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Dimitri Schwartzman             Real Estate Team

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Dimitri Schwartzman

The following statistics have been collected and reported by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. In West Vancouver the number of detached houses sold this year by the end of March is 127. In 2012 there was 185 units sold for this period, which is a decrease of 31% in houses sold. In 2011 there were 290 detached houses sold for the same period. The number of active detached listings this year is 516, which is a 21% increase over the 426 that were active at the same time last year. Average price per unit is 5% less than at the same time last year. In the townhouse market, 2013 year to date shows 10 sales, while 2012 had 22 sales and 2011 had 19 units sold. This year there are 56 active listings, as compared with 42 last year, an increase of 33%. Average price per unit is about the same as last year. For condo sales, year to date there have been 33 sales, with 44 sales in 2012 and 52 in 2011. The number of active listings is 122, which is 9% more than last year at 111. The prices of apartments in West Vancouver are up about 25% from last year.

The following figures have been compiled and reported by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. In North Vancouver, for 2013 up until the end of March, the data reflects 241 detached house sales. The same time period in 2012 there was 281 sales, which is a 14% decrease from last year. In 2011 there were 291 sales of detached houses for the same period. The number of active detached listings this year is 416, which is a 38% increase over the 288 that were active at the same time last year. Prices are relatively the same as the same time last year. In the townhouse market, 2013 year to date shows 74 sales, while 2012 had 90 sales and 2011 had 101 units sold. This year there are 122 active listings, as compared with 91 last year, an increase of 34%. Prices are slightly down at about 4% less than last year. For condo sales, year to date there have been 152 sales, with 221 sales in 2012 and 232 in 2011. The number of active listings is 416, which is 4% less than last year at 434. Sales prices are down approximately 2%.

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This infograph is based on the USA mortgage number (4.54% interest rate). Canada's mortgage numbers are not  too far off. This infograph was created by


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Editor’s Note: This story has been altered to correct the identity of Robert Kepes, a Toronto tax lawyer at Morris Kepes Winters who was wrongly named in a previous version.


The full story can be found here:


You just sold your condo, you made a hefty profit and know you have to pay your taxes.

The bill might be more than you think.

If it’s your principal residence, there’s no tax, as long as you have the paperwork to prove it. The Canada Revenue Agency is taking a closer look at the condominium sector in what some in the industry have dubbed the “Condo Project.”

Even if you own up to it being an investment property, you may not be allowed the capital gains tax break and that means a bigger hunk of your profit going to Ottawa.


Let’s say your gain is $100,000 and your tax bracket is 46%. Capital gains are taxed at 50% so you would only owe $23,000 on that profit.

Not so fast! If the CRA says you are in the business of flipping condominiums, get ready to pay based on the gain being counted as income for a tax bill of twice the amount at $46,000. And, it gets worse. You could also face a fine of up to 50% of the tax owed for making a false disclosure.

With the deadline for filing taxes coming up April 30, you might want to think very carefully about how you record that housing sale you made in 2012.

Sam Papadopoulous, senior public affairs advisor-manager with CRA’s Ontario region, acknowledges that the strength of the condo sector has attracted the attention of the taxman.

“We do from time to time target some sectors more closely than others,” he said. “We look at the real estate market in general. Of course, [there is more focus], it’s a hot market.”

People in the industry have a different view.

Some suggest it fits in with the recent budget when Jim Flaherty, the finance minister, announced his government was taking a closer look at loopholes and tax cheats — hoping to shrink its deficit in the process.

One of the issues attracting the attention of the CRA is assignment clauses, where one person agrees to purchase a condo before it is built but ultimately sells his or her right to buy that condo before the building is even registered.

Builders usually collect a fee for that privilege but ultimately when title is registered at the land registry office the original purchaser’s name is nowhere to be found.

While most builders are unlikely to voluntarily supply a list of properties in their building that were assigned, they could be forced to cough it up if they are audited by the CRA.

Those people who have assigned their units to another buyer are going to be hard pressed to prove they planned to use the unit as an investment property rather just flipping — meaning the CRA is highly unlikely to allow them to count money made at the lower capital gains rate.

“If you keep [assigning property] then it is not capital gains, that’s trade and that’s income,” said Mr. Papadopoulous, adding you do it a “couple of times” and it’s income. “Of course, that’s part of [what they are investigating].”

The warning to people flipping property and thinking they can get away without reporting the gain is pretty clear.

