Sustainability is one of the most important things to consider in all industries and businesses now more then ever before and an underlining tone of this concept is efficiency, which can lend itself to a reduced cost of operation over time while minimizing the waste of materials taken from earth. Real estate is a key area for this to be considered both in terms of how your home is built and furnished but also how you heat or cool spaces, your usage of water, electricity and more. However, you don’t have to settle for an inferior living situation by being sustainable, in fact you can have a better quality of life by saving money and having the systems of your home working in unison with smart home technology and system automation.
In this article we get to introduce the team at Sustainable Realty based here on Vancouver’s North Shore, they are a part of the Harcourts Canada brokerage and doing amazing things in the community with how they handle clients and find value through real estate transactions. They mix traditional high quality practices as Realtors while leveraging technology platforms such as online auctions to get the most value for your home reaching a global buyers market. We are excited to introduce you to their services below in this detailed interview feature we did with them recently.
How did you first become interested in being Realtors and what motivates you daily?
Real Estate is the perfect combination of emotion and reason. The rational side relates to the transaction – insights into current and future value, finances and negotiations. We love being able to formulate different strategies and tactics depending on the situation. Our competitive side is constantly being challenged because in real estate there is always something more that can be achieved or perfected. The emotional side deals with the meaningful relationships that are developed on a daily basis. We absolutely love knowing that we are part of, what is for most people, the biggest purchase they will ever make. Knowing that you are helping someone find a home or make a goal come true via the sale of their home is a truly rewarding experience that never gets old.
We believe that by putting an added focus on sustainable real estate we can showcase to clients the multitude of added benefits that sustainable homes provide on top of the obvious environmental benefits that are great for our families and communities. This way our clients are in a better position to make an informed decision as to whether they’d like to opt for a sustainable property or a conventional one and we’re happy to help them find their dream home, regardless of their decision.
Where did you take your real estate licensing program and what was that process like?
We took the real-estate licensing program at UBC and while details of the process have changed over the years, the basic formula is:
- A course with 20 modules and a knowledge testing assignment for each module.
- An exam with a minimum passing mark of 70%.
- An applied course that deals with the more practical aspects of real-estate including field assignments.
We are happy that the current real-estate licensing process is so thorough to ensure that new Realtors are much better prepared for the eventualities that may run into in the real-world. Moreover the course prepares Realtors with the appropriate resources to refer to should they ever be in doubt.
What are some of the most common asked questions for people who approach you about local real estate?
- How do you see sustainability adding value?
- When are the best times of the year to buy or sell?
- What are some of the most desirable neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland?
- Which neighbourhoods have seen the greatest appreciation in value?
- How much of a down payment do I need to have when purchasing a home?
- How does the mortgage stress test work and mortgages in general?
What would you say are some of the best neighbourhoods for families to move to on Vancouver’s North Shore?
North Shore is blessed with a tremendous amount of parks and outdoor recreational spaces ideal for families and kids. Great family oriented spaces range as far west as Grouse Mountain (Edgemont village, Canyon Heights) to as far east as Deep Cove and Mount Seymour which are also two great family oriented communities. In between, Lonsdale offers a host of both indoor and outdoor activities geared towards families.
Whether you’re looking for mountain biking, hiking trails, kayaking or just want to relax and grab a bite in the Lonsdale Quay or Deep Cove, the North Shore is packed with family friendly activities.
What are the best areas for young couples without kids or single professionals to relocate to?
We find that there will be some overlap between family and young professional locations as many young professionals pick a location with the future consideration of starting a family. That being said, certain areas definitely stand out for young professionals.
Lower Lonsdale provides access to downtown via the SeaBus for commuters and a revitalized shipyards welcomes new bars and eateries for those looking for vibrant nightlife. Just to the east of Lower Lonsdale is the newly zoned brewery district featuring some amazing local craft beers and exciting new restaurants.
Up and coming areas include Moodyville and Lower Lynn that are putting a focus on condos and townhomes that often suit the lifestyles of young professionals who may not need the extra space and upkeep that come with larger detached homes. Both of these communities are undergoing a heavy redevelopment and are centred around newly constructed parks.
One specific building feature that has been popular among young professionals and can be found throughout the North Shore is the private rooftop patio. Many new townhomes include this in-demand feature, especially as we adapt our lifestyles to social distancing.
Which condo buildings have the best amenities across the North Shore?
