Saturday, June 30, 2007

curb appall - petit pink prison

This one has caught my eye a few times.

At first blush it is very innocuous, and I only really noticed it because of the lack of window space. One tiny window on the western wall, and there would actually be a nice view from the upper story. I don't get it. I like lots of glass to provide natural interior light and exterior vistas, and can never fathom why builders/buyers cheap out on windows.

And it's pink.

Who would want to live in a place like this? It's nice and big, and the lines aren't bad, but one would have to be suffering some kind of light sensitivity to have a need for such interior gloom. On top of that, the windows that are there are tightly blinded. What's up with that?

And it's pink.

I heard years ago that there were builders building custom grow-ops off-plan. I never knew the veracity of that, but this place looks like a perfect candidate.

And it's pink.

It is somewhat ironic that this place reminded me of a petit penitentiary, and only later did I surmise the nefarious possibility.

And it's pink.

Maybe vampires live there.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

curb appeal - the love shack

Back to my favourite subject of late (there really seems so little to comment on).

I found this quirky little gem that stands out like a diamond ring on a sore thumb. It does not fit into the neighbourhood at all - surrounding houses are post-war, Vancouver Specious, or Vancouver Specials.

I don't know if it is old or new, but I like the look of it, and would like to see more of such. I do have the idea that it is newer construction.

Let's call it the love shack.

Sorry for the crappy photo', I took it on the fly.


A friend sent this to me this morning. I thought that it was pertinent to the RE market. After all, it is a lack of common sense that has driven Vancouver RE to such heights that it requires 68-odd % of the median income to buy a median home in Vancouver. Mixer mortgages, etc.

I will leave you now, that I may spend the day in lament.

My parents told me about Mr. Common Sense early in my life and told me I would do well to call on him when making decisions. It seems he was always around in my early years but less and less as time passed by. Today I read his obituary. Please join me in a moment of silence in remembrance, for Common Sense had served us all so well for so many generations.

OBITUARY: Common Sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Aspirin, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student, but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know my Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I'm a Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Author unknown

Monday, June 25, 2007

psychological factors

David sent me a link to this article at

I felt that it was worth re-printing (even though it is not Vancouver specific). Thanks David.

The article:

No one wants to buy a home. Whose fault is it?

At the end of May, 4.43 million "existing homes" were available for sale in the United States. That's the largest such number ever recorded. At May's existing-home-sales rate, it would take 8.9 months to burn off the excess inventory. That's the highest figure for "months of supply" since 1992, at the tail end of the last big housing downturn.

The immediate import of the numbers is unarguable. The median sales price for existing homes has declined for 10 straight months and will continue to do so. This is good news for buyers still waiting in the wings, but may not be the best tidings for the larger economy.

But what about those would-be buyers, cautiously watching the carnage from the sidelines?

Lawrence Yun, the staff economist for the National Association of Realtors who has replaced our favorite whipping boy, David Lereah, as the Man Who Must Be Quoted in all stories about the real estate market, complained that the housing market was "underperforming" given what he considered the general overall health of the economy.

"Psychological factors," he said, explained buyer reluctance to jump into the market at the present time.

How Yun and his ilk are able to cite "psychological factors" as the reason for anything is an exercise in tautological meaninglessness that continues to baffle How the World Works. If you're going to blame consumer psychology when the market is headed down, then in all fairness you should blame it when the market is going up. But back in the go-go days, we never heard anyone from the National Association of Realtors say anything along the lines of: "The real estate market overperformed this month, as home buyers, irrationally convinced that home prices would continue to appreciate beyond all rhyme or reason, stepped up their splurging on new and existing homes, rashly confident that they would be able to sell their purchases at a 25 percent markup in just one year."

Psychological factors are always in play, whether a market is going up or down. We've been giving Yun a chance to establish some street cred, but with each whine about buyer psychology, our willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt takes another hit.

-- Andrew Leonard

Goes both ways, huh?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

curb appeal - modern architecture

I've been disdainful of residential construction as of late, and some may wonder what do I like?

I like this one on Semlin Dr. in East Van. I don't know a lot about it, and my Internet search for information has turned up nothing. If anyone has any info. on it, I would be glad to read it.

What I do know about it is that it was bought some years ago by an acquaintance's land lord and restored - with grants from the City and/or provincial gov'ment. It has a heritage designation ("B" list is my understanding) as one of the few examples of Modern Architecture in Vancouver. It was completely "restored" some years ago. I wonder what it's worth?

This place merits the solipsist seal of approval (TM).

Friday, June 22, 2007

curb appeal - the teal townhouse

Here you are - the teal townhouse.

This one is just off Commercial Dr. I give them a "C" for the effort to spare the aesthetic of the neighbourhood, but there is something "off" with it. It looks as if it has been transplanted from the East Coast somewhere - Halifax or St.John's. That's not a bad thing, but I can't quite give it the solipsist seal of approval.

The dormer-on-dormer is interesting, even bold, but they could have more, and larger, dormer windows on the front - which would have made it look a little less stark IMHO. The entrance treatment on the left unit is a bit odd. It would have been nicer without the blind dormer (gable, whatever), and a big covered porch. Might as well tear it down and start over.

I know - I'm a nit-picker, but I just don't get the lack of imagination and attention in the construction of these new places. It is much better than the new Vancouver Specious (which I am dubbing manifestations such as the mandarin monster) though.

And what's with the ersatz rock everywhere these days?

Gack. This is turning into the Architectural Digest. It's kind of like a critique of the Hyundai Pony (easy to find fault with). The difference is - Hyundai Ponies were cheap, and these houses are really, really expensive.

Monday, June 18, 2007

curb appall - the mandarin monster

This one is nice. A little awkward, what with the fake rock and incongruous colour scheme, but someone likes it. Not me though. I'm glad that I don't live anywhere with that in my view.

To complement the Creamsicle Cookie Cutter Castle aspect, there is not a shred of vegetation on the lot. The yard is "lawned" with rocks. That's pretty zen man. I guess you don't want to be giving up navel gazing for yard maintenance. Get a shrub or something.

To each his own, but what are these guys thinking? Perhaps they are visually compromised, and need a bright paint job in order to distinguish their house from all the colonic clones nearby. Maybe they have a lot of parties (yeah, just turn left at the mustard coloured place, drive 'til you see the Emptyville horror, take another left at the Manure Mansion and keep going. You can't miss it, it's the only bright orange house on the block)

Coming soon - the Blood Red Bastille.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Not Li'l solipsist

I read an interesting article over at The Republic relating to forecasts of economy, human behaviour, triggers to calamities, etc. It is redacted below.

The conclusion that I drew was: don't listen to the boffins! They are just flailing like little babies.

Theoretical physicist Mark Buchanan’s Ubiquