Lower Mainland Crazy Real Estate Market

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Tom Everitt

The lineup stretches around the block in anticipation of the latest installment from the notorious producer. People have been waiting weeks for the upcoming release date and overnight campers are not uncommon, a select few having been there for days.

The staff looks nervous as the crowd grows, the anticipation increases and patience wears thin amongst the masses. Finally, the line starts moving before utter chaos breaks out and it is readily apparent to all that this year’s summer blockbuster has arrived.

Suddenly, the unthinkable happens. It is sold out before you get to the front and your better half shrieks at you for not leaving the house earlier. The kids are screaming that you blew it and you go home empty handed, having learned a little too late that the only thing remaining was a one bedroom and closet with a ‘stunning’ view of the back alley for $750 a square foot and no parking or storage, of course.

Later, in a desperate attempt to keep your family together, you purchase an old charmer from a family who left in the middle of the night mumbling something about an ancient burial ground. Unfortunately, even though the home comes with great features like red liquid walls and a passageway to hell in the basement, the only voices that agree with your purchase are coming from the attic. Your family gives you a very enthusiastic two thumbs down and now the voices are telling you to leave. You’ve bombed.

This scene has been playing out in Vancouver this year, though obviously not in the theatres and, in case you haven’t guessed, we’re definitely not talking about the latest action adventure starring Tom Cruise and his alien cohorts. Also, the people waiting in line aren’t jostling about vying for a better seat to see if the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is real or not and they certainly aren’t dressed as Chewbacca in anticipation of the latest Star Wars sequel.

No, folks, this blockbuster that I speak of is the process of home buying in the new millennium and the only thing resembling an alien is perhaps the realtor (just kidding, I am one … a realtor that is). The producers I’m talking about are, of course, your local developers and homesellers and the line up is as real as $13 movie prices and $8 bags of popcorn.

Rather than a film, however, this line up is usually for condominiums, townhomes and, of course, the ever elusive “Character Home,” that rare beast that gets more people walking on its old red carpet than the Oscars. The tickets to this show, however, are almost as expensive as Johnny Depp’s fee for Charley and the Chocolate Factory, and that doesn’t even include upgrades like stainless appliances or Brazilian hardwood.

And as for the character homes they, like character actors, have a box office appeal that appears limitless and can bring in more people and more money than The Titanic. The only bonus? At least the refreshments at some open houses are free.

So, since the chaos lately is more realistic than Steven Speilberg’s current alien invasion or Wonka’s Oompa Loompas, I thought I’d jot down a few helpful tips on dealing with your sanity in this war of the real estate world.

Don’t be afraid of the Mercedes-driving, Rolex-wearing, Armani-suited men in front of each development or open house. Those are just the plumbers and carpenters.

Thinking real estate might be a poor investment? You might be right. Keep your money in Enron, Worldcom and other ‘sure bet’ stock tips from your friends.

Get new listings automatically e-mailed to you instantly from your realtor. That way, you’ll know instantly that they are already sold.

Write an offer and photocopy it five or 10 times. Since you’ll probably lose out in a half dozen multiple offer situations, you’re gonna’ need them (I did).

Never ask how much the previous owner paid for the property when they purchased it. It will only make you cry.

Attend open houses so that you can find the home of your dreams (you’ll also find the person that just bought it 10 minutes before you got there).

Don’t blame realtors. A lot of them didn’t purchase five years ago either.

Forget real estate and go back to RRSP’s. One of our $7,000 RRSPs has grown 82 whole dollars over the last four years.

Scared of the thought that a real estate ‘bubble’ exists? Lock in for 10 years at six per cent. The only “bubble”still around after that long will be Michael Bubble (oops, I guess that’s pronounced “Buble”).

Never, ever lose your sense of humour, especially in stressful times like the purchase of real estate. You’ll find your home eventually. It might be difficult, but you’ll find it.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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