and good, but your dreams aren't necessarily the same as a potential buyer's.

"People often get carried away building a trophy home for themselves without ever considering the basic fundamentals of real estate," he says.

"As a result, they overbuild for a particular lot or neighbourhood."

As Mr. McCredie candidly explained, such a move is rarely a wise investment decision. "It's a very simple supply-and-demand function," Mr. McCredie said.

"If there are multiple high-net-worth individuals who would want the home, then its value can easily exceed the current market."

As our server brought us the bill, I asked Mr. McCredie where he thinks the luxury market in Canada is headed over the next year.

He reminded me that when it comes to luxury real estate, the market is only one factor in the equation.

"A home's value is always determined by the buyer's ability to believe the home's story," Mr. McCredie said.

"Done poorly, you can sell a home well short of its value. Done well, you can overcome nearly any market."

Thane Stenner is founder of Stenner Investment Partners within GMP Private Client L.P., as well as Managing Director, Private Client. He is also bestselling author of ´True Wealth: an expert guide for high-net-worth individuals (and their advisors). He can be reached at thane.stenner@gmppc.com. The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of GMP Private Client L.P. or its affiliates.

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I have just uploaded a copy of this month's Informed Buyer and Seller Newsletter
 
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Last Thursday the Urban Development Institute held its Annual General Meeting and Bob Rennie was the guest speaker once again.
 
In the buildup to the talk, there was quite a bit of joking going around at the tables "I am sure that Bob will be positive even with what we have seen in this market" and things of that nature.
 
When Bob was officially introduced, there was even a chuckle in the room as it was said "and I am sure Bob will somehow be positive." 
 
Let me tell you.  Bob turned the skeptics in the room around really quickly!  Using numbers gathered from an independent source, Rennie dove right into an hour long talk on many issues, but the key to it all was really how little supply there is.
 
Bob was careful to separate the village of "downtown" from the suburbs, giving a hint that he, like myself, realizes that there is potential for some further downward pressure in the burbs where values must be supported by local incomes.
 
An amazing time was had, and Bob Rennie, who I have known for years and consider to be a friend did an excellent job.
 
 
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Dear friends and clients,

I am very pleased to announce that I have been been asked to join MAC Marketing Solutions to champion a new venture.  It is an honour to be personally selected by the owner and CEO of MAC, Cameron McNeill to spearhead this new challenge.  MAC is looking to grow their market share in resale condos with the same rapid expansion as seen over the past few years with the project marketing side of MAC.  MAC has sold billions of dollars in real estate over the past few years and is responsible for the new MACBULK concept you have likely heard about on the radio or seen on the TV.  MAC is a leading real estate marketer with extensive experience Downtown, in East Van, Burnaby, New West, North and South Surrey, Richmond, the Okanagan and out of the province.  Our resale company will focus on Metro Vancouver.

I am joining in the capacity of designing and implementing the new resale company and running it once it is off the ground as Managing Broker  This means in a month or so you will be getting another email with further details (the new name, branding, etc)

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU, MY EXISTING CLIENTS?

Nothing changes.  Although I will be taking part in this exciting new role, I am still working full time as YOUR Realtor.  My level of service and commitment to helping you achieve your real estate goals remain the same.  As I have mentioned in the past, I am never too busy for your questions, requests, comments, referrals etc.  My contact info stays the same with my direct line being 604-220-9399, my email cory@coryraven.com and my website www.coryraven.com

You may notice a day or 2 of down timeon my websites, http://www.coryraven.com and www.listingstoemail.com as my web designer works on the re-design.  If you can't get on either to get information on listings or anything else, please pick up the phone and call me or shoot an email off to me.
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First-timers drive a rebounding market

'Vancouver detached house prices are the lowest they have been in two or three years,' say one couple convinced that the time is ripe to purchase

Globe and Mail Update
 

Judging from the many shoes littering the front porches at open houses in recent weekends, it's clear that people are back buying houses.

