7 Tips to Find a Real Estate Agent in Vancouver

7 Tips to Find a Real Estate Agent in Vancouver

Whilst all Realtor’s in Vancouver are licensed to operate, finding the right agent for your property purchase or sale isn’t a simple task. Whilst many people will interview a number of agents, most don’t know which questions to ask, or what to actually look for to make sure the entire experience is seamless and enjoyable. Using these these 7 tips you’ll be able to find a real estate agent in Vancouver in no time.

1. Your Agent Should Know and Love Vancouver!

We’re starting this list with one of the more obvious, but also most important, tips to find a great Real Estate agent- your agent should know and love Vancouver!

They should be very aware of the market itself, and be able to tell you:

  • The benefits and drawbacks of each neighbourhood

  • The amenities available, e.g. schools, shops, gyms

  • The current state of the market in those areas, including which types of property are more popular, where new developments are taking place, average listing/sales prices etc…

Any agent can look up these figures and information, but having an agent who knows the area well can also keep you informed of market trends, as well as other potentially impactful developments such as:

  • New property developments such as condo’s or large commercial spaces

  • Zoning and by-law restrictions

Any other restrictions or caveats to be aware of in your property search, e.g. are the properties predominately free hold or lease-hold titled?

2. Your Realtor Should Have an Exceptional Track Record

Sadly, a lot of Realtor’s will tell you your property is worth more than it is in the hopes of signing you on as a client. When it comes to finding the right agent in Vancouver, however, there are a few simple things you can ask for to assess their experience and knowledge. Whether it’s requesting their sales statistics, or ensuring they have a tried and tested property plan (more below), choosing the right agent is as much about instinct as it is about ensuring they have the time and capacity you need to feel comfortable with your property transaction.

So, when searching for a property agent in Vancouver- don’t hesitate to ask for references! This could be in the form of testimonials on the agents website, right through to talking with their previous clients (if it’s available to you).

3. Communication is King

Buying or selling Real Estate can be intimidating, and there are many steps that take place throughout the transactional process. An effective agent will make you aware of these stages, as well as guide you through them. Whether it’s:

  • Mortgage applications and brokerage

  • Building inspections

  • Contracts and conditions of sale, or

  • Property viewings

you want an agent that communicates this information to you, and keeps you involved every step of the way.

Your agent is also responsible for liaising between industry professionals (brokers, lawyers, building inspectors etc…) so it’s important to ask, and understand, how and how often you should expect to hear from your agent. Do they answer the phone when you call? Are they quick to reply to emails? Can you contact them easily and quickly if you need to?

4. Does Your Realtor Utilise Technology?

Aside from being key to communication, technology has enabled an entirely new way to market properties and access wider audiences. Online advertising has become integral to a Realtor’s success, and tech-savvy Realtor’s will use it and other tools to their advantage.

Almost all searches for a Real Estate agent in Vancouver start with the internet. This gives you a great starting point for an Agent’s reputation and attention to detail.

  • Do they have a website, and does it provide you with the information you need?

  • Are their current listings available online, and do they present well?

  • Does your prospective agent use social media, and do they market themselves/their company with it?

  • Does your prospective agent make it easy to for buyers/sellers to find their contact information, and get in touch?

  • Can you electronically sign documents to save yourself time and energy?

  • Does your agent use professional photography and/or videography?

  • Do they use any other tools, such as augmented reality walkthroughs, to fully engage with property buyers?

There are no limits to the ways and amount of technology that can be used, so it’s important to find an agent who is up to date with the tools available and uses them effectively.

5. Can Your Agent Work Around Your Schedule?

Even with all the tools available to Realtors, if they don’t have the capacity to accommodate your needs you are unlikely to receive the time and results that you expect. So first things first, it’s important to know how available your agent is and to gauge their involvement in, and knowledge of, the Vancouver property market.

Do they work full time? Are they flexible with contact hours and meetings? Do they have systems in place to ensure that you receive documents and information in a timely and correct manner?

Ultimately you need to make sure that their schedule isn’t overloaded, and that it can fit in with yours.

6. Does Your Agent Have a Property Plan?

Every property is different, but a top-performing Realt
or in Vancouver will have tried and tested marketing strategies and property plans. This should easily communicate how they plan to find or sell your property, and why their services are different or competitive compared to other agents. They should also be able to answer:

  • Which tools and technology do they use?

  • Do they have access to an internal network of listings and other property services?

  • Can they offer realistic advice when it comes to pricing, and do they have the negotiating skills to meet your expectations?

  • Does your agent offer property staging to help you sell your home?

A good agent should also be able to give you a timeline for your property purchase or sale, as well as offer advice and personal contacts when it comes to brokerage, legal, and more.

