Yearly Archives: 2013

10 Major Mortgage Mistakes to Avoid

Applying for a mortgage might easily seem overwhelming, with so many choices and products to choose from — especially if you haven’t had much experience with the jungle of information connected to mortgage financing before. Since you’re not an expert, it’s vital to be able to avoid at least some of the most common mistakes. We've prepared a simple list of the top ten pitfalls when getting a mortgage. Check it out, and hopefully it will save you both time and money.

1. Aiming for more than you can afford

We all know the scenario. You see the house of your dreams that's priced just a tiny bit above your top budget (or simply above), but you feel it really is the one, whatever the cost. However, the vision of having a perfect garden and lovely kitchen can turn into a nightmare if you don’t get your numbers right. You need to realize that even though mortgage payments are usually lower than your previous rent, there are hidden costs connected to home ownership, such as insurance costs, energy bills, and maintenance expenses. Would you still be able to cope with unexpected situations like getting a new roof or fixing the heating system if something goes wrong? Think twice before rushing into a deal that might cost you much more than just a tightened belt for a year or two in the end.

House in Vancouver  Gord McKennaHouse in Vancouver by Gord McKenna

2. Not getting pre-approval

Before you start hunting for a home, it’s a good idea to visit a mortgage lender and check whether you can actually qualify for financing by getting pre-approved for a mortgage. As Chris MacNeil from MorcanDirect says,

"House hunting without a pre-approval is not dissimilar to going on a shopping spree without knowing your bank balance. The point being: it would be foolish to get to the check out, only to find out your card has been declined!"

Getting a pre-approval carries along several advantages. Firstly, you'll find out how much you can realistically afford. Secondly, in case there is any trouble with your credit score, your advisor will help you work it out and outline a credit development plan. Even though this process can take up to two years (so it’s advised to start dealing with it as soon as possible), thanks to learning about your weaknesses and fixing them, you will get a reward of qualifying for the best possible interest rate.

3. Not locking your rate

Mortgage rates are subject to swift changes. Sometimes they can even vary within a single day. If you’re satisfied with the rate, lock it immediately, simply by applying for a pre-approval. Once your rate is locked by your bank or broker, you get 120 days of fixed interest rate levels — and even if the rate increases later, you'll still enjoy the benefit of more favourable conditions. Always make sure to get written confirmation that your rate is locked. 

4. Job hopping

One of the main things that all lenders look for is stability in both your finances and your life. As much as you might find it awesome to try new things, move around, and chase the best possible job in the city, you can be sure that lenders aren't so enthusiastic about this. Not even to mention an option that you might be considering, starting a new business. Of course, being on the move doesn't necessarily disqualify you from getting a mortgage, but it certainly doesn't raise your chances. If you've just changed employers and find yourself in the probationary period, consider postponing your purchase for a few months. Lenders’ spirits will go up, together with the amount of money you'll save by qualifying for better conditions.

Interior  JOHNSON DESIGN SDTUDIOLiving Room Interior by JOHNSON DESIGN STUDIO

5. Forgetting about your down payment

Before obtaining approval, you'll have to prove you have enough money to make a down payment, which can be anywhere from 5 to 10 per cent of your future home’s price. Even though this seems like an obvious condition of getting a mortgage, you'd be surprised how many buyers experience trouble showing sufficient liquid assets on their account. Think about this before applying for a mortgage. Some of the possible sources are registered retirement service plans, bank accounts, and brokerage accounts or a gift from your family. However, make sure to avoid suspicious or rushed money transfers just a couple days before closing, since the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Act states that lenders are required to request a 90-day record of all your accounts to check the source of the down payment. And just like we pointed out in the previous paragraph, lenders love consistency and stability when it comes to your finances.

6. Decisions based on rates only

"When you decide on the basis of pricing alone, it might not be the best product for you,"

Toronto mortgage broker Joe Walsh said for the Star. He adds that getting hooked on a mortgage that you chose just on the basis of the lowest interest rate could easily lead to later regrets. Of course, rates are a valid consideration, and they're one of the most important compasses on the search for the best available options. But you have to realize that different types of mortgages, their payment structures (such as pre-payment options), and possible penalties for paying off too early can all play a great role as well.

7. Hiding information from your advisors

Trying to hide negative financial information about you is probably the worst idea ever when it comes to mortgages. If you’re concerned that you might not seem well-paid or reliable enough to get credit, the best way to find out is to try to get a pre-approval and fix all the possible problems with your advisor. Don’t think that the drawbacks won’t come to light — any unpleasant surprises in the process of getting a mortgage might actually cost you a deal.

 

Sofa  mylocationscoutsSofa by mylocationscouts

8. Forgetting about the closing costs

Closing costs are probably the sneakiest costs that come up when purchasing a home, and many people forget about them. Avoid last-minute complications by leaving by at least 1.5 per cent to 3 per cent of the overall purchase price to cover additional expenses that pop up in the end. These include such things as the cost of a professional home inspection, lawyer or notary fees, land transfer tax, property tax, and property insurance as well as moving costs. Be prepared, so that you’re not left with no cash on hand unexpectedly.

9. Settling for the first offer

Even though the process of choosing the best mortgage offer can be strenuous, it’s certainly worth it. Don’t make the common mistake of settling for your friendly neighbourhood bank that offers "just okay" conditions because your friend said so. Decisions about financing your future home are too important to approach this way, and underestimating the impact of your choice might cost you loads of money. For example, Carole Ann Bryant, an accredited mortgage professional in Cobourg, pointed out for the Star that,

"On a $200,000 mortgage with a 20-year amortization, a rate that’s 0.25 per cent higher would cost $4,000 more in interest over five years." 

Plus, the pack of conditions that comes with a deal varies greatly, as lenders compete against each other with offering earlier down payments for small extra fees, holidays from payments, and many other perks that might or might not come with your deal.

10. Not reading the documents properly

Going through all the specifics of the mortgage agreement surely isn’t the most intriguing activity in the world, but it’s absolutely vital for you to check the provisions of the contract before signing up for anything you don’t know about. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something — it’s better to be sure before nodding to unfavourable terms. If you have a lawyer, it might also be a good idea to get a consultation, as a legally trained person is able to spot even the slight nuances that most people don’t notice and warn you about them.

JH00JA

Photo Essay: Canyon Lights at the Capilano Suspension Bridge

We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by talented photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, explore Vancouver! This time, let's have a look at Vancouver through the lens of Kevin Eng!

Capilano Suspension Christmas Light7It's like being in a fairytale!

Capilano Suspension Bridge with its 140 metre bridge hanging 70 metres above the river it's without doubts one of the most amazing spots in Vancouver. You may have seen our beautiful photo essay of Capilano Suspension Bridge, when we followed the footsteps of the millions of visitors who have crossed this spectacular place since 1889 and now we had to return again to experience the magic of Christmas. 

Capilano Suspension Christmas Light32
Capilano Suspension Christmas Light17One of the many Christmas performances 

Capilano Suspension Bridge presents the annual Canyon Lights festivities from November 30 until January, 2013 and I must say, the show is beyond spectacular. Not only you will have a chance to find yourself in a fairy tale thanks to thousands of twinkling lights but also you can return to your childhood and make a wish under the world's tallest (46.4 m) living Christmas tree! 

Once again, visitors get dazzled by thousands of lights glittering across the Suspension Bridge, throughout the forest and on the Park's newest attraction, Cliffwalk. 

On top of that, you can expect a children’s scavenger hunt, gingerbread cookie decorating, sing-a-long carols with the holiday band and glass blowing workshops with Malcolm Macfadyen.

Capilano Suspension Christmas Light33Magical atmosphere

Canyon Lights tickets are valid all day with holiday activities beginning at 4:00pm, pricing can be found online

Capilano Suspension Christmas Light2
Capilano Suspension Christmas Light20Capilano Suspension Bridge vested in the Christmas Suit
Capilano Suspension Christmas Light43
Capilano Suspension Christmas Light12
Capilano Suspension Christmas Light39
Capilano Suspension Christmas Light22

Meet the Photographer

Kevin Eng

Kevin Eng

Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C, where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is a currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.

KE00JA

Vancouver Housing Market Trends: Balanced and Consistent in November 2013

For almost the whole of 2013, balanced conditions prevailed in the Vancouver housing market. Current home sales and listing activities were balanced, and market conditions were favourable both for buyers and sellers.

Vancouver Housing Market Infographic November 2013Vancouver Housing Market Infographic for November 2013

In its last report, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) announced that there were a total 2,321 sales in November 2013. This represents a substantial increase of 37.7 per cent compared to November 2012, when only 1,686 sales were recorded. But if we compare this figure to October 2013, we can see that there was a slight, 12.8 per cent decline compared to the 2,661 sales last month.

If we compare last month's sales with the 10-year sales average for the month, we can conclude that they were 1.2 per cent lower. Compared to the 10-year average number of listings, November 2013 showed a 1.5 per cent increase.

"We've seen steady and consistent trends on the Greater Vancouver housing market for much of this year," Sandra Wyant, REBGV president, said. "This year's activity has resulted in gradual and modest increases in home prices of approximately 1 per cent over the last 12 month in the region."