Centreview in Central Lonsdale comes to mind as the building with the most amenities. The list of amenities here include:
- Landscaped roof terrace
- Outdoor pool and hot tub
- BBQ area
- Two guest suites
- Professionally equipped fitness centre
- Sauna and steam room
- Squash court
- Large party room with kitchen
- Meeting / media room
- Games room
Seylynn Village in Lower Lynn boasts the ‘Denna Club’, a 14,000 sq. ft facility that is exclusive to residents and offers:
- A fully equipped fitness centre
- 25 metre infinity lap pool
- Lounge spa
- Dedicated yoga and dance room
- Hot tub
- Steam room and sauna
Hunter is an up and coming development that’s scheduled for a 2022 completion for anyone looking at a pre-sale opportunity in a rapidly redeveloping Lynn Creek area. Currently planned amenities include:
- Social lounge with private dining room and chef inspired kitchen
- Private courtyard
- Children’s play area with children’s trike area
- Wellness centre
- Steam and sauna rooms
How can home owners become more sustainable in their existing living situations?
Being sustainable with your existing living situation would fall into two major categories.
This requires no investment and is simply altering our daily habits to live more sustainable lifestyles. This includes simple adjustments such as turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, only using the dishwasher and washing machines when you have a full load and reducing the reliance on single use items to reduce waste. Reducing the heat in your home by just a few degrees or using natural light are other common ways to promote sustainability and save on your energy bills. There’s also a growing trend where more people are opting to grow their own fruits and veggies while composting any food waste and reusing and recycling any other items where possible.
There are many retrofitting options and these could range from simple adjustments such as replacing your conventional light bulbs with energy efficient ones or more elaborate retrofits such as installing high efficiency windows, replacing your older appliances with low-energy appliances and upgrading your home’s insulation. New buildings already have many of these high performance appliances and materials and retrofitting your current home with up to date sustainable materials is a great way to reduce your environmental impact while simultaneously increasing your monthly savings and becoming a more attractive property to future buyers.
Need help financing retrofits? Check out some great rebates that are offered through the BC Hydro website!
What are some considerations for sustainable new home builds that you recommend?
There are competing sustainable standards and many sustainable components that go into a new building. To keep it simple we’ll separate it into some basic categories.
This is a broad category and applies to many aspects of the house.
- How efficient are the appliances?
- Is there an efficient heating/cooling system such as a heat recovery ventilator?
- Are there low flow faucets and is water efficiency emphasized throughout the house?
- Are there high performance, thermal insulating, UV filtering windows?
In general, homes that meet sustainable certification such as Passive House or LEED, are built to a higher standard than conventional homes. Some benefits of this include:
- Durability of construction through high quality materials.
- Reduction of noise pollution through high performance insulation.
- Beautiful modern design through the use of thoughtfully chosen materials and cutting edge construction techniques.
Buildings that meet one of the stringent sustainable standards as outlined above, have numerous health benefits for you and your loved ones by significantly boosting indoor air quality. This is a major consideration for buyers, especially during the pandemic that we’re dealing with.
- The use of high end air circulation systems with advanced particle filters that greatly reduce the presence of dust, pollen and other contaminants from entering your home.
- The use of construction materials and paints that produce very little or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- Employing sealed combustion appliances such as your furnace or hot water heater that pipes any waste gases outside instead of recirculating it back indoors.
How did you first start the Sustainable Realty brand and what is your vision for growing the business?
The Sustainable Realty brand is our vision for a sustainable future of homes in the Lower Mainland – built better, more efficient, better for the environment and healthier for our loved ones. This aligns neatly with the Energy Step Code that the City of Vancouver has outlined for their plan to have all new construction be net zero ready by 2032.
While the legislation is there to encourage sustainable development and many homes with sustainable building components or full sustainable certification exist in the market now, many buyers are unaware of the multitude of benefits afforded to them and their communities by opting to go this route.
We understand that for some buyers a conventional home may still be the best option for them due to their personal circumstances and that’s okay. However, more education on the many benefits of sustainable homes will allow more buyers to make a fully informed decision and increased market demand from consumers will spur developers to include sustainable features in their new builds. Either way, we’re here to help you make a confident and informed decision.
What do you like about working alongside Harcourts and what are some of their unique value propositions?
We work with Harcourts because they offer a strong global brand identity and platform to conduct our residential resale business but also an incredible opportunity for our clients to have a firsthand look at all the new developments that are being brought to the marketplace throughout the Greater Vancouver area. Harcourts provides a great working environment, and even greater people. They are constantly incorporating training seminars with expert speakers, networking events and other valuable resources.
Online auctions are an exciting option that Harcourts offers. The auction concept is relatively new to North America but has proven its effectiveness for over a hundred years in numerous other countries – and since inception in Canada and the United States it has been proving day after day to be very successful.