“We live in the information technology age,” said Mr. Papadopoulous, who wouldn’t get into how CRA is tracking down the tax evaders. “We are putting our resources to work and following the trail where we can.”

Robert Kepes, a Toronto tax lawyer at Morris Kepes Winters, said he’s seen the CRA go after people who have been living in a property and still question it as a principal residence.

CRA starts with a letter to a taxpayer asking them for details about when and why they sold their property and people often fill out the questionnaire without legal advice.

The issue goes all the way back to 1971 when there was no tax at all on capital gains so everybody tried to avoid counting gains as income.

Mr. Kepes says the distinction between income and capital is as simple as the difference between a tree and the fruit that it bears.


“The tree is capital and it produces a fruit and the income is the profit that is derived when that fruit is sold,” he says.

If your condo is that tree and your rental income is the fruit and you make a profit from that rental income, that’s taxed as full income. You eventually sell the tree for more money and that’s just a capital gain, taxed at the 50% rate.

If your entire businesses is just trading trees and not producing fruit, that’s business income.

“The Income Tax Act asks what was your intention when you bought that condo,” said Mr. Kepes. “These principles are easy to describe but harder to prove in fact.”



The law is like a civil case, a judge doesn’t have to believe you beyond a reasonable doubt, but a judge does have to conclude you are more believable than the CRA.

“We have to bring all kinds of intrinsic evidence,” says Mr. Kepes, noting some clients will produce something as simple as a change in address on their driver’s licence to show they were using their condo as a principal residence.

If you never actually moved into the condo, it’s going to be tough to prove that it was principal residence.

You may never have produced income from the profit but that’s not to say you didn’t plan to, so perhaps you could get the capital gains exemption.

“The question can be ‘how did they come to sell the property,’” said Mr. Kepes, adding the CRA might look at whether you were advertising the property for sale.

Brian Johnston, chief operating officer of Mattamy Corp., says the CRA has ways to get information on sales.

“They audit real estate companies, look at the name on the contract and look at the final deed and see a difference,” said Mr. Johnston. “They see Bill Smith bought it and Joe Blow is on the deed. They want to know how this happened and follow the paper trail.”

He has some sympathy for consumers confused about the whole process.

“I think the government should make it a little simpler in terms of filing for principle residence exemption,” said Mr. Johnston. “It’s a real gray area of the law. The government has not done a good job for Canadians trying to specifically identify all the rules around [selling homes and paying taxes]. People might have inadvertently made mistakes.”

Condominium developer Brad Lamb, who has been audited several times, said ultimately it’s better to be more conservative when you’re filing — meaning just count the gain as income if you are in doubt.

“If you are prolific buyer or seller of properties, whether it’s condos or not, you have to govern yourself accordingly. If you don’t, you’ll get caught and be fined,” said Mr. Lamb. “I decided many years ago when I started buying condominiums, after talking with my accountant, you can pay [lower tax] or you can fight 50 years with Revenue Canada.”

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HOME BUYERS' PLAN (click here to see the original pdf document)


1 Qualifying home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 (couples can withdraw up to $50,000) from their RRSPs for a down payment. Home buyers who have repaid their RRSP may be eligible to use the program a second time.

Canada Revenue Agency Enter 'Home Buyers' Plan' in the search box. 1.800.959.8287



New home buyers can apply for a rebate of the federal portion of the HST (the 5% GST) if the purchase price is $350,000 or less. The rebate is equal to 36% of the GST to a maximum rebate of $6,300. There is a proportional GST rebate for new homes costing between $350,000 and $450,000. At $450,000 and above the rebate is nil.

Canada Revenue Agency Enter 'RC4028' in the search box. 1.800.959.8287



Buyers of new or substantially renovated homes priced up to $850,000 are eligible for a provincial enhanced New Housing Rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion (7%) of the 12% HST paid to a maximum rebate of $42,500. Homes priced at $850,000+ are eligible for a flat rebate of $42,500. NOTE: this program expires March 31, 2013. 1.800.959.8287



Buyers of new or substantially renovated secondary or recreational homes outside the Greater Vancouver and Capital Regional Districts priced up to $850,000 are eligible for a provincial enhanced New Housing Rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion (7%) of the 12% HST paid to a maximum rebate of $42,500. Homes priced at $850,000+ are eligible for a flat rebate of $42,500. NOTE: this program expires March 31, 2013. 1.800.959.8287