New listings for all types of housing properties totalled 3,245 in November, which was a 17.7 per cent increase from the 2,758 new listings reported in November 2012 and a 24.8 per cent decline compared to the 4,315 new listings in October 2013.

As the report indicates, there are currently 13,986 listings for Greater Vancouver. This figure is 10.9 per cent lower compared to November 2012 and 8.3 per cent lower compared to October 2013.

November 2013 reported a sales-to-active-listings ratio of 16.6 per cent.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price - See more at: http://www.rebgv.org/news-statistics/steady-trends-continue-greater-vancouver-housing-market#sthash.k45bDwa3.dpuf

The Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver is $603,000. This figure represents a 1 per cent increase compared to November 2012.

If we look at particular categories of residential properties, we can see they all show very positive results — even if we compare them with the strong November 2011 housing market.

For detached properties, sales reached 926 in November 2013. This represents an increase of 47.2 per cent from the 629 detached property sales in November 2012, and a 1.1 per cent increase from the 916 units sold in November 2011. The benchmark price for detached properties increased 1.1 per cent from November 2012, to $924,800.

Apartment sales totalled 969 in November 2013. This means an important increase of 29.2 per cent compared to the 750 sales in November 2012. However, last month's apartment sales were 3.1 per cent lower than in November 2011, with its 1,000 sales. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 0.8 per cent from November 2012, to $367,800.

“We’ve seen steady and consistent trends the Greater Vancouver housing market for much of this year,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said. “This year’s activity has resulted in gradual and modest increases in home prices of approximately one per cent over the last 12 months in the region.” - See more at: http://www.rebgv.org/news-statistics/steady-trends-continue-greater-vancouver-housing-market#sthash.k45bDwa3.dpuf
“We’ve seen steady and consistent trends the Greater Vancouver housing market for much of this year,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said. “This year’s activity has resulted in gradual and modest increases in home prices of approximately one per cent over the last 12 months in the region.” - See more at: http://www.rebgv.org/news-statistics/steady-trends-continue-greater-vancouver-housing-market#sthash.k45bDwa3.dpuf
“We’ve seen steady and consistent trends the Greater Vancouver housing market for much of this year,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said. “This year’s activity has resulted in gradual and modest increases in home prices of approximately one per cent over the last 12 months in the region.” - See more at: http://www.rebgv.org/news-statistics/steady-trends-continue-greater-vancouver-housing-market#sthash.k45bDwa3.dpuf

Attached property sales totalled 426 in November 2013. This was an increase of 38.8 per cent compared to the 307 sales in November 2012, and a 4.1 per cent decline compared to the 444 sales in November 2011. The benchmark price of an attached unit is currently $458,000, which is a 0.8 per cent increase from November 2012.

Richmond, East Vancouver, and West Vancouver

Richmond, East Vancouver, and West Vancouver all maintained very favourable sales results compared to the previous months. There were various small declines in sales from October 2012, but this was more due to the fact that October was extremely successful in sales. Not a single property type in any of the three areas scored lower than it had in 2011. The housing market, looking at last month's statistics, looks healthy. It sends a positive message both to buyers and sellers.

In Richmond, detached property sales in November 2013 reached 109. This was a decline of 9.2 per cent from October 2013, when 120 units sold, and an increase of 30.26 per cent from the 76 recorded sales in November 2012. The benchmark price of a detached property remained at $929,700.

For attached properties, Richmond sales totalled 75 in November 2013, which meant a 33.33 per cent increase from the 50 sales recorded in November 2012, and a 4.2 per cent increase from October 2013, with its 72 units sold. The benchmark price of an attached property was $496,500.

Apartment sales in Richmond reached 104 in November 2013, increasing 22.12 per cent from November 2012, with only 81 units sold, and decreasing 21.2 per cent from October, when 132 units were sold. The benchmark price of an apartment property was $346,700

Detached property sales in November 2013 reached 116 in Vancouver East. This was an increase of 21.55 per cent from November 2012, when 91 units sold. The number of sales was exactly the same as the previous month. The benchmark price of a detached property for November 2013 stayed at $855,900.

For attached properties, Vancouver East sales totalled 45 in November 2013, increasing 22.22 per cent from November 2012 and declining 11.8 per cent from October 2013. The benchmark price of an attached property for November 2013 remained at $525,100.

Apartment sales in Vancouver East totalled 119 sales in November 2013, increasing 42.02 per cent from November 2012, with 69 units sold, and decreasing 1.7 per cent from October 2013, when 121 units sold. The benchmark price of an apartment property for November 2013 was $310,300.

Detached property sales for Vancouver West totalled 140, an increase of 45 per cent from November 2012, when only 77 detached properties sold. Compared to October 2012, the number of detached property sales dropped 21.8 per cent, from 179 units sold last month. The benchmark price of a detached property for November 2013 stayed at $2,095,500.

Vancouver West attached property sales reached 54 units in November 2013, increasing 25.93 per cent from November 2012, with its 40 sales. Compared to October 2013, November sales increased 1.9 per cent from the 53 units sold last month. The benchmark price of a detached property for November 2013 was $705,100.

Apartment sales in Vancouver West totalled 293 in November 2013, increasing 17.75 per cent from November 2012. On the other hand, their number dropped from the 345 sales recorded in October 2012 by a substantial 15.1 per cent. The benchmark price for apartment properties in November 2013 was $471,500.

Richmond, East Vancouver, and West Vancouver Listings

There was a substantial drop in new listings for all three areas in November 2013. Due to the expected lower activity in the winter, this doesn't represent a substantial problem for the housing market in the analyzed areas.

There were a total 484 new listings for Richmond in November 2013. This consists of 161 new listings for detached properties, 100 new listings for attached properties, and finally 223 new listings for apartments.

In Vancouver East, new listings totalled 338 for November 2013. There were 140 new detached houses listings, 49 attached residential property listings, and 149 newly listed apartments.

In Vancouver West, 669 new listings were recorded in November 2013, with 171 detached houses, 56 attached properties, and 442 apartments.

“We’ve seen steady and consistent trends the Greater Vancouver housing market for much of this year,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said. “This year’s activity has resulted in gradual and modest increases in home prices of approximately one per cent over the last 12 months in the region.” - See more at: http://www.rebgv.org/news-statistics/steady-trends-continue-greater-vancouver-housing-market#sthash.k45bDwa3.dpuf
“We’ve seen steady and consistent trends the Greater Vancouver housing market for much of this year,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said. “This year’s activity has resulted in gradual and modest increases in home prices of approximately one per cent over the last 12 months in the region.” - See more at: http://www.rebgv.org/news-statistics/steady-trends-continue-greater-vancouver-housing-market#sthash.k45bDwa3.dpuf
“We’ve seen steady and consistent trends the Greater Vancouver housing market for much of this year,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said. “This year’s activity has resulted in gradual and modest increases in home prices of approximately one per cent over the last 12 months in the region.” - See more at: http://www.rebgv.org/news-statistics/steady-trends-continue-greater-vancouver-housing-market#sthash.k45bDwa3.dpuf

OP00JA

10 Places That Accept Bitcoins in Vancouver

Bitcoin Accepted Here Waves Coffeehouse Vancouver by Marc van der ChijsBitcoin Accepted Here: Waves Coffee House in Vancouver by Marc van der Chijs

Bitcoins are an exciting new digital currency that's gaining popularity around the world, and Vancouver is on the forefront of this emerging technology. It's free (and relatively easy) to get started using Bitcoins, and there are a bunch of ways to spend the coins. If you haven't already begun collecting Bitcoins, there are a few ways you can get them.

For people with tons of processing power at their disposal, one option is to become a Bitcoin miner. This isn't feasible for most people though, and the majority of Bitcoin users prefer to exchange conventional currency or other goods for Bitcoins. Bitcoiniacs have been operating a physical store in Vancouver where customers can go to exchange currencies in person, or you can buy Bitcoins online from a variety of online dealers. And now that Vancouver is the first city in the world to have a Bitcoin ATM, it's never been easier to get onboard with the new currency.

There's an ever-growing number of businesses in Vancouver willing to accept payment in Bitcoin. There are no fees for taking payment in this new currency, which is enticing for forward-thinking entrepreneurs looking to attract new customers. Many of them even offer discounts to customers who pay with coins. From landscaping to Indian food to massages, there's something for pretty much anyone. Here's a list of some of the coolest ways to spend your coins.

Food

Sweet Tooth Café

2404 E Hastings St. EAST VAN
Call 604 255-6997
E-mail

Sweet Tooth Cafe Vancouver by roaming the planerSweet Tooth Cafe Vancouver by roaming the planet

Sweet Tooth Café is a difficult sort of place to sum up in a few words. A cross between a typical coffee shop and a homestyle Thai restaurant, Sweet Tooth is known both for its delicious cinnamon buns and its pad thai dinner. Designed with a 1950s aesthetic in mind, it has managed to establish a loyal following at its location by Hastings and Nanaimo. Everything from the caramel pecan buns to the pineapple curry is made fresh in-house, and Sweet Tooth is likely to have something to suit any mood you're in. 

