The past year has brought a few challenges my way but at the end of the day I am just grateful for everything.
It is easy to get caught up on our day to day, and loose sight on what is truly important. What’s important for me is my family. We have been blessed with the addition of our little girl that has brought so much joy and happiness in our lives. Every day that I get to spend time with her, I realize how lucky I am.
I am thankful for my wife who has constantly been a source of love and support.
I am thankful for my parents who left everything behind so we could have a better and safer life filled with all the opportunity and choices that we freely enjoy now in Canada.
I am thankful for my little brother who is all grown up now and with whom I have had the chance to travel the world with.
I am thankful for all my friends who have truly guided and shaped my journey.
I am thankful for all my clients and business partners who put their trust in me.
I am truly thankful for being in this country and being able to have access to such a great medical system.
Prior to having a family of my own, I never fully appreciated the simple “home hacks” like recessed outlets and those custom features that make a house an “easy to live in” home. But now with a wife who is adamant about organization and a baby, the more options to keep the home running efficiently and effectively is top priority. I’ll be sure to included some of these “33 Relatively Simple Things That Will Make Your Home Extremely Awesome” by Peggy Wang from Buzzfeed when I get a chance, as well as suggest them to clients who are on their way to customizing their own place.
This is one of those things that seem so simple but is everything brilliant: Recessed outlets (Apartment Therapy has five places that recessed outlets should go). Goodbye to giant, dust collecting gaps between the wall and furniture. With small appliances being able to sit flush to wall, say hello to more kitchen counter space.
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If Vancouver urbanites are experiencing space withdrawl in their condos, take a look at some of the listings above. These are postings from a local real estate office that I had walked by during a casual stroll around Hong Kong’s Central district. Imagine living in a 388 square foot walk-up (Yup, no elevator) flat… and all yours for HK$16,000 a month (That’s approx CA$2,300.00). Or better yet, the “Caine Rd walk-up” with a net square footage of 263 for HK$12,000 (or approx. CA$1,600) a month. Any takers? You will be surprised that there are plenty of people who will vie for these places. Living in a major cosmopolitan city has its price, and for Hong Kong, a city that draws people from all over the world for its commerce, nightlife, food and shopping, living in a shoe box sized place is the norm.
My family and I have been spending the past few weeks in Hong Kong. It’s our annual trek to this side of the world to manage some business and to also catch up with family and old friends from my wife’s and my Chinese language student days.
Over the next few posts I will have a miniseries on what the Vancouver real estate market can learn from a Hong Kong.
Part 1: Time is Money and Money is Time
Hong Kong real estate never fails to impress me. More than it being a financial center that houses some of the priciest real estate in the world, what is notable is the local people’s ability to treat real estate simply as a commodity. The average Hong Kong person understands that while they may have loved the home that they have put up for sale, being emotionally attached to the property and over evaluating it for sentimental reasons will not gain them anything in the bank.
Having assets stuck in a listing that is growing stale because the sellers insist that they “can’t just give it away” will ultimately result in long term opportunity costs/loss. As time is money and money is time, Hong Kongers know that it is better to let their properties sell quickly. With a timely sale, the cash is immediately free to put into the next pending investment- be that in stocks, other real estate, or even business venture, etc. If there is any “strategy” in being a winner in the real estate market, it is being able to detach yourself emotionally from your property and viewing real estate as simply a vehicle to make your money work for you.
It’s interesting to see how often clients are willing to commit themselves to a huge mortgage and front up their entire lifesavings for that down payment, but squirm at the thought of spending a few hundred dollars for a final home inspection. While the purse strings have understandably tightened, having a home inspection is crucial to making that last check to ensure that your purchase is a smart one. Should there be any hidden damages or expensive repairs, this is where you may ultimately save yourself some big bucks.
So whether you find your own or use one that your realtor may refer you to, what should you look for in a good home inspector?
1) Experience- While every average Joe who watches enough HGTV can point out poor tile jobs, unhinged doors, and whatever the unsightly, you need a certified inspector who has experience under his/her belt to see beyond what is cosmetic and spot hidden troubles. Don’t be afraid to ask your potential home inspector questions: How many years has he/she been doing this? What did he/she do before becoming a home inspector (Perhaps he/she was a builder and has good knowledge of construction)?
2) Thoroughness- Do expect a detailed written report at the end of the inspection, and for the inspector to come equipped to do the job properly. He/she should have basic items like ladder(s) to get to your roof and up into ceilings, a moisture meter to test for potential moisture behind walls, an electrical reader, etc. After the inspection, should you have any questions, he/she should also be open to answering them and take the time to give you a clear picture of what shape the property is in.
I personally like my clients to arrive to the property near the end of the inspection. This would have given the inspector sufficient time to do his/her due diligence without interruptions, and the client can then have the opportunity to voice any concerns, or go through the report with the inspector in person on the spot.
3) Integrity- A good home inspector should be forthcoming with any repairs or potential hazards, regardless of how disappointing bad news may be. He/she shouldn’t be swayed by the seller or the buying and selling realtor(s) to put the sale through.
A home inspection will be able to reveal potential hazards that may not be apparent at first glance. These can include, but are not limited to, mould/high moisture, lack of insulation and vents, signs of a former grow-op that was not reported, improper electrical lines/water mains/exhausts, or cracks in foundation. If there are easily repairable items, a good realtor should be able to help you go back to the seller to renegotiate repairs or some monetary compensation. Similarly, if there are severe issues with the house or surrounding property, it is better to have the chance of walking away rather than to be committed to a lifetime of nightmarish and expensive repairs. While it may not always be easy to part with the extra dollars for a home inspection after committing to the purchase of a property, in the end, the peace of mind and ability to proactively make decisions on repairs or change in negotiations is worth it. Don’t nickel and dime when it comes doing a final check on one of the biggest transactions that you will make in your lifetime.
Ever had the neighbour from hell? Fortunately I have yet to experience this but even so, I have come across the occasional issues with noise: Heavy footsteps from upstairs, vacuuming at inopportune times (such as when the baby is just put to sleep), and the mysterious “marbles rolling across a wooden floor” sound. I can only imagine worse. Making the headlines over the past week is “B.C. case that could see condo owner evicted could become more common: experts”. With the higher density living in condos comes the inevitable issues of noise and disturbances. For some people, it is serious enough to warrant condo communities to evict members for bad behaviour. Now there is a legal channel to doing so in BC. I can already hear the relieved sighs of every condo owner out there who has ever experienced nightmarish neighbours.
Over the past year I have had the opportunity to work with a few of my close friends on purchasing properties in the Okanagan. One of them recently moved into his new house and invited me and my family to stay the weekend for a housewarming get together. It’s times like these when trading in urban living for a place with such an awesome view is so tempting. This is taken from the top floor patio. Imagine waking up to this every morning!
Check this out for a quick laugh: “Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs: Inexplicably bad property photographs. It’s that simple”. Right now I think it’s a tie between the bedroom with the “statues” art piece, and the one where you can see the photographer’s reflection in the mirror and he’s missing his pants.
On the flip side, what should listing photos look like, and what can you expect from me to do for you when listing your property? Read about it here.
With my love of all things tech, my home is a mess of wires crisscrossing behind and underneath furniture. It drives my wife crazy as she claims that it all makes for a giant dust collector. I recently came across these mouldings that hide it all and think I just may have to consider them for my own place and recommend them to clients that are looking for ways to clean up and spruce up their home for selling.
These ones easily clip on and off even after installation. Perfect for an office and media center. (Image Credit 1)