Our team saw a trend in auctions doubling year over year, which gave buyers and sellers even more confidence that it works. The best part about auctions is the concept works well in both low and high markets. In a low market the auction concept gives people another competitive way to stand out and the process ultimately helps determine the true market value of the home. The same goes for when you are in a high market, you don’t want to sell for too little, so you let the competition bid up the price to get your maximum value for the home.
Harcourts has also recently moved property management services in-house so we’re thrilled to be working with a brokerage like Harcourts that can offer clients an all inclusive solution to their needs.
What does the process look like for listing and selling a home with you?
Initial conversation/consultation to review what the client hopes to achieve:
- Time frames
- Getting a proper tour of the home
- Sales price
- Specific wants/needs
- Special Requests
Finding how much your home is worth:
- Detailed comparative market analysis
- Go in depth to reveal how best to position the home within the market
- How hot is the market?
- Hot cold neutral affects pricing strategy
- Hot market – price it higher, market will catch up and maximize return
- Cold market – price more attractively so not to chase the market.
- Neutral market – price home very competitively with other active comparable properties.
Get your home ready for sale:
- Cleaning and decluttering
- Improving curb appeal (if needed)
- Removing or adding particular furniture pieces (we offer the option of working with a professional staging service to showcase your home in the best light possible)
- Make any necessary repairs and/or identify any problem areas
Market your home (add details – MLS, website, social media, virtual, professional photography and optional videography);
- Showing your home
- Private showings, open houses
- Emphasis on safety and covid related precautions
- Receive purchase offers and negotiate
- Help navigate the details of the purchase contract
- Help negotiating the best price possible while protecting our clients’ interests from a legal perspective
- Ensuring all dates work with time frame and verifying all legal terms conditions.
Correspond and communicate with all parties involved to ensure any subject conditions get removed:
- Facilitating inspections
- Additional showings
- Providing all required/requested documentation (for example strata documentation or warranties for upgrades or previous work done to the property) to the necessary parties
- Seamless closing and possession takes place
- After sales follow-up to ensure client satisfaction and answer any questions that arise after the fact
What can you suggest for people who are staging and preparing their homes for the sale process?
Cleaning and decluttering and overall making your home look as welcoming and airy as possible. Ideally you’d want to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer and ask yourself, is this something that I’d be impressed by? Could I see myself living here? To ensure that both questions get a “yes”, consider the following:
- Improving curb appeal by comprehensively assessing the exterior of your home and making adjustments based on market preferences if necessary. These don’t have to be major adjustments but a series of small changes can make a big difference.
- Removing or adding particular furniture pieces, (we offer the option of working with a professional staging service to showcase your home in the best light possible).
- Make any necessary repairs or aesthetic improvements like a fresh coat of paint where necessary.
- Identifying and addressing problem areas of your home.
How have you made virtual meetings more efficient for your customers using video chat?
Some clients are not video chat veterans so making sure they have the basics down prior to the call:
- Using a video chat program they are comfortable with or asking them to familiarize themselves with the video chat software prior to the call.
- Asking them to ensure that they’re in an area of the house that has a strong signal to sustain the chat.
- Asking them to be in a well-lit room that’s also free of distractions.
- Ensuring we understand and thoroughly research their questions prior to the call and setting a call agenda prior to the call to ensure all parties are on the same page.
What do you get up to in your personal time outside of being Realtors on the North Shore?
We’re spoiled on the North Shore with almost too many things to fit in on a weekend. Whether it’s going for a weekend hike, hanging out with friends at one of the great local spots in Lower Lonsdale or heading out to Deep Cove for some kayaking, there’s no shortage of things to do. Now if we can only somehow fit some more hours into the day!
Lastly, is there anything else you would like Vancouver’s North Shore to know about you or your business?
We want to do real-estate differently. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell your home or just want to have a conversation about the market or sustainability initiatives, we’re here to help. We greatly value relationships with our clients but also those with like-minded businesses and other Realtors.
Are you a potential home buyer or home seller? We’d like to hear from you and understand how we can help you in the best possible way. We value your feedback and even if you just have questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us. We love interacting with members of the community.
Are you a sustainably focused business? Let us know if you think there’s a partnership opportunity. We’d be delighted to begin a conversation on how we can work together to build something great.
Are you a Realtor that wants to showcase a sustainable property? We have a page on our website called ‘Sustainable Spotlight‘. We already have listings there from other Realtors and we’d be happy to help to promote your listing there.
For more information you can visit their website and connect with them using social media apps on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Office location is 315 Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver
Customer service is firstname.lastname@example.org or 778-233-8373
Realtors Girish Hewawasam and Leo Savino