Like savoury cream cheese on a sweet bagel, Sweet Tooth Café is a refreshing reminder that sometimes it's the stranger combinations that produce the best results. Proving that it's truly ahead of the curve, Sweet Tooth accepts payment in Bitcoins.

Bestie — Chinatown's Finest Currywurst

105 E Pender CHINATOWN
Call 604 620-1175
E-mail

View Through the Storefront Window at Bestie by Scott and Scott ArchitectsView Through the Storefront Window at Bestie by Scott and Scott Architects
Sausage Smile by BestieSausage Smile by Bestie

Bestie is a neat little shop that offers a variety of German eats. Drawing inspiration from German street food, Bestie specializes in pretzels and sausages. In addition to the more traditional sausage and sauerkraut, Bestie serves a dish it calls "currywurst," which consists of sausage served over fries with curry ketchup. Bestie claims that it's "Germany's most popular street food." It's probably right. And vegetarians need not fear — Bestie has got you covered with smoked apple Veggie Wurst.

If you don't feel like fresh baked pretzels or sausage, some healthier options are available in the form of some pretty fancy Kohlrabi Kohlslaw. But where the awesomely crowdsourced Bestie really pulls ahead of the curve is its hours. Being open til 3:00 a.m. means that after a late night on the town, you're not likely to find anything better or more interesting than some authentic German-style street food in Vancouver's Chinatown. And you can pay from your smart phone with your new digital currency. What a world.

Central Bistro

1072 Denman St. WEST END
Call 604 689-4527
E-mail  

Central BistroCentral Bistro

Located right off English Bay, Central Bistro is a classy way to spend your Bitcoins. The dinner menu offers a variety of locally sourced fish as well as some compelling vegetarian options, and the breakfast menu boasts some truly impressive-looking eggs Benedict using local free-range eggs. This is a restaurant that cares about using quality ingredients — and sourcing them locally when possible. It may not be the cheapest place to grab a bite, but sometimes the best things in life aren't free. Sometimes you have to pay for them — with Bitcoins.

India Gate Restaurant

616 Robson St. DOWNTOWN
Call 604 684-4617

The Founders of India Gate RestaurantThe Founders of India Gate Restaurant

While there are many Indian restaurants in Vancouver, there's only one currently accepting Bitcoins. Located on trendy Robson Street, India Gate caters to the downtown crowd and offers a delivery service for those rainy days when you just can't force yourself to leave the house. It serves a wide variety of seafood, meat, and vegetarian dishes. India Gate may not be the cheapest Indian food in town, but it does offer daily specials and serve affordable drinks.

India Gate Restaurant InteriorIndia Gate Restaurant Interior

India Gate takes a slightly different approach from the other Bitcoin merchants on this list. Rather than allowing Bitcoin payments generally, India Gate hosts a monthly Bitcoin meet-up called Coinfest. Gurmeet Gutta, who introduced the idea, says that he began hosting the networking event "to get new customers that normally wouldn't come." In an industry as competitive as this, savvy restaurateurs like Gurmeet will do "whatever it takes to get noticed."

Waves Coffee House

100 - 900 Howe St. HOWE
Call 604 899-9283

Waves Coffee at Howe Smithe by Reva GWaves Coffee at Howe Smithe by Reva G
Worlds First Bitcoin ATM in Waves Coffee Vancouver by Marc Van der Chijs World's First Bitcoin ATM
in Waves Coffee Vancouver
by Marc Van der Chijs

Vancouver loves its coffee! It seems there are nearly as many coffee shops as there are people, and each of them seems to be doing good business. In a world where it's hard to tell one coffee shop from another, it's important to stand out from the pack. One franchise in Vancouver has set itself apart to be the first big-name coffee house to accept Bitcoins. The Waves downtown at Howe and Smithe is the most spacious location, and perhaps also the most progressive.

In addition to featuring two reservable meeting rooms, this particular Waves has recently started accepting payments in Bitcoins. I spoke to store manager Chris, who said it's been about two months since his store began accepting Bitcoins, and they "typically get two to five transactions per day. Sometimes more, sometimes none."

While five transactions a day might not be huge, it might not be long before other franchises and chains pick up on alternative currency. As Bitcoins become easier to use and more recognized brands like Waves get on board with the program, we can only expect those numbers to rise. 

Stuff

No Limit Landscaping

Water Features by No Limit LandscapingWater Features by No Limit Landscaping

No Limit Landscaping is a brand new landscaping company serving Vancouver. No Limit focuses on residential properties and specializes in water features. No Limit boasts one of only two certified Aquascape Contractors in the Vancouver area and has installed over 200 water features. So if you've been waiting for the right time to install that two-tiered backyard koi pond with a waterfall and you've got some Bitcoins burning a hole through your digital wallet, consider giving No Limit a call.

Natural Retaining Walls by No Limit LandscapingNatural Retaining Walls by No Limit Landscaping

Pacific Bliss Massage

Pacific Bliss is an independent massage parlour in Vancouver that specializes in Swedish relaxation massage. Located by the entrance to Granville Island, Pacific Bliss promises to ease muscle tension, reduce stress, and elevate moods through conventional Swedish massage. For anyone looking for something a little different, Pacific Bliss also offers hot and cold stone therapy intended to help with circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system, and help you achieve deep relaxation.

I asked owner and operator Michael Bliss why he got into Bitcoins. As one of the earliest proponents of Bitcoins in Vancouver, for him it wasn't just a business decision. "We accept Bitcoin for social justice reasons and because bitcoins are sound money, backed by cryptography, unlike our debt-based national currencies, which have no backing." Unlike conventional currencies, there are no private banks, and many people are drawn to the freedom of exchanging directly without interest or bank mediation.

Pacific Bliss is currently offering $40 off 75-minute massages and $30 off 60-minute massages paid for in Bitcoins. Considering that the regular price for a 75-minute massage is $110, this is a pretty solid deal. Pacific Bliss offers massages at beautiful Wreck Beach during the summer.

Free Geek Vancouver

Free GeekFree Geek Vancouver

Free Geek is a unique non-profit community organization that seeks to reduce the environmental impact of all our old electronic devices while providing free education and discount computers. Free Geek is a great place to visit if you run into any kind of computer trouble, and it caters to all experience levels. There always seems be a regiment of knowledgeable volunteers ready not only to fix your problem, but also to teach exactly what they're doing.

Besides offering tech support and computer education, Free Geek is a great place to go for refurbished electronics. Free Geek aims to reduce the amount of electronic waste we ship overseas by removing old unwanted gadgets from the waste stream, stripping them for usable parts, and then building new machines out of those parts. There are a few ways that you can get a computer from Free Geek. The first is to take part in the build program. Free Geek will teach you how to build computers, and after you build five, you get to keep the sixth. Another option is to put 24 hours towards volunteering in the shop.

The Free Geek Community in Vancouver Having an OrientationThe Free Geek Community in Vancouver
Having an Orientation For New Volunteers

The final way to get a computer from Free Geek is to buy one from their computer hardware thrift shop. Here you can find an assortment of refurbished laptop and desktop computers that you can get at substantial discounts. All profits go towards covering the operating costs of the organization, and you can pay with Bitcoins!

Free Geek runs on donations of electronics and will even accept broken devices, which it will recycle ethically for you. A great organization, and a great way to spend coins.

Popsike Records

Popsike RecordsPopsike Records

It's no secret that records are making a big comeback. Audiophiles have lost interest in the compressed sound quality of MP3s, and folks yearn for a simpler time when their music collection took up an entire room in their house, rather than a thumb drive under their desk. It's no surprise, then, that many artists are releasing and re-releasing their albums on vinyl, and record stores around Vancouver do business in albums new and old.

Enter Popsike Records. This online record store is for the true collector. Specializing in rare and obscure albums ranging in price from $20 to over $300, Popsike is bound to carry some novel sounds that will impress even your hippest friends. It lists albums by category and describes the condition of every album. Why not use your new obscure currency to buy some old obscure music? The owners of Popsike Records are collectors as well as distributors, so if you've got any gems in your attic you're interested in offloading, send them an email! Maybe you can get some Bitcoins coming back your way.

Art of Muse

Serge Chubinsky Orlov Art of MuseSerge Chubinsky Orlov
Art of Muse

Have you ever wanted to take music lessons, but just never found the opportunity? Well, now you have one. Art of Muse instructor Serge Chubinsky-Orlov offers personalized one-on-one instruction on piano or keyboard, music writing, production, and theory. Specializing in digital music production and composition, it's no surprise that Art of Muse accepts payment in Bitcoins.

Lessons are tailored towards your own personal aspirations — whether that be to learn how to sight-read classical music or do jazz improvisations or just brush up on your music theory. All new students begin with a personal orientation meeting to hammer out the details.

I asked Serge, who began accepting Bitcoins to "provide payment flexibility," how the new currency has affected his businesses. "So far," he says, "no impact yet. Not a single student with Bitcoins. I really hope it will evolve." If you're looking for some one-on-one instruction in music theory, production, or performance and you're looking for a way to spend some coins, why not secure yourself the honour of being the first Art of Muse student to pay with Bitcoins?

