The Georgia Straight’s annual Best of Vancouver issue is eagerly awaited by many readers—and especially those who’ve been voted as the best in their category by our readers. Congratulations are in order for Paul Toffoli, who topped the polls as the city’s best real-estate agent, as well as for Macdonald Realty as the best neighbourhood real-estate office, notary David Watts, and Gina Best, who lived up to her surname as the best independent mortgage broker.
We could have come up with many more areas in real estate, but with 260 categories on the Best of Vancouver ballot, we figured that was enough for this year. So in lieu of having more readers’ choices, I’ve decided to list some of my favourites.
Best laneway house design
Architect Matthew Soules has conceived of a laneway house that manages to avoid the clunky look of many of these homes. He reduced the visual scale by putting what looks like a steel white curtain over the front, giving it a more tapered look from a distance. People inside the home can see out, but those passing through the lane have trouble looking inside the house. These days, laneway housing is helping to address the affordability crunch, but the placement of these structures has sometimes really riled the neighbours. It’s great to see an imaginative architect try to come up with a solution to this conundrum.
Best place to learn about condo law
Vancouver lawyer Mike Mangan’s greatest claim to fame these days is his son Dan Mangan, who is one of Canada’s most popular indie singer-songwriters. But the father is no slouch when it comes to legal issues concerning condos. His gargantuan 2010 book, The Condominium Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Strata Law in British Columbia (Strata Publishing), addresses every conceivable problem that can arise, including renting a suite, paying for repairs to common property, fixing windows, and resolving disputes with strata councils. The Condominium Manual is 652 pages, which shows how complicated this area of the law has become. But it’s written in a clear way, making it easier for people who feel intimidated venturing into the legal arena.
Best websites to do your own due diligence
Buying or selling a home carries the potential for great rewards as well as great risks. One way to mitigate the downside is by doing your homework before signing on the dotted line.
Fortunately, we live in the Internet age, so some preliminary work can be done without forking out a ton of dough. A good place to start is the Real Estate Council of British Columbia website. If you go to “complaints and discipline” and then click to “disciplinary decisions”, you can find out which agents have been caught violating the Real Estate Services Act in the past.
The B.C. Securities Commission website has a “disciplined persons list” under the “enforcement” section. The Financial Institutions Commission registers and regulates people under the Mortgage Brokers Act, administers the Real Estate Development Marketing Act, and investigates unlicensed realtors under the Real Estate Services Act. The “enforcement” section on the website lists people who’ve been caught violating these laws.
The B.C. Supreme Court and B.C. Court of Appeal website is another great reference for those who want to be sure that they’re not hiring a scoundrel. You can punch in the name in the “key words” section under “search judgments”. It’s amazing what sometimes pops up.
I hesitate to include the City of Vancouver’s recently redesigned website under a title with the word best in it. However, it’s required reading if you want to know what’s going on in the city. Rezoning applications are listed by address under the Rezoning Centre. The urban design panel lists its meetings on the city website, as does the development permit board. Those are where you can find out what’s likely to be built in any of the city’s neighbourhoods—and whether you want to move there and put up with the inevitable construction noise.