7. Make Sure You See Eye to Eye With Your Agent

Once you’ve made it through the paperwork and evidence, the best piece of advice we can offer is to go with your instinct. Most prospective buyers/sellers will acknowledge and eventually choose the Agent that they had the best connection with, and this is exceptionally important in Real Estate.

You’re going to be spending a lot of time talking and working with your Agent, and you want to know that they have your best interests at heart. Do they listen to you and understand your wishes and expectations? Are they solution-oriented, and willing to work hard to meet your expectations? Have they helped to make those expectations realistic based on the current market? Are you aware of all the potential costs and pitfalls of the industry? Do your personalities compliment each other, and do you actually get along?

All of these puzzle pieces should come together to give you a real and accurate view of the Vancouver property market, and are just as important in helping you find and choose the right Real Estate agent.

Of course, if you’re interested in buying or selling a property, we’re here to help. As industry leaders the West Haven Group is always available to answer your property questions, and are more than open to a conversation with you. For more information, or to speak with one of our Realtors, reach out and connect with us!

Property Ownership Part 2: Joint Tenants vs. Tenants in Common

Property Ownership Part 2: Joint Tenants vs. Tenants in Common

Although the use of ‘tenants’ can easily be confused with property rental, both joint tenancy and tenancy in common actually refer to a type of shared property ownership. For homeowners, choosing the form of ownership will dictate what happens to the property in the event of one owner passing, and can also affect the amount of tax to be paid at that time.

In part 2 of our property ownership property ownership series, we dive into the differences between joint tenants and tenants in common, to highlight the distinct differences between the two, how they affect your ownership of real estate, and how to decide which one is right for you.

Joint Tenants

Owning a property as ‘joint tenants’ is most commonly seen in a marriage or relationship, where both parties own equal portions of a property. This form of ownership carries with it the ‘right of survivorship,’ whereby the ownership automatically transfers to the surviving party, in the event that one of the owners passes away.

In B.C., joint tenancy also affords both owners full use and rights over the property. Upon the death of one person ownership of the property transfers to the remaining party, avoiding any probate fees and taxes that would usually be incurred. Similarly, if it happens that there are more than two parties to a joint tenancy agreement, the remaining ‘tenants’ receive the deceased’s interest in equal proportions in the event of one’s passing.

Although the right of survivorship avoids probate fees and capital gains tax, that tax will still have to be paid by the estate at the passing of the last survivor.

Tenants in Common

Unlike joint tenancy, tenancy in common does not come with the right of survivorship. It is more common whereby two or more parties purchase property as an investment, and fractional ownership is more prevalent. Key points of difference in tenancy in common agreements include:

  • Tenants can choose to own equal portions of a property, or ownership can be divided into any number of ways. For example, one owner may own 75% of the property, and another the remaining 25%. This may be useful in cases where owners make different contributions to the purchase.

  • Each tenant in common has the right, and freedom, to allocate their share of a property to another person via their will, a property transfer and even a sale. This is because ownership is fractionalised, and can therefore be ‘portioned’ and sold, without selling the entire property.

  • In the event of death of one or more parties, the transfer of ownership of their property portion will be subject to probate fees. Put simply, this fee is to obtain a grant of probate, which is used by the Land Title office to approve the transfer of ownership of the property, guarantee the validity of the deceased’s will, and conclusively manage any other stipulations/challenges against the estate.

In British Columbia, probate fees generally amount to 1.3-1.4% of the estates value. Whilst this may sound small, with the property price increases of the past decade it can actually be quite a substantial figure.

Typically if you are purchasing property with your spouse or de-facto partner, joint tenancy is the preferred choice. On the other hand, there are a number of reasons that people prefer tenancy in common ownership:

  • Purchasing property as an investment with people who are not intended to be beneficiaries.

  • Purchasing property as an investment where the size of each persons investment (and therefore their proportional ownership over the property) varies.

  • The ability to keep the investment separate and transferable in a will, which is most commonly used to provide for children from a previous marriage.

tenant-in-common agreements can be passed down to beneficiaries

Joint Tenants vs. Tenants in Common- Which One Is Right for Me?

Without having an in-depth conversation it is difficult to determine which form of joint ownership is best suited to your circumstances.

There are, however, a number of considerations which may affect your decision.

  1. Owning property as joint tenants will avoid probate fees upon one owners death, however owning property as tenants in common may give you access to a higher first home buyers grant (if/when available). This is because ownership in a tenants in common agreement gives you rights over a proportional amount of the property, and can therefore entitle each owner to the grant.
  2. If taking advantage of this grant (or simply in the event of a change of circumstances) property titles can be transferred into joint tenancy at a later date. However this may incur a property transfer tax and other fees, which should be taken into consideration.
  3. Purchasing property with another party does not automatically grant joint tenancy. Rather it must be stated in express terms that a joint tenancy agreement is in place, or it is assumed that the parties to the agreement are tenants in common. This is stipulated in the The Property Law Act in B.C.
  4. Joint tenancy agreements can be ‘severed’ under a number of circumstances, and revert back to a tenants in common agreement, without the notification, consent, or awareness of those in the agreement.
  5. Under a joint tenancy agreement, you cannot sell or mortgage the property without the express permission of all people involved. As such, a tenants in common agreement may be better suited to your needs, as you have the right to use and control your portion of the estate.