DS00JA

Use the Phone! 3 Cell Phone Tips for a Smarter Life

Talking on the Phone by MLazarevski Talking on the Phone... Photo by MLazarevski

Not long ago, our heads were all exploding over our new phones' built-in cameras. Those days are but a distant memory. Now, our phones are a portable theatre, office, library, and recording studio and they have cameras on the front and the back. But just because the phones have gotten smarter doesn't mean that we have, so here are a few simple but effective tips to maximize your phone's power.

1. Keep It Alive!

At Least Were Not Running on Batterie Yet by anieto2k At Least People Are Not Running on Batteries, Yet... Image by anieto2k

There's nothing more shocking than realizing your phone battery has died. What if someone needs to call you? What if you need to look something up? No one wants that. To prevent this from happening to you, there are a few things to be aware of.

These days, most smartphones run on lithium-ion batteries. What that means for us is that if we're reasonably mindful of our phone, our batteries can last a very long time without any noticeable decrease in battery life. You may have had people tell you that you should only charge your phone when its battery is low. While this may have been true of older battery types, it's actually not an issue with li-ion. In fact, the opposite might even be true. If you want to maintain battery health, don't let it get too drained before you plug it in.

Dont Let Your Phone Die by Jim BauerAnd I Just Wanted to Charge My Phone! Photo by Jim Bauer

The other factor to consider when it comes to battery life (or the general health of electronics) is temperature. We're talking about complex micro-electronics, and most phones don't have built-in fans to cool them like computers do. Try to keep your phone at room temperature, and your battery will thank you. Avoid leaving phones in cars during hot summer months (or at any time for that matter — battery life isn't so important when your phone is stolen).

Of course, sometimes things come up and you forget to charge your device, which is why it can be smart to keep a charging cable with you when you're on the go. While some smartphones only come with USB cables, it isn't difficult to find adapters to plug into any wall socket. There are now even portable phone chargers that you can buy, though they aren't necessarily cheap. If you're going to pay for a portable charger, probably the coolest option is to get asolar-powered USB charger. Comparable in cost to other portable chargers, but with a bit more flexibility and sustainability to boot.

2. Take Advantage of Screen Capture!

In a world where your phone can track earthquakes or test for radiation, it can be easy to forget how useful the simplest things can be. We get so much of the information we need day-to-day from emails, websites, and social media. But even now, in 2013, we still sometimes find ourselves having to write things down. Well, no more if you learn to make the best use of the screen capture feature.

Neat Gadget  Solar USB Charger by cogdogblog This Might Save Someone's Life One Day, You Know... Photo by cogdogblog

Say you get an email invitation to your cousin's baby shower. You're looking for their house and you don't want to have to cycle through all your emails to find their address — and you definitely don't want to have to call them and admit you forgot where they live! So take a screen shot of the email before you leave home and have the info at your fingertips as soon as you need it. This trick is also useful for taking snapshots of maps, dates, or events you don't want to miss.

So how do you do it? Easy as pie. Make sure you're honed in on the critical piece of information, then simply hit the Home and Power buttons simultaneously on your iPhone or the Volume-down and Power buttons on your Android to save the screenshot to your photos. Now you can easily send the image to others, or even set it as your background. This trick is particularly useful if you don't have Internet access on the go.

3. Use a Good Passcode!

You Dont Have to Carry One Of These Around Anymore  Its In Your Phone Use It by Freddy The BoyYou Have One of These Built Into Your Phone. Use It. Photo by Freddy The Boy

This could end up being the most important tip of all. We use our smartphones for a lot these days. We stay up to date with our friends and loved ones, we manage our finances, and some of us even use them to control our cars.(I'll leave it to you to decide how smart that is.) But all this convenience comes with risks: if a criminal were to gain access to all that information, it could mean a massive headache for you. Even if you don't do any online banking, you don't want to let some malicious individual send misleading texts or emails to your friends.

Luckily, all smartphones have passcode protection. Unfortunately, many of us don't take full advantage of this basic safety feature. As Simpleer points out, half of us don't even use passcodes, leaving our vital information open to anyone who might chance upon our phones. Treat your phone password like your bank PIN: don't choose something that someone is likely to guess. Your birthday is a bad password, and so is 1-1-1-1. You unlock your phone a thousand times a day — it won't take long for you to remember four random numbers, but it will make it virtually impossible for all but the luckiest of thieves to access your treasured smartphone.

DS00JA

Vancouver Weekends: Capilano Suspension Bridge

Cliff Walk View of Hikers from AboveCliff Walk Bridges Hang High Above the Canyon
* Click on any Photo to Open up the Gallery
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park EntranceThere's Lots to Discover at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Capilano Suspension Bridge: An Adventure With A Proud History

As Vancouver residents, we are really lucky to have some great recreational spots just around the corner! For example, there's Cypress Hill towering above the city (which is one of BC's many superb ski resorts), the “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” steep trail at Grouse Mountain (which can put your fitness to the test) and there are lots of beautiful natural parks and nature reserves within reach for some serious weekend hiking. One of my favourite ones, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is named after the simple suspension bridge hanging over the Capilano River in the District of North Vancouver.

Experience nature, culture and adventure at one of the top Vancouver attractions, just 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver.

Its main attraction that brings thousands of visitors to the area each year, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, is definitely nothing for the faint-hearted or people who have a fear of heights. Why? This extraordinary 140 metre bridge hangs 70 metres above the river. Sounds pretty scary, doesn't it? And the bridge went through a major renovation only in 1956, to make sure it's super secure to carry all the visitors safely to the other side. Originally, it was made just of hemp ropes, with its deck composed of cedar planks. The bridge was designed by Scottish engineer George Grant Mackay in 1889, and his first design was later replaced with a wire cable bridge.

The current owner is Nancy Stibbard, who has owned the attraction since 1983. Since Nancy took over, many new exciting features have been added and attendance has rocketed. The totem poles honouring the art of local First Nations go back to the 1930s, while the seven footbridges hanging between the magnificent Douglas fir trees are among the recent additions. The bridge is a frequent setting for several TV series, such as MacGyver, Sliders, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, and Psych.

Follow in the footsteps of the many people who have crossed the bridge since 1889 and enjoy the breathtaking views from the top of the canyon. If all the walking and climbing make you hungry, there are a couple dining options within reach — Bridge House Restaurant, Loggers’ Grill, and the recently added Capilano Coffee Company.

What else can you expect when you plan a trip here?

  • Treetops Adventures consist of seven footbridges suspended over the canyon up to 30 metres high — the first venue of its kind in North America. Walk between the 1,300-year-old Douglas firs and enjoy the perspective of a squirrel as you venture through the highest tree tops of North America.
  • Rainforest Eco Tours invite you to explore the unique Temperate West Coast Rainforest ecosystem with a guide offered throughout the year.
  • North America's largest private collection of totem poles, period décor, and costumes offer more fun. The first totem poles were raised by local First Nations in the 1930s.
  • Story Centre will tell you the story of how the first European adventurers, the Capilano Tramps, explored the area and the bridge.
  • Cliff Walk is a heart-stopping cliffside journey through the rainforest on narrow bridges (in some parts with a glass bottom!). This will definitely raise the levels of adrenaline in your blood.
  • First Nations performances with traditional costumes, dancing, and story telling offer still more entertainment.
  • Kia’palano is an educational centre that follows the history of First Nations, their cultures, and their close connections to nature.

All visual content is licensed by Creative Commons - you may use individual photos but you need to link them back to this page.

Have you ever visited the park? What was your favourite attraction? Tell us in the comments below!

Capilano Suspension Bridge park LakeCapilano Suspension Bridge Park is a Lovely Place For a Long Walk
Bird Watching in the Natural Habitat in Capilano
Natures Edge Board WalkAll the Attractions are Beautifully Presented and Taken Care of
Tree Tops Adventure WalkTree Tops Adventure Walk
Cool Trees Walk With Wooden Paths
The Cliff WalkThe Cliff Walk
Staircase to the Cliff Walk in Capilano
Some Parts of the Cliff Walk Will Make Your Head Spin!
Capilano Suspension Bridge Hangs Over the RiverThe Capilano Suspension Bridge
Crossing the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Wooden Totems in Capilano Suspension Bridge ParkThe Original Totem Poles From Local First Nations
Rainforest Explorer Booth in CapilanoThe Educational Centre
Wild Mushrooms

Meet the Photographer

Kevin Eng

Kevin Eng

Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C, where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is a currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.

KE00JA

The Vancouver Housing Market Stays in Good Shape in October

Yaletown Sunset by Thomas Bullock
Yaletown Sunset by Thomas Bullock

Housing market activity continues to resemble the ten-year sales average in the Greater Vancouver housing market. These trends have helped keep the region in balance for the last nine months.The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver's (REBGV) latest report shows that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver reached 2,661 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in October 2013. This is a 37.8 per cent increase compared to the 1,931 sales recorded in October 2012, and a 7.2 per cent increase from the 2,483 sales recorded in September 2013.

