When it comes to owning property in the Greater Vancouver area, any financial help is welcome. The costs of owning a property versus renting can be significant. There's nothing like owning your home though, and there are several grants and rebates available to home owners at a provincial and national level. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) has lots of useful advice and resources for both existing home owners, and people looking to buy a home. They published a very useful document (updated on April 1, 2011) with their top 25 grants and rebates for property buyers and owners. This list of 25 money-saving tips highlights lots of ways that BC homeowners can save money. The REBGV top 10 out of the 25 are expanded below, but you can read the text on all 25 points on this PDF document. There are links at the end of each of the top 10 which point which leads to the relevant website.

1. Home Buyers’ Plan: Qualifying home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 (couples can withdraw up to $50,000) from their RRSPs for a down payment. Home buyers who have repaid their RRSP may be eligible to use the program a second time. You can find out more info at the Canada Revenue Agency website.

2. GST Rebate on New Homes New home buyers can apply for a rebate of the federal portion of the HST (the 5% GST) if the purchase price is less than $350,000. The rebate is up to 36% of the GST to a maximum rebate of $6,300. There is a proportional GST rebate for new homes costing between $350,000 and $450,000. You can read more on this at the Service Canada website.

3. BC New Housing Rebate (HST) Buyers of new or substantially renovated homes priced up to $525,000 are eligible for a rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion (7%) of the 12% HST paid to a maximum rebate of $26,250. Homes priced at $525,000+ are eligible for a flat rebate of $26,250. You can read more about this on the BC Government website.

4. BC New Rental Housing Rebate (HST) Landlords buying new or substantially renovated homes are eligible for a rebate of 71.43% of the provincial portion of the HST, up to $26,250 per unit. You can read more about this at the Canada Revenue Agency website.

5. BC Property Transfer Tax (PTT) First Time Home Buyers’ Program Qualifying first-time buyers may be exempt from paying the PTT of 1% on the first $200,000 and 2% on the remainder of the purchase price of a home priced up to $425,000. There is a proportional exemption for homes priced up to $450,000. You can find out more about this on the BC Government website.

6. First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (HBTC) This federal non-refundable income tax credit is for qualifying buyers of detached, attached, apartment condominiums, mobile homes or shares in a cooperative housing corporation. You can find out more info on this at the Canada Revenue Agency website.

7. BC Home Owner Grant Reduces school property taxes by up to $570 on properties with an assessed value up to $1,150,000. For 2011, the basic grant is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of value over $1,150,000, and eliminated on homes assessed at $1,264,000. An additional grant reduces property tax by a further $275 for a total of $845 for seniors, veterans and the disabled. This is reduced by $5 for each $1,000 of assessed value over $1,150,000 and eliminated on homes assessed at $1,319,000+. You can read more about this on the BC Government website.

8. BC Property Tax Deferment Programs Property Tax Deferment Program for Seniors. Qualifying home owners aged 55+ may be eligible to defer property taxes. Financial Hardship Property Tax Deferment Program. Qualifying low-income home owners may be eligible to defer property taxes. Property Tax Deferment Program for Families with Children. Qualifying low income home owners who financially sup- port children under age 18 may be eligible to defer property taxes. You can read more about this on the BC Government website. Kristy has received the Seniors Real Estate Specialist® or SRES® Designation, so she can provide more information on this.

9. Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) Grants This federal program provides financial aid to qualifying low-income home owners to repair substandard housing. Eligible repairs include heating, structural, electrical, plumbing and fire safety. Grants are available for seniors, persons with disabilities, owners of rental properties and owners creating secondary and garden suites. You can find out more information on this at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website. 

10. CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance Premium Refund Provides home buyers with CMHC mortgage insurance, a 10% premium refund and possible extended amortization without surcharge when buyers purchase an energy efficient mortgage or make energy saving renovations. You also can read more on this at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website.

11. Energy Saving Mortgages

12. Low Interest Renovation Loans

13. LiveSmart BC: Efficiency Incentive Program

14. BC Residential Energy Credit

15. BC Hydro Appliance Rebates

16. BC Hydro Fridge Buy-Back Program

17. BC Hydro Windows Rebate Program

18. BC Hydro Mail-in Rebates/Savings Coupons

19. FortisBC Rebate Program

20. FortisBC Efficient Boiler Program

21. City of Vancouver Solar Homes Pilot

22. City of Vancouver Rain Barrel Subsidy Program

23. Vancity Green Building Grant

24. Local Government Water Conservation Incentives

25. Local Government Water Meter Programs

You can find out more information on BCHydro rebates at the BCHydro website, and if you live within the City of Vancouver limits you can find out more information on available City of Vancouver grants and rebates at their website - incentives programs for home owners.

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According to the monthly press release by the The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) Greater Vancouver saw a "solid" month of residential home sales on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in April 2011. Numbers were were down slightly on the two previous months which both saw a near-record pace. The REBGV press release reported that residential property sales of detached, attached and condos or apartment properties in Vancouver (or the area covered by the REBGV*) decreased by 8.2% last month, with 3,225 sales compared to 3,512 sales in April 2010 down 21% on the 4,080 sales recorded in March 2011.

In the press release, the REBGV president Rosario Setticasi said that the year-over-year decline in April sales could be attributed to a less active condominium market on our MLS®. He claimed that there were actually more detached and townhouse sales in April 2011 compared to the same month last year. There was no mention of the changes in the Canadian mortgage rules which reduced the maximum amortization period from 35 years to 30 years. This fueled the frenzied pace of sale in February and early March, and a slowdown or "return to normal" was expected in April. 

New Real Estate Listings:

For the whole Greater Vancouver area covered by the REBGV, new listings for detached, attached and condos or apartment properties totalled 5,847 in April 2011. This was a 23.5% decrease on April 2010 numbers when 7,648 properties were listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service®, which was an all-time record for any April since records began.

New listings were also down in April, compared to March, the number of new listings registered was down 14 per cent. The total number of residential property listings on the MLS® did increase in April (by 8.2%) compared to the previous month (at 14,187 listings) which gives buyers lots of choice. In areas such as Burnaby and the Tri-Cities, there are lots of prime properties on the market.

Property Prices:

As with real estate listings, there is also a big difference in activity within the areas or communities that the REBGV covers. This means that home price trends differ depending on the area. Some areas, such as Burnaby, have seen an increase in property values (year-on-year), where as other areas, such as Squamish have seen a slight decrease. Property pricing stats are based on a benchmark price, which is the estimated sale price of a benchmark property. Benchmarks represent a typical property within each market.

*The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) is a member-based association of more than 10,000 REALTORS® and covers communities from Whistler to Maple Ridge to Tsawwassen.

April Sales facts for some areas around Greater Vancouver:

Burnaby
Detached: 150
Attached: 98
Condos or Apartments: 155

Coquitlam
Detached: 143
Attached: 63
Condos or Apartments: 72

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows
Detached: 89
Attached: 56
Condos or Apartments: 28

Port Coquitlam
Detached: 43
Attached: 24
Condos or Apartments: 27

Port Moody
Detached: 23
Attached: 24
Condos or Apartments: 26

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