If you are unsure of the best form of ownership for your new property, we’re here to help!
Our dedicated team are on the ground in Vancouver, with the latest property insights and up-to-date knowledge surrounding the legalities of property ownership.

Follow this link to see our current listings, or simply reach out and connect with us for advice or more information.

We look forward to working with you!

Property Ownership Part 1: Freehold, Leasehold, and Strata Title

Property Ownership Part 1: Freehold, Leasehold, and Strata Title

Ownership of property in B.C., and any stipulations over that ownership, are set out in the property title. This document dictates your rights over that property, and in Vancouver, most properties fall under freehold, leasehold or strata-titled property. Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling property in Vancouver, the title of a property can greatly affect its value, resale, and your on-going expenses.

What Is a Property Title?

In B.C., the ownership of land or property is referred to as title to land. It is registered with the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia.

In Vancouver, there are a number of types of property, and a number of types of Title (ownership)- but the title document will always stipulate:

  • The type of ownership- sole ownership, tenant, tenant in common etc…

  • The legal description of the property, including number identifiers, descriptors, and the legal property address (this may vary from the postal address).

  • Any legal charges, interests, liens, easements, or caveats surrounding or to do with your property. These must also be registered against the title and disclosed in any contracts of sale or ownership.

Once the property title is issued, it is evidence of your interest (ownership) of the property. The type of title, however, dictates what that ownership actually means, and what it entitles you to do. In Vancouver, you tend to fall into one of three categories.

Freehold Property Title

The first type of property title and perhaps the easiest to explain is the freehold titled property. Occasionally referred to as ‘fee simple,’ a freehold title grants the owner full use of, and control over, the land and/or buildings they have purchased. Whilst this use is still somewhat controlled by local by-laws and some other stipulations, a freehold title generally grants you the most freedoms, and therefore can come at a higher cost to purchase. Typically these are freestanding homes.

Leasehold Property Title

Leasehold properties get a bit more complicated. They essentially grant you the right to use your property for a long period of time. However, whilst you may own the building/condo, if it’s leasehold it usually means either the government or First Nations owns the land.

Purchasing a leasehold property gives you the right to possess the property until the end of the lease, or you sell it to someone else. For example, in the West End, there are a number of 70’s and 80’s rental and leasehold buildings. Most of them have pre-paid leases that come due in 2073. So whilst purchasing now, with 50+ years remaining on the lease may suit your needs, it also limits your options if you’re looking for a long term home, or to pass down your property.

Similarly, it also makes financing more difficult, as the property can be revoked, or the prices dramatically decreased at the end of the lease.

Strata Property Title

This is the most common type of property title in Vancouver. Owning a strata-titled property gives you exclusive use of the property itself, which is generally a:

  • Condo

  • Townhome

  • Duplex

  • Detached home (also known as bare land strata)

The key point of difference is whilst you have access to, and use over, your condo, there are also common areas and shared spaces, such as gardens, elevators, garages etc… In order to maintain these spaces and any other building restorations, homeowners are required to contribute financially.

Whilst some of these upgrades or maintenance works may not be your choice, all owners in a strata-titled property are required to contribute. However, generally speaking, a strata-titled property will cost less in maintenance than a freehold property, as the financial burden is shared amongst many residents.

This is usually a monthly maintenance fee, however, can be dramatically affected by unforeseen events, such as:

  • Building damage

  • Flooding

  • Fires

  • Damage caused by a Tennant

  • Upgrades to the systems of the building (fire, water, plumbing, heating etc…)

  • New rain screening, paint, stucco or other building requirements.

  • Insurance premiums 

Property title’s vary depending on the property itself, it’s location, the building/home type, and it’s history.

Property title’s vary depending on the property itself, it’s location, the building/home type, and it’s history.

The title of a property in Vancouver can greatly affect its price, value, appreciation and resale. Depending on your needs a freehold or strata title may suit you best, or if you are only planning on living in the property for a short amount of time a leasehold may be more appropriate.

As always, at the West Haven Group, we’re here to make sure you find the home of your dreams, within your budget. With an active and on-the-ground team, we can help to guide you towards the buildings, neighbourhoods and property titles in Vancouver that suit your needs.

For more information about the Vancouver property market or any other information, reach out and connect!