To see the big picture, check our infographic below!

New listings for attached, detached, and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 4,315 in October 2013, which was a 0.2 % decline from the 4,323 new listings reported in October 2012, and a decrease of 14.2 per cent compared to the 5,030 new listings reported in September of this year.

Compared to the ten-year sales average in October, monthly sales were 2.8 per cent higher, while new listings for the month stayed 1.9 per cent below.

“We continue to see fairly typical activity when it comes to monthly home sale and listing totals,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president, said. “Today’s activity is helping to keep us in balanced market territory, which means that prices tend to experience minimal fluctuation.”

Overall, the MLS® properties sold in Greater Vancouver reached 15,257 — a decline of 12.2 per cent compared to this time last year, and a decline of 5.3 per cent compared to September 2013.

The sales-to-active-listings ratio is currently at 17.4 per cent in Greater Vancouver.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver was $600,700 by the time the report was released. This represented a 0.5 per cent decline compared to October 2012.

Detached property sales reached 1,067 in October 2013, beating the 790 sales recorded in October 2012 by 35.1 per cent. This also represented an increase of 9.5 per cent from the 974 units sold in October 2011. The benchmark price for detached properties dropped 0.5 per cent from October 2012, to $922,600.

Apartment sales reached 1,098 in October 2013, an increase of 36.7 per cent compared to the 803 apartment sales recorded in October 2012, and an increase of 14.6 per cent compared to the 958 sales in October 2011. The benchmark price of an apartment property decreased 0.9 per cent from October 2012, to $365,600.

Attached property sales totalled 496, an increase of 46.7 per cent compared to the 338 attached property sales recorded in October 2012 and a 29.8 per cent increase compared to the 382 attached property sales recorded in October 2011. The benchmark price of an attached property is $458,000, the same as October 2012.

Science World by Thomas Bullock
Science World by Thomas Bullock

Richmond, Vancouver East, and Vancouver West Sales Statistics

Detached property sales for October 2013 in Richmond reached 120. This was 5.5 per cent less than in September 2013, when 127 units sold, and 34 % more than in October 2012, when only 79 sold units.

October 2013 detached property sales in Vancouver East reached 116, dropping 4.3 per cent from September 2013, when 147 detached properties sold. In a year-over-year comparison, October 2013 sales were 19.8 per cent higher than in October 2012, when only 93 units sold.

Sales for detached properties in October 2013 in Vancouver West reached 179, increasing 16.2 per cent from the 154 sales recorded in September 2013, and increasing 41.9 per cent from October 2012.

Townhouse sales in Richmond for October 2013 reached 72, increasing 4.3 per cent since September 2013, when 69 units sold. Compared with the 61 sales recorded in October 2012, last month's sales increased 15.3 per cent.

In October 2013, 51 townhouse sold in Vancouver East. This was an increase of 21.4 per cent from September 2013, with 42 sold units. In a year-over-year comparison with the 21 sales recorded in October 2012, last month's townhouse market increased its sales 58.8 per cent.

The number of townhouses sold reached 53 in Vancouver West. This means a minor decrease of 3.6 per cent from the 55 sales recorded in September 2013, and a slight increase of 7.5 per cent from the 49 sales recorded in October 2012.

Apartment sales in Richmond for October 2013 reached 132. This represented an increase of 8.2 per cent from September 2013, and a 35.6 per cent increase from October 2012, when 85 apartments sold.

Apartment sales in Vancouver East reached 121 in October 2013, representing a 34.4 per cent increase from September 2013, and a 42.1 per cent increase from October 2012, when only 70 units sold.

In Vancouver West, apartment sales totalled 345 for October 2013, increasing 0.3 per cent from 344 sales September 2013, and 23.4 per cent from the 264 sales in October 2012.

New Listings in Vancouver East, Vancouver West, and Richmond

In October 2013, there were fewer new residential properties introduced to the market in the three areas covered.

In Richmond, new listings in October 2013 for detached houses reached 190, dropping 28.3 per cent since September 2013. Also, new listings for townhouses decreased substantially, from the 149 units listed in September 2013 to 96 in October 2013. This represents a 35.6 per cent decrease. There were 249 newly apartments for sale in October 2013, which was 7.3 per cent more than the 232 units listed the month before.

In Vancouver East, new listings in October 2013 for detached houses reached 189, dropping 18.5 per cent since September 2013. New listings for townhouses decreased substantially, from the 99 units listed in September 2013 to the 64 recorded in October 2013, representing a 35.4 per cent decrease. There were 191 newly listed apartments for sale in October 2013, which was 18.7 per cent less than the 235 units listed the month before.

New listings for detached houses in Vancouver West reached 227 units, representing a decrease of 32.2 per cent from the 335 units listed in September 2013. For townhouses, there were 92 new listings. This was 23.3 per cent less than the 120 units listed in September 2013. For apartments, October 2013 brought 577 new listings, which was 18.3 per cent less than the 706 units in September 2013.

October Housing Market in Vancouver Infographic
October Housing Market in Vancouver Infographic

OP00JA

The Most Beautiful Beaches Near Vancouver: Get Inspired For Locations

Kits Beach View of Vancouver With a RainbowView of Vancouver With a Rainbow from Kits Beach

We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by talented photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, explore Vancouver! This time, let's have a look at Vancouver through the lens of Kevin Eng!

The Most Beautiful Beaches Near Vancouver

One of the most amazing things about living in Vancouver is the nearby mountains and the ever-present fresh sea breeze. There are so many beaches in and around Vancouver that you can visit whenever you feel like taking a short break and watching the waves gently roll. Beaches are a very popular topic in photography — with their dramatic skies during sunset, fleeting moments before a storm hits the shores, and experimenting with exposure while taking a photo of a bridge. You name it. We bring you the very best Vancouver locations to take your camera and tripod to get some beautiful shots! And the best thing is, most of these beaches are just minutes away from downtown.

Sunset With Kayakers From Jericho BeachSunset at Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach is located on the north side of Jericho Park at the west end of Point Grey Road, between Wallace Street and Discovery Street. The length of the beach is divided between swimmers and sailing fans. You'll find the waters full of sailboats and windsurfers most of the time, which make a great subject for your photos. Besides finding great spots for a picnic, there are many athletic facilities for soccer, baseball, volleyball, or tennis. Jericho provides a phenomenal view of Stanley Park, West Van, and beyond. On a clear day, you can see as far as the distant lights at the top of Cypress Hill. It's one of the best places to watch the sunset while sitting on a large driftwood log, feeling the sand between your toes.

Fun fact: In the grass area, you can easily spot cute rabbits and pluck blackberries in September.

Location: 3941 Point Grey Road (at Wallace Street)

Kits Beach

Beach, city skyline, mountains, the sea, and beautiful sunbathers — what more could you ask from a beach in the heart of Vancouver? One of the most popular beaches in Vancouver, Kits is always crowded during the summer. Kitsilano Beach or "Kits" is located at the north edge of the Kitsilano neighbourhood, facing the Burrard Inlet. It's often compared to Venice Beach, as bronzed bodies fill every inch of the sandy area. In place of the old boathouse is now a modern structure that houses the Boathouse Waterfront Restaurant with some of the best views of the city. Another feature of this beach is Kits Pool at the west side, which is Canada's longest salt water outdoor swimming pool. If you own a puppy, you'd best head for the Hadden Park off-leash area. The Seawall is a scenic 22 kilometre path that lines Vancouver’s waterfront. The city's beloved recreational destination, the Seawall runs along the beach and is just perfect for a walk, cycle, or jog.

Fun fact: When swimming in Kits Pool, remember that it's almost three times the size of an Olympic pool!

Location: Cornwall Avenue

Iona Beach

This is a great spot if you enjoy long walks and want your picture to focus on natural beauty — not the many people on the beach. The beach is a unique wildlife habitat in the middle of nowhere, home to as many as 300 species of birds and raptors. The many pieces of driftwood washed up on the sandy banks look amazing in the foreground of the compositions. This beach has the biggest collection of driftwood, so there’s always a place to sit. Since it's 20 minutes from Vancouver's airport, it's great for watching planes land every three minutes.

Fun fact: It's less crowded and so a very nice place for looking at birds — and occasionally, you'll even be able to spot seals.

Location: 3211 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond

Wreck Beach

Are you looking for a location to shoot nudes outdoors? You'll be safe to do so on Wreck Beach, as it's a highly popular clothing-optional beach located in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. This area stretches 7.8 kilometres from Acadia Beach in the north to Booming Grounds Creek on the north arm of the Fraser River. This beach is mainly rocky, which gives it a nice, wild-looking edge. It also feels really secluded because it's at the bottom of a giant cliff. Nice, lush vegetation gives shelter to various forms of wildlife — nesting herons, sea lions, kingfishers, and bald eagles can make a great subject. The view north from Acadia Beach is pretty nice as well.

Fun fact: If you're too shy to let all your clothes drop, people are generally not offended when you keep some parts covered.

