First time home buyers in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland have unique challenges and risks to manage. Robert Almeida has the unique experience to guide his clients through the market all the way to a new home. The Founder and Broker of Homes for BC, a REMAX brokerage, knows houses from every perspective.
Robert’s father was a contractor who built houses on the side. Through working with his father from an early age, Robert learned not only the value of fine craftsmanship, but he learned how to manage projects and developed a strong work ethic. More importantly, he learned about how well-built houses become homes. He used that knowledge to build his own business as a builder and renovations contractor. Over 30 years he developed a network of reliable, hard-working tradespeople to share his work ethic and treat their clients with respect.
“When you work in the housing industry, you develop your own skills, and the ability to appreciate other peoples’ skills over time. It comes to the point that your knowledge is the most valuable thing you have to share with the market,” Robert says. “So the move into consulting on housing and real estate sales was a natural step for me.”
Part of the knowledge Robert shares focuses on the differences between how property investors think, versus how home buyers think. The same information has a different meaning and value to each group.
For example, with the new taxes on foreign buyers coming in, Robert expects there might be a 10% to 15 % drop in house prices, which will lead to a savings of roughly $100, 000 to $150,000. That reduction in the mortgages new buyers have to carry would mean a reduction of about $450 in each monthly mortgage payment. Does that mean first time homebuyers should wait for the correction that could come in the next year, or two years, to buy?
“While housing prices might rise and fall over time, the price of rent only goes up,” Robert reminds his clients. “When you are paying $2500 plus utilities to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in Vancouver, you are losing money to pay someone else’s mortgage instead of your own. Getting into the housing market means that you are investing in your own family’s security over the next 20 to 25 years. Over that time, you ride out small corrections, crazy rises and healthier economic growth.”
Robert has four tips to help first time home-owners decide when and how to make their move.
1. Family: stay near your support system.
Your first consideration when buying a home should be your family, but not necessarily just the needs of your nuclear family of two parents and their children.
“I encourage people to think of three generations at a time, if possible,” Robert says.
Robert and his wife Susan, a teacher, live near both sets of their own parents.
“Both my own mother and my mother-in-law have always been there to help to take care of our daughters on a daily basis. They both live near enough to see their grandchildren grow up,” Robert says. “And when my daughters grow up and have families of their own, I want to be able to see them easily.”
Granny flats, basements rental suites, duplexes where generations can both co-mingle and close their own doors when needed are just some of the solutions families are considering to maintain the valuable support networks that sustain both the young and the old in turn.
We all have areas of the city we feel the greatest affinity to, but you have to have some flexibility about location to get your foot in the door of property ownership.
“Some people are paying $4000 a month to rent a condo downtown, and they can’t imagine being anywhere but downtown,” Robert says. “When they look at their long-term financial and family goals though, they discover they can be achieved by moving farther away while staying put would just keep them in a holding pattern.”
Recognizing that finances demand you find a new neighbourhood where you fit in and feel good is part of the maturation process. Being able to buy a piece of that new neighborhood to create a home is a huge bonus.
3. Fixer Upper.
A brand new house is not always affordable, or desirable. Especially those who are looking for character homes that reflect the history and diversity of their areas, fixer uppers are a great entry point for first time buyers who are willing to build sweat equity.
Fixer uppers are also one of Robert’s specialties. As a former contractor and builder, he can tell which houses need major renovations, but are structurally sound. He also gives his clients access to his networks.
“Over the years I’ve gotten to know a good group of contractors and tradesmen who know what they are doing. More importantly, they do what they say they are going to do within an efficient time frame,” Robert says.
While many buyers fear their fixer uppers will become bottomless money pits, Robert uses his expertise to guide his clients toward renovation options that create real homes that suit the needs of their owners.
Finding a new home in a new neighborhood is about lifestyle choices. Couples with children are often interested in good schools, soccer leagues and other community resources. Restaurants, farmers’ markets and access to outdoor activities appeal to others.
“If you buy the maximum amount of house you can afford, it’s going to be hard to take a vacation every year and everyone needs to rest,” Robert says. “If you under buy, and then you have another child or want to get a dog, you’ll have to look at moving again.”
Don’t plan your lifestyle according to the home you want to buy. Plan to buy your home according to the lifestyle you want to live.
“We don’t live just to pay off our mortgages,” Robert says. “We live for the people we love and the experiences that bring us joy. Real estate supports those real life needs.”
Kate Baggott's technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review at MIT, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun, and on the Business to Business News Network
Kate is the author of two short story collections.
HOMES FOR B.C. RE/MAX ROBERT ALMEIDA, BROKER #1 5050 Kingsway, Burnaby,
BC, V5H 4C2