Landlords buying new or substantially renovated homes to rent are eligible for a rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion (7%) of the 12% HST paid to a maximum rebate of $42,500. NOTE: this program expires March 31, 2013. 1.800.959.8287



First-time new home buyers may be eligible for a one-time grant equal to 5% of the purchase price of the home up to $10,000. Or if you are building a home, 5% of the land and construction costs, up to $10,000. The bonus is based on the net income of the home buyer. NOTE: this program expires March 31, 2013. library/notices/FTHB_Bonus.pdf 1.877.387.3332



Qualifying first-time buyers may be exempt from paying the PTT of 1% on the first $200,000 and 2% on the remainder of the purchase price of a home priced up to $425,000. There is a proportional exemption for homes priced up to $450,000. At $450,000 and above the rebate is nil.

BC Ministry of Small Business and Revenue business/Property_Taxes/Property_ Transfer_Tax/ptt.htm 250.387.0604



This federal non-refundable income tax credit is for qualifying buyers of detached, attached, apartment condominiums, mobile homes or shares in a cooperative housing corporation. The calculation: multiply the lowest personal income tax rate for the year (15% in 2011) x $5,000. For the 2012 tax year, the maximum credit is $750.

Canada Revenue Agency www.cra. Enter 'First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit' in the search box. 1.800.959.8281



9 Reduces property taxes for home owners with an assessed value of up to $1,295,000. The basic grant gives home owners:

. a maximum reduction of $570 in property taxes on principal residences in the Capital, Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts;

. an additional grant of $200 to rural homeowners elsewhere in the province; and

. an additional grant of $275 to seniors aged 65+, those who are permanently disabled and war veterans of certain wars.

BC Ministry of Small Business and Revenue or contact your municipal tax office.



Property Tax Deferment Program for Seniors. Qualifying home owners aged 55+ may be eligible to defer property taxes.

Financial Hardship Property Tax Deferment Program. Qualifying low-income home owners may be eligible to defer property taxes.

Property Tax Deferment Program for Families with Children. Qualifying low-income home owners who financially support children under age 18 may be eligible to defer property taxes.

BC Ministry of Small Business and Revenue individuals/Property_Taxes/ Property_Tax_Deferment/ptd.htm



This federal program provides financial aid to qualifying low-income home owners to repair substandard housing. Eligible repairs include heating, structural, electrical, plumbing and fire safety. Grants are available for seniors, persons with disabilities, owners of rental properties and owners creating secondary and garden suites. prfinas/prfinas_001.cfm 1.800.668.2642 604.873.7408



A program jointly sponsored by the provincial and federal governments provides up to $20,000 to help eligible low-income seniors and disabled home owners and landlords to finance modifications to their homes to make them accessible and safer.

BC Housing Options/Home_Renovations 604.646.7055 1.800.407.7757 extension 7055



Provides home buyers with CMHC mortgage insurance, a 10% premium refund and possible extended amortization without surcharge when buyers purchase an energy efficient home or make energy saving renovations. moloin_008.cfm 604.731.5733



Financial institutions offer a range of mortgages to home buyers and owners who make their homes more energy efficient. For example, home owners who have a home energy audit within 90 days of receiving an RBC Energy SaverT Mortgage, may qualify for a rebate of $300 to their RBC account. products/mortgages/energysaver-mortgage.html 1.800.769.2511



Financial institutions offer 'green' loans for home owners making energy efficient upgrades. Vancity's Bright Ideas personal loan offers home owners up to $20,000 at prime + 1% for up to 10 years for 'green' renovations. RBC's Energy Saver loan offers 1% off the interest rate for a fixed rate installment loan over $5,000 or a $100 rebate on a home energy audit on a fixed rate installment loan over $5,000.

For information visit your financial institution. TypesOfLoans/BrightIdeas and personalloans/energy-saver-loan.html



Home owners improving the energy efficiency of their homes may qualify for cash incentives through this provincial program provided in partnership with FortisBC and BC Hydro. Rebates are for energy efficient products which replace gas and oil furnaces, pumps, water heaters, wood stoves, insulation, windows, doors, skylights and more. The LiveSmart BC program also covers $150 of the cost of a home energy assessment, directly to the service provider. NOTE: this program expires March 31, 2013. 1.866.430.8765



Home owners and residential landlords buying heating fuel receive a BC government point-of-sale rebate on utility bills equal to the provincial component of the HST. consumer_taxes/residential_energy/ residential_energy.htm 1.877.388.4440