Location: North West Marine Drive

White Rock Beach

White Rock is named after a distinctive large white boulder sitting on the beach near the promenade. The granite boulder is a remnant of the last glaciation and weighs an unbelievable 486 tons. You easily get some of the best views in Vancouver here, and there's a long pier that you can use as the vantage point for your photos. This beach is usually pretty crowded, so if you need to be alone to concentrate on your art, we suggest you go early in the morning before all the people start arriving. Just a 45-minute drive from downtown, it's well worth a nice long walk! Keep an eye out for the interesting wavy patterns on the sand when the tide is out!

Fun fact: 19th-century sailors used the white boulder as a beacon.

Location: Marine Drive

Iona Beach Old Log and Dramatic CloudsIona Beach Old Log and Dramatic Clouds
Iona Beach in Vancouver PierIona Beach in Vancouver Pier
Iona Beach SunriseIona Beach Sunrise
Jericho Beach Sailing ClubJericho Beach Sailing Club
Kits Pool in VancouverKits Pool in Vancouver
Kits Beach Kayaking Near ShipsKits Beach Kayaking Near Ships
Kits Beach Tennis Courts in VancouverKits Beach Tennis Courts in Vancouver
Lucky Lanterns at Wreck BeachLucky Lanterns at Wreck Beach
Wreck Beach in VancouverWreck Beach in Vancouver
White Rock Beach SunsetWhite Rock Beach Sunset

All visual content is licensed by Creative Commons - you may use individual photos but you need to link them back to this page.

Meet the Photographer

Kevin Eng

Kevin Eng

Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C, where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is a currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.

KE00JA

Retiring? Should You Rent or Buy?

Senior by Alfonso Jimenez
Senior by Alfonso Jimenez

People approaching retirement who plan to move to a new home have to make a difficult decision — should they rent or buy? Many Canadian retirees are accustomed to owning a home and consider it the only solution. A 2012 study conducted by BMO informed that more than half of Canadian homeowners expect they’ll have a mortgage in retirement. Moreover, a 2013 CIBC poll revealed that 59 per cent of retired Canadians say they currently have debt. But in some cases, it might be better to rent or downsize. Marc Lamontagne, a certified financial planner at Ryan Lamontagne in Ottawa, pointed out,

It’s psychologically difficult for some people not to be homeowners, but sometimes it makes more financial sense to rent rather than own. If they were to sell their home, they could have a big pool of money to generate income.

There is no right or wrong answer. Each person approaching retirement or already retired must evaluate his or her current financial situation as well as the current market conditions to determine the most suitable solution. This article outlines the most important considerations as well as the benefits of renting and buying.

Street in Vancouvers South Cambie 1
Houses in Vancouver's South Cambie

Evaluate the Costs

People who are relocating in retirement should consider whether they can afford their new home and analyze how much money both options would cost. A helpful indicator is the price-to-rent ratio, which compares owning and renting properties. Take two houses of similar size — one for sale and one for rent. Their features are the same, and they're in the same or comparable neighbourhoods. Divide the price of the home for sale by the cost of renting the other house for a year and you'll get the price-to-rent ratio. If it's lower than 15, the prices are low, and it's better to buy than rent. If the number is between 16 and 20, then it's usually best to rent rather than purchase. A price-to-rent ratio of more than 20 indicates high prices, which make renting a much better option. Scott Ingraham, CEO of Rent.com, one of the largest online apartment listing services, noted,

The higher the ratio, the higher a housing price spike is needed in future years to justify the purchase price.

According to a report issued in May 2013 by the OECD, Canada has the second highest price-to-rent ratio from the OECD countries, behind Norway and just slightly ahead of Belgium. Plus, the Canadian Real Estate Association informed that the national average sale price rose 4.8 per cent year-over-year in June. Marc Henein, certified financial planner of securities dealer Scotia McLeod, remarked,

We have often been told that owning property is an essential priority for all Canadians. But given the expensive real estate market in Canada’s large urban centres, it may not be feasible.

The mortgage payment comprises only one portion of the costs of owning a home. You have to add taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance costs that will remain even when you pay off your mortgage. If you decide to rent, then you have to pay one monthly payment and renter’s insurance if you want. You don’t have to pay for maintenance or repairs and you don’t have liability for accidents or equipment failures. But your money goes to another property owner and your rent can increase. Building equity in your home combined with tax advantages makes buying a home an attractive investment. However, your money gets tied up and becomes hard to access — whereas a tenant doesn’t have to worry about liquidity or worsening market conditions and investment loss.

Overall, considering the financial issues, you should decide whether you're looking for an investment or a place to live and compare the overall budgets for renting and buying. Consider all the financial risks of maintaining a property as well as how much equity you can build.

Grandparents by Juhan Sonin
Grandparents by Juhan Sonin

What's Your Lifestyle?

Some people want to enjoy the free time they have when they retire and fulfill their travelling dreams. According to a 2013 U.S. survey conducted by the HSBC, 49 per cent of current workers are planning on extensive travel in retirement. Another 40 per cent of respondents hope to make frequent trips during their retirement years. A rental property might be more suitable for people who travel a lot and need access to public transportation, require ready funds for health issues, and have less time for maintenance.

On the other hand, a lot of retirees prefer to have a home they can call their own. In many cases, the sentimental value of owning a home and the feeling of being rooted is more important than saving money. People who are used to living in their own homes for their whole lives might find it difficult to get accustomed to renting — especially if it means moving to a new neighbourhood. A common problem is a landlord who's not willing to allow pets. Many retirees with pets incline toward own their own home simply because it's difficult to find a suitable apartment for them and their pets.

Retirement is supposed to be enjoyable, relaxing, and carefree — but many retirees want to fill their retirement years with productive activities and take mortgages into retirement while still being able to sleep at night. Kevin McLeod, president of MoneyAdvisor.ca Financial Ltd., suggested,

Not all debt could be considered a burden. Good debt is things like mortgages and other long term investments. At today’s low interest rates, seniors may be taking advantage of the low rates to increase their net worth. At these low interest rates, it might make more sense for someone to keep their money in their investment accounts instead of taking big lump sumps to pay off their debt.

Whether it’s better to rent or buy in retirement depends mainly on your lifestyle and your retirement expectations. Nevertheless, it's important to examine your financial situation and consider all the costs and risks before you decide where you’ll spend the next chapter of your life.

VS00JA

Stanley Park Gardens: Come Smell the Flowers of the Gorgeous Gardens

Stanley Park Gardens Flowers Stanley Park Gardens

We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by talented photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, explore Vancouver! This time, let's have a look at Vancouver through the lens of Kevin Eng!

Flower with a Bee

Beautiful and Romantic Stanley Park Gardens: In Full Bloom

The green jewel of Vancouver, Stanley Park, is a 1,001-acre public park and rainforest that borders downtown and is almost entirely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. It's the second largest urban forest in Canada, created in 1888. Well known for its magnificent cedars and Douglas firs, much of the park is made up of forest that was already here in the late 19th century. Some of the trees stand as tall as 76 metres and are up to hundreds of years old. But there's not just the wild forest to explore at Stanley Park. The gorgeously landscaped gardens within offer an abundance of blooming flowers that make a beautiful place for walks.

For great views of the city, climb the highest point in the park, Prospect Point. As this year marks the 125th anniversary of Stanley Park, there's a flower bed here to remind visitors of the occasion with a large, colourful "125."

Stanley Park is one of the loveliest rose gardens you'll ever visit. More than 3,500 rose plants and large floral displays including beds of perennials, annuals, and bulbs will take your breath away with their beauty all year round. Enjoy Stanley Park's Rose Garden (which the Kiwanis Club opened in 1920) in its peak bloom from June to October or during late March. The stylish arbor supporting a combination of climbing roses and clematis is a frequent location for wedding photography, as beautiful and romantic as it is. The colourful floral beds slope down all the way to the Stanley Park Pavillion. Stanley Park's Miniature Railway is a small steam locomotive that pulls passenger cars on tour into the woods. Stanley Park regularly hosts a test garden for All-America Rose Selections.

The Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden features a collection of more than 4,500 rhododendron and azalea plants. This collection is quite extraordinary, as the donation of the plants in the 1960s came from the owners of Royston nursery, Ted and Mary, who were keen rhododendron collectors that experimented with new hybrids of the flowers. Another themed garden is the Shakespeare Garden, with the trees mentioned in the bard's plays and poems. These trees all have plaques with relevant Shakespeare quotes. Can you think of a better place to take a book and read for a while?

You can also find the very first public garden in Vancouver here. The Stanley Park Rock Garden is the work of the master gardener John Montgomery, who established the garden in 1911. The boulders he used in the landscaping come from the building site of the park pavillion. The former glory of the garden in its early years was brought back only in 2006, when it was restored to its original beauty. To honour its significance in the city's history, the garden was added to the Vancouver Heritage Register as an important landscape resource.

Stanley Park Pavillion is nestled between the Stanley Park Rose Gardens. This historical home with the rustic charm of a mountain chalet sitting in the charming gardens of Stanley Park has hosted some large events for such honourable and famous quests as Queen Elizabeth II and Arnold Schwarzenegger. You'll be pleased to learn that you can book the pavillion for private functions and weddings.