Without a doubt, the market has picked up, and we're barely into March. It's a far cry from the abysmal real estate market of last fall and January this year.

According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, residential housing sales were up 94 per cent last month compared with January. That translates into 1,480 sales for the month of February alone. January, on the other hand, was a record-setting sluggish month - the slowest for housing sales in 25 years.

The growth defies the sky-is-falling pronouncements that have made headlines since September last year. But there is a growing perception that it's a buyer's market. A recent RBC/Ipsos Reid poll revealed that 26 per cent of B.C. residents surveyed believed they would purchase a home in the next two years, despite the view that house prices will continue to fall over 2009.

The condo market is also feeling a surge of life, real estate marketer Bob Rennie says.

"Sales are up," he says. "We have sold 19 [units] at One Madison Avenue in Burnaby in the past six weeks, and another nine at L'Hermitage at Robson and Richards in the past 10 days.

"I do think that the market is seeing a little bit of confidence, combined with some great opportunities with great interest rates."

Armed with low interest rates and realizing a good deal when they see one, brave contrarians are defying fears.

"People can see the value - and the value is phenomenal," real estate agent Lorne Goldman says.

Mr. Goldman says he had a house for sale last year on the city's pricey west side with an asking price of $2.4-million. The sellers were offered $2.3-million, but the buyer failed to complete. The same house is now on the market for $1.85-million.

"It's also very basic Real Estate 101," he adds. "There are people who are getting married, there are people who are married having more children, people being transferred into Vancouver from other cities. There are people who have inherited money who want a bigger house.

"The market continues, despite what is out there in the general economy. The fundamentals are there. People still need to buy groceries, and they still need shelter."

Karin and Sean Whale are unfazed about talk that house prices may fall further or that it's not a good time to sell a home. They recently had a baby and are motivated by their changing lifestyle.

The couple owns a three-storey townhouse on the east side of the city near trendy Commercial Drive, and with the latest addition, they've outgrown it and are looking to trade up to a detached house. They don't worry about selling and buying into the same market.

"Buying low and selling low is not a scary proposition to us," Ms. Whale says. "We need more space at this time in our lives ...Vancouver detached house prices are the lowest they have been in two or three years."

Long-time Vancouver real estate agent David Campbell says that, unlike a year ago, it isn't the fixer-uppers and in-between houses selling. Demand is high for nice ones that don't require a lot of work, and there aren't a lot of them on the market. And the people buying, he says, are either first-time buyers or homeowners such as the Whale family who are trading up.

"We have many buyers, but we have seen the return of first-time buyers," Mr. Campbell says. "For a good part of, let's say, the last nine months, first-time buyers have been staying out of the market. They were a little scared as to what was happening last fall. But interest rates are at record lows, and prices have adjusted downward, and there are lots of first-time buyers coming back.

"We're getting a lot of move-up buyers as well taking advantage of the low interest rates who say, 'Now I can afford that spread up to the next one.' "

And unlike last fall, when the bottom fell out of the market, they aren't making low-ball offers - the prices have firmed up, he says.

"Last Sunday I had the busiest open house since April," Mr. Campbell says. "I had three offers on a house in 24 hours and it sold over asking."

But not just any house is selling, he adds. Buyers are being selective in this uncertain market.

"They want a good home, so they are picking the better ones," Mr. Campbell says. "That's where we get multiple offers."

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I have now joined twitter. 
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I have prepared some sales stats for a client looking at buildings that are 5 years old or older in the Westend, sold between October 1st, 2007 and October 31st, 2008 and is in a woodframe, freehold building where rentals are allowed
 
Click the link below to see. 
 
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Please excuse the mess while I upgrade my website.  In the meantime, you may access all my blog posts by clicking here.
Please excuse the mess while I upgrade my website to provide you with even more timely and topical information on our market and the process of buying and selling.  In the meantime, you can access my blog by clicking here
Cory Raven
Telephone:604-220-9399
Cory Raven - Managing Broker
RE/MAX Select Realty
4806 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5V 3R8