Mail-in rebates for purchasers of ENERGY STAR clothes washers, refrigerators, dishwashers or freezers. html 1.800.224.9376



This ongoing program rebates BC Hydro customers $30 to turn in spare fridges in working condition. fridge_buy_back.html 604.881.4357



Receive rebates or tax savings when you buy ENERGY STAR high-performance windows.

https: // savings/windows_offers/current_ offers.htm



A range of rebates for home owners include a $75 rebate for upgrading to an ENERGY STAR clothes washer, a $300 fireplace rebate, $500 off water heaters and $1,000 for switching to natural gas.. homes/offers/pages/default.aspx ; 1.888.224.2710



For commercial buildings, provides a rebate of up to $60,000 for the purchase of an energy efficient boiler, up to $15,000 for the purchase of a high-efficiency water heater and recieve funding towards a new construction energy study. Business/Offers/Pages/default.aspx 1.888.477.0777



The City of Vancouver provides a subsidy of 50% of the cost of a rain barrel for Vancouver residents. With the subsidy the barrel costs $75. There is also a backyard composter for $25.

Barrel: https: // aspx.

Composter: http: // home-property-development/rainbarrels.aspx



Your municipality may provide grants and incentives to residents to help save water. For example, the City of Coquitlam offers residents a $100 rebate and the City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, and District of West Vancouver offer a $50 rebate when residents install a low-flush toilet. Visit your municipality's website and enter 'toilet rebate' to see if there is a program.



Your municipality may provide a program for voluntary water metering, so that you pay only for the amount of water that you use. Delta, Richmond and Surrey have programs and other municipalities may soon follow. Visit your municipality's website and enter 'water meter' to find out if there is a program.

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Sales of high-end homes fell by more than one-third in 2012 from the year before, but the number of homes that sold for more than $3 million was still second only to 2011, a new Macdonald Realty report shows.

There were 439 sales of homes for more than $3 million in 2012 in B.C. Forty-four of those were townhomes or condos and 107 sold for more than $5 million, the Macdonald Realty report shows. The most expensive home sold in B.C. in 2012 went for $19.8 million.


Immigrant buying patterns are driving the luxury market, said Dan Scarrow, vice-president at Macdonald Realty. Scarrow, who is half-Chinese and speaks Mandarin, works with realtors and individuals from mainland China who are looking for homes and may need help communicating.


“For the past few years, we’ve seen lots of new investor-class immigrants coming into the market,” Scarrow said. “ ... They’re not just buying a house for themselves, but also three or four residential investment properties as well.”

This “exuberance” among immigrant buyers has slowed, Scarrow said, as the economy slowed in China and prices rose rapidly in Vancouver.


“A lot of the Vancouver real estate market is powered by investor sentiment and psychology. In 2011 the perception among investors — a lot of whom are from Mainland China, where the economic system was going crazy for the last 10 years — (was) extremely (positive). They had lots of disposable income and the last 10 years have been great for them,” Scarrow said. “They brought that sentiment here when they immigrated here and it resulted in this big uptick in the real estate market here. But in the last two years, housing prices here have gone up a lot, so a lot of investors see that there is not that much more room in the short term for it to go much higher.”


While a luxury apartment on the waterfront in Vancouver might sell for $1,750 a square foot, a similar home in New York or London would sell for $5,000 to $6,000 per square foot.

Read more:

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Our spring real estate market is in full swing now although it took a little longer than usual to get started. There are many, many new listings coming into the market in the Fraser Valley and there are also lots and lots of serious buyers for those new listings. The good news is that, banks & government willing, this market should be with us for some time.

The title of this column is one of the topics that REALTORS® are running into a lot these days. It seems to make good sense. If we ask a little (or a lot) more money for our home than what the REALTORS® Comparable Market Analysis indicates our home's market value is, maybe one of those buyers will fall in love with our home and pay the higher price. If not we can always lower the price later. Besides, people can always make offers and we can negotiate. It seems like a can't-lose situation. A deeper analysis, however, uncovers some very uncomfortable problem areas.

Perhaps the most obvious one is that when the in-love-with-your-home buyer applies for a mortgage to complete the purchase they run smack head-on into a flinty-eyed, tight-fisted, banker who is only prepared to lend money on the bank appraised market value which turns out to be remarkably similar to the price range from the REALTORS® market analysis and much lower than the agreed upon price. Consequently the buyer can't get the mortgage because there isn't enough collateral in the appraised value to cover the mortgage according to Canadian legal requirements. So the buyer is unable to complete the purchase unless they can come up with more cash and don't mind doing that. That special sale that you thought you had turns out not to be attainable.