Have you ever visited the gardens? Share your experience with us. Or tell us your favourite urban garden escape in Vancouver.

Stanley Park Gardens Flower Bed Stanley Park Gardens's flower bed celebrates the 125th anniversary of the park
Stanley Park Gardens Miniature Railway Take the miniature railway around the gardens
Stanley Park Gardens RosesThe Stanley Park Rose Garden
Theatre Under The Stars Stanley Park Gardens The Theatre Under The Stars
Green Grass Macro Shot
Stanley Park Gardens Well
Stanley Park Pavillion Restaurant Stanley Park Pavillion with the rustic charm of a mountain chalet
Stanley Park Gardens Visitors
Stanley Park Gardens
Vancouver Sightseeing Bus The bus stops right in front of the gardens
Klahowya Village Buffalo Head Klahowya Village and its Gift Shops

All visual content is licensed by Creative Commons - you may use individual photos but you need to link them back to this page.

Meet the Photographer

Kevin Eng

Kevin Eng

Kevin's passion for photography has encouraged others to see the splendor and beauty of nature right at their doorstep, as he captures the sights of the day, and colors and mystery of world while it sleeps. Many of the subjects of his work are based locally in his hometown in Vancouver, B.C, where he first discovered his fascination with night photography. Kevin is a currently working as a music teacher, music director for his church, and landscape photographer.

KE00JA

Vancouver Housing Market Remains Strong in September

Vancouver House by Jake Donahue
Vancouver House by Jake Donahue

Home buyer and seller activity in the Greater Vancouver housing market continues to far outpace 2012, yet it's in line with the region’s 10-year averages. According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), residential property sales in Greater Vancouver reached 2,483 on the Multiple Listings Service in September 2013. This represents a 63.8 per cent increase compared to the 1,516 sales recorded in September 2012, and a 1.2 per cent decline compared to the 2,514 sales seen in August 2013.

While sales are up considerably from last year, it’s important to note that September 2012 sales were among the lowest we’ve seen in nearly three decades. Home sale and listing activity this September were in line with the 10-year average for the month.

Sandra Wyant, REBGV president, said.

In September, new listings for detached, attached, and apartment properties totalled 5,030. This represents a 5.5 per cent decline from the 5,321 new listings reported in September 2012, and a 13.8 per cent increase from the 4,186 new listings seen in August this year. The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver is 16,115, which is a 12.2 per cent decrease compared to September 2012 and a 0.5 per cent increase compared to August 2013.

The sales-to-active-listings ratio rose 15.4 percentage points between August and September in Greater Vancouver. This ratio remains consistent with balanced market conditions.

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver is currently $601,900. This represents a 0.7 per cent decline compared to September 2012 and an increase of 2.3 per cent compared to January 2013.

It’s important to remember that stronger sales activity does not necessarily equate to rising home prices. In fact, home prices have not fluctuated much in our market this year,

Wyant said.

Detached property sales (with 1,023 units) experienced a 72.2 per cent increase compared to September 2012 (with 594 units), and a 6.9 per cent increase compared to September 2011 (with 957 units). The benchmark price decreased by 1.4 per cent compared to last year’s benchmark price of $922,600.

Apartment property sales (totalling 1,018 units) experienced an increase of 50.6 per cent compared to September 2012 (with 676 units) and an increase of 10.4 per cent compared to September 2011 (with 922 units). The benchmark price for an apartment property in Greater Vancouver declined 0.5 per cent from September 2012 to $366,600.

Attached property sales (totalling 442 units) increased 79.7 per cent compared to September 2012 (with 246 units), and increased 20.4 per cent compared to September 2011 (with 367 units). The benchmark price of an attached unit is currently $458,300, which is unchanged from September 2012.

Vancouver by Matthew Grapengieser
Vancouver by Matthew Grapengieser

Richmond, Vancouver East, and Vancouver West Sales Statistics Compared

In the second part of this month’s analysis, we’ll focus on the situation in the Vancouver East, Vancouver West, and Richmond real estate markets.

Vancouver East sales activity for detached properties in September increased by 3.5 per cent (from 142 to 147 units).The situation for attached properties remains the same (42 units) and sales decreased by 4.3 per cent in the apartments sector (from 94 to 90 units) compared to last month’s data.

Vancouver West sales activity for detached properties in September rose by 15.8 per cent (from 133 to 154 units) compared to last month. The sales for attached properties experienced a 17 per cent increase (from 47 to 55 units), and apartments experienced a 2.7 per cent increase compared to August 2013 (from 335 to 344 units).

Richmond experienced a 6.6 per cent decline in the detached properties market (from 136 to 127 units) compared to last month's data. The sales for attached properties experienced a 26.6 per cent drop (from 94 to 69 units), and there was a 33.9 per cent increase in the apartments sector (from 109 to 122 units) compared to the month before.

Year-over-year, Vancouver’s overall sales activity decreased 3.2 per cent in detached properties and 0.5 per cent in attached properties, and there was zero change in apartment properties.

New Listings in Vancouver East, Vancouver West, and Richmond

Vancouver East recorded an 11 per cent increase (from 209 to 232 units) for detached properties, and an overwhelming 130.2 per cent increase in attached properties (from 43 to 99 units), followed by a 66.7 per cent increase in apartments compared to the end of last month’s results (from 141 to 235 units).

Vancouver West experienced a 46.3 per cent increase in the listings activity of detached houses (from 229 to 225 units) compared to last month’s decimated listings. For apartment properties, there was an increase of 27 per cent (from 556 to 706 units), and listed attached properties rose by 27 per cent (from 73 to 120 units).

The Richmond real estate market experienced a 15.4 per cent increase (from 201 to 232 units) in the apartments sector compared to last month’s results. Listings of detached properties rose by 20.7 per cent (from 226 to 265 units), and there was a 4.9 per cent increase (from 142 to 149 units) in attached properties compared to August 2013.

Overall, the Vancouver listings of detached properties rose by 17.8 per cent, and there was a 18.9 per cent increase in attached properties and a 23.6 per cent increase in apartments.

The Greater Vancouver and Richmond Real Estate Market Report June 2013 Infographic by Jay Banks September

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Mortgage Before Marriage in Canada – What Are Your Options?

Lovers by Stephen Cleary
Lovers by Stephen Cleary

An increasing number of young Canadian couples decide to invest in real estate before they get married. According to a 2011 survey conducted by TD Canada Trust, young buyers — driven by low mortgage rates and high rents — want to build equity, and they usually prefer condominiums. Chief executive of the Greater Vancouver Home Builder’s Association, Peter Simpson, remarked,

They look at rental rates in an era of low vacancy and they figure they can put their money to work for them. They want to jump on the equity train right away and build equity.

In many cases, this means purchasing residential property with a partner before getting married. According to Canadian census data on families, households, and marital status released in 2011, the number of common-law couples in Canada rose by 13.9 per cent between 2006 and 2011. This figure reflects in the increasing number of young couples who purchase their home before marriage.

But it's important to realize that the property rights of couples in a common-law relationship differ from those of legally married couples. Jennifer Krob, a Toronto family lawyer with Heyday Green PC, pointed out,

Many people don’t realize that unmarried spouses don’t automatically have the same property rights — for them, it can be an uphill battle to get back what they’ve contributed.

Westcoast Contemporary Houses by pnwra
Westcoast Contemporary Houses by pnwra

Common-Law Couples in British Columbia

Under BC’s Family Law Act, which came into effect this March, common-law couples that have lived together for two years have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. The provisions of the new, unique act stipulate the same legal rights to common-law couples who’ve lived together for over two years that married couples have? for purposes of property division in case they split up. These rights include a 50-50 split of shared debts and assets, excluding pre-relationship property, inheritances, and gifts.

Georgialle Lang, a Vancouver family lawyer and arbitrator, noted that it will be interesting to see if young couples who have been together for a few years will start making claims. However, she added,

It cuts both ways; it’s good for common-law spouses to receive the status of a married partner, but if they’ve married wealthier people, they lose on the other end because the assets their partner brought into the relationship don’t count.

Family lawyers across BC advise common-law couples to sign a legally binding co-habitation agreement. It's a legal document outlining how you and your partner want to deal with potential issues in case of a future breakup. It provides an opportunity to discuss property issues and it also encourages young people to talk about their future life plans. Toronto-based realtor Lauren Haw suggested,

You really need to look at the long-term picture when going through this process, because as soon as you buy a place, you’re locked into a mortgage for a certain period of time. So what happens if you break up and now have to carry the mortgage on your own?

Lovers by Alexandre Dulaunoy
Lovers by Alexandre Dulaunoy

There are two typical solutions of owning a home with a partner before getting married. You can either purchase a house together, or one of you can buy the home while the other lives there. In case of purchasing a home together, you can do so on the title as joint tenants or as tenants-in-common."Joint tenants" means that two (or more) people acquire an equal, undivided interest in a property. Both people thus own the entire home and have an equal claim to the house. When one person dies, that person’s share automatically goes to the survivor or survivors. On the other hand, a "tenants-in-common ownership" signifies that two (or more) people acquire interest in a single property, deciding whether they want to own the home equally, or if one will have a greater share. Each of them may sell or bequeath their interest, and if one partner passes away, it's their will that decides who will receive their share of the ownership.

Even though the new BC Family Act grants a higher level of property protection for people living together in unmarried relationships, experts recommend consulting a lawyer before deciding to purchase a home before marriage. A frank discussion leading to an agreement with your partner could help you prevent the inconvenience of future property disputes. Especially in case of such serious decisions as buying a new home with your partner, you should act rationally and reach an agreement in case things don’t go as planned.

Photos From Our Vacation in France: Paris homes | Butte aux Cailles

In this special photo essay, we are not featuring photos from and around Vancouver as usually, but we wanted to share some of the photos we brought back from our lovely holiday in France with you. These snapshots were taken during the many relaxing walks down the narrow streets full of old quaint cottage-style homes within the Butte aux Calles neighborhood of Place d'Italie in Paris' south-east 13th arrondisement. Curiously, some of these homes in Paris strongly reminded me of the architecture back home in Vancouver. Have a look yourself!

Cottage Style Paris Homes
Place d'Italie

This part of the city looks very much like homes found in Vancouver's Kensington-Cedar Cottage neighborhood. Not only in their appearance but that Place d'Italie is also a very ethnically diverse area.

Strolling Down Streets of Paris
Do you see the resemblance to Vancouver Eastside?

Strolling down this Paris street I couldn't help thinking of the many attractive places to visit in Vancouver Eastside along and around Victoria Street in the Commercial Drive area. Narrow and quaint streets that are so close to the heart of both city's Downtown.

Quiet Side Street in Paris
One of the Quiet Side Streets in Paris
Paris Homes on Villa Daviel
The Charming Properties on Villa Daviel

The charming properties on Villa Daviel in Paris' 13th arrondisement are redolent of the quaint homes on the Fairview Slopes neighborhood of Vancouver Westside.

Eiffel Tower at Night
The Eiffel Tower at Night

I took the photo of the Eiffel Tower from the elevated vantage point of the Jardins du Trocadero providing the best view of this iconic structure. Trying to think what would be an equally recognizable structure in Vancouver, I came up with the illuminated Lions Gate Bridge spanning the First Narrows between the world famous Stanley Park and the North Shore communities of West Vancouver and North Vancouver. You get great views of this iconic structure from Downtown Vancouver or Grouse Mountain. I invite you to do so sometime.

Lions Gate Bridge by Kris Krug
Lions Gate Bridge by Kris Krug

Our lovely Paris holiday featured a great second visit to the Musee D'Orsay. The former train station, Gare D'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts structure with its characteristically large arched windows that houses the biggest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world.

Musee DOrsay in Paris
Musee D'Orsay in Paris

The first Vancouver connection turns out to be the pleasant surprise of meeting our dear friends Bill and Nikki while walking the rooms containing the likes of Renoir and Monet. The other Vancouver connection is the restored Beaux-Arts architecture of the old CPR railway station which is now Waterfront Station, the nexus of the Skytrain, Canada Line and Seabus. Here are the photos of these famous Vancouver landmarks for comparing with the beautiful Beaux-Arts architecture of Gare D'Orsay.

Waterfront Station Vancouver by Lucian Savluc
Waterfront Station Vancouver by Lucian Savluc
Beaux Arts Architecture of Vancouver
Sun Tower by Darren Kirby and Dominion Building by Wikimedia Commons

South Cambie: The Smallest of Vancouver’s Neighbourhoods

587 West King Edward Vancouver Hobbit House 587 West King Edward Vancouver and The Hobbit House

We are introducing a brand new series of Photo Essays! Have a look at amazing Photo Sets all shot by talented photographers. Explore the vibe of the city, its hidden treasures, explore Vancouver! After we already covered Vancouver's Strathcona, Kitsilano and Shaughnessy neighbourhoods, let's have a look at the next one, South Cambie, through the lens of Davis Chan!

South Cambie family home South Cambie is one of the smallest neighbourhoods in Vancouver.

South Cambie: The Smallest of Vancouver's Neighbourhoods

You might have heard about the famous "Hobbit House" in Vancouver. The fairytale little home looks like it's definitely not from this era. Well, it really does exist, and you can find it in one of Vancouver's smallest neighbourhoods, South Cambie. The small strip of land that makes up South Cambie (only 217 hectares) is wedged between two completely different areas of the city. You have the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park with the best views of the city on one side and the upscale and high-priced Shaughnessy on the other. The neighbourhood is bounded by Oak and Cambie streets, and West 16th and 41st avenues.

There are some facts from the neighbourhood's history that you might find pretty interesting. Cambie Street, which gives the neighbourhood its name, was itself named after Canadian Pacific Railway engineer Henry Cambie, who was responsible for building a large portion of the transcontinental railway across BC in the 1880s. Today's Douglas Park was once an elk pasture, and this land was one of the first areas developed after a gold miner, William Mackie, bought the land. Around 1910, there was a Chinese vegetable garden in this area. Some of the original heritage homes from the beginning of the 20th century are in the northern part of South Cambie. The 1912 Tudor-style home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police definitely deserves a mention.

What's the main draw of this area? South Cambie is known for some of the top hospitals in BC: Shaughnessy Hospital, BC Children's Hospital, and BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre. For such a small area, you'll also find quite a lot of educational institutions here, including Eric Hamber Secondary School, Emily Carr Elementary School, Edith Cavell Elementary School, and the francophone Rose-des-Vents and École secondaire Jules-Verne schools. Particularly along Oak Street, you can see the diversity of Vancouver's Jewish community, with five synagogues, a Jewish elementary school, a high school, and a community centre.

South Cambie is definitely not in the very heart of Vancouver — yet there are some pretty important places here. For example, take Vancouver's City Hall. Located at Cambie Street and West 12th Avenue, some people might wonder why it's so far away from downtown. But this location made perfect sense back in 1929, when the three separate municipalities of Point Grey, Vancouver, and South Vancouver merged and chose this spot. Since then, the area has seen a lot of change and development — mainly because of the newly built Canada Line that runs through the neighbourhood and caused many local businesses to move or close down. After a lot or construction, the area is coming back to life again, with its many eateries, one-of-a-kind stores, and bars. Condos are also entering this neighbourhood. The newest is the 45-storey condo tower at Oakridge Mall. So it's hard to tell if the area will lose its quiet charm due to accelerated development and higher population density now that the Canada Line connects it to the rest of the city so conveniently.

Semi Detached Homes in Vancouver
Detail of Front Yard of A South Cambie home Finely trimmed ront Yard of A South Cambie home
South Cambie Home Entrances
Trimmed Front Yard in South Cambie
Vancouver House With Red Roof There is an abundance of greenery in the area.
Street in Vancouvers South Cambie South Cambie is small but very charming.
Vancouver home in South Cambie neighbourhood
Edith Cavell School in Vancouver Edith Cavell School in Vancouver
Fairmount Training Facility in Vancouver Fairmount Training Facility in Vancouver

All visual content is licensed by Creative Commons - you may use individual photos but you need to link them back to this page.

Meet the Photographer

Davis Chan

Davis Chan

I am a Vancouver based photographer. Although I shoot commercially, my real passion lies in landscapes, street and social documentary. Among all the genres in landscape photography, capturing aging urban areas and industrial sites interest me the most.

What We’ve Learned About The NSA From Snowden Leaks

Some consider him a hero; others, a traitor. The case of former CIA and National Security Administration (NSA) employee Edward Snowden has attracted lots of attention around the world and divided people into two groups. According to a survey conducted by Abacus Data, 60 per cent of polled Canadians consider Edward Snowden a whistleblower and side with him, while 15 per cent recognize him as a traitor for releasing data when he worked with the National Security Agency.

National Security Agency Operations Center Floor National Security Agency Operations Center Floor by Wikimedia Commons

The case of Edward Snowden has started numerous discussions on the government monitoring activity of citizens and on terrorism. According to the Abacus Data survey,

A majority of Canadians believe that it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy, than for the government to not intrude on personal privacy.


Moreover, Canada has officially joined the countries that criticize Russia for granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird remarked that Canada would have acted differently and would not have offered Snowden political sanctuary. Canadian security programs are close to the United States' in terms of national defence. As the Globe and Mail informed in June, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay said yes to a program similar to the NSA surveillance called Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) in 2011, a program whose purpose is to track the metadata of electronic communication.

Edward Snowden by Wikimedia Commons Edward Snowden by Wikimedia Commons

CSEC has two main aims: to monitor electronic communication emanating from abroad and to protect domestic electronic information and communication. The agency is collecting metadata, information about the digital envelope that carries specific correspondences. This could include phone numbers, the length and time of the calls, email addresses, and Internet routing information. However, it does not include the substance of the communications itself.

As we can see, the Snowden case has started a wave of questions and debates about governments' secret defence initiatives. The amount of information that Snowden revealed is enormous, and so is the impact of his case. Andy Greenberg, a technology, privacy, and information security reporter, explained in an article for Forbes what the Snowden leaks taught us about the NSA.