But there are other less noticeable problems that could actually turn out to cause worse problems for the homeowner. When your house appears for sale in the market there are a certain number of serious buyers who are searching the market for the right home, now. They have been looking for a considerable amount of time and have seen a substantial number of houses. In fact, many have seen everything that appears to suit their wants and needs and haven't yet found the right one. Maybe they have even tried an offer on one or two but haven't been successful, maybe because they have been outbid by another buyer, or perhaps because the seller wasn't willing to accept the market's analysis of the value of the home and wanted more. They have seen everything and have gained a very accurate and intimate knowledge of market value because of all the houses they have seen and the eventual selling prices of those that sold. They have become experts and they, and their REALTOR® are watching the new listings daily. If they come across one that seems to meet their needs and is market priced they want to see it now and they are quite prepared to write their offer and pay full market value. They have been looking for a long time and are prepared to act now.

If you are asking a significantly higher price than market value they are not even prepared to make an offer---they have "been there, done that" before and don't want to waste any more of their time. They just move on. After 2 or 3 weeks your REALTOR® has gone through the current buyers that are out there and now the REALTOR® has to begin to develop new buyers---ones that are just entering the market. It's a long, slow, expensive and arduous process and these buyers have not become knowledgeable about pricing. They are more inclined to make a much lower offer and try to negotiate you down.

So the net result is you've scared away a knowledgeable buyer who would have paid you market price and now you're dealing with buyers who want to pay less because they aren't knowledgeable about the true value of your home.

You've ended up in a no-win situation instead of a can't-lose situation.

Stewart Henderson / Langley Times

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Homebuyers expect to spend $300,000 on first property


The average first-time homebuyer in Canada is 29 years old and expects to be able to put down a down payment of $48,000 on $300,000 home, according to a recent poll by the Bank of Montreal.


But the study, released Tuesday, also found that price expectations vary widely, depending on where the homebuyer lives in. Those in Atlantic Canada say they expect to spend an average of $224,000 on a first home, while those in British Columbia anticipate to pay an average of $454,000.

Vancouver topped the survey as the most expensive city, with buyers there saying they’re going to shell out an average of $539,000 for a home, followed by Calgary at $474,000 and Toronto at $446,000.


BMO mortgage expert Laura Parsons says like with any major purchase, it’s important for people be realistic and prepared. “What we tend to do is jump in the market when we’re ready, instead of starting a plan now,” she said from Calgary. “Let’s start getting ready for it so we can start giving you good advice all along the way. Don’t be afraid to get things going.”

And while a large down payment is impressive, it does not necessarily mean that young people are diligently saving for their first home. Instead, many may be getting help from their Baby Boomer parents or friends, said Parsons.


Forty-six per cent of those surveyed also they’ll choose a fixed mortgage rate when they buy, versus 20% who will choose a variable rate. The study also found that the average first-time homebuyer plans on paying off the mortgage on their home within two decades, with 20% anticipating they’ll be mortgage-free even earlier than that.

Twenty-three per cent of those surveyed say they will still have a mortgage within 25 years; 16% say within 20 to 24 years and 20% say within 10 to 19 years.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, seven per cent say it’ll take them more than 25 years to fully own their home, while 3% say it’ll take them between 1 year to 9 years to pay it off.


The survey also found that 31% admit they really don’t know when they’ll be able to stop making mortgage payments.


Source: Linda Nguyen, Canadian Press

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On April 1, 2013, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) was replaced by the Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the BC Provincial Sales Tax (PST).

When does HST apply and when does GST apply?

The 12% HST applies if the seller transfers either possession or ownership of a new home to the buyer before April 1, 2013.

The 5% GST applies if the seller transfers both possession and ownership of a new home on, or after, April 1, 2013.

The PST and real estate commissions

The return to the PST on April 1, 2013 will affect the taxes you charge on your services.

  • If a commission or fee is payable before April 1, 2013, the 12% HST applies.

  • If a commission or fee is payable on or after April 1, 2013, then the 5% GST applies.

When does the commission become payable?

The commission is paid on whichever of the following two transactions comes first:

  • the completion date under the Contract of Purchase and Sale; or

  • the actual date that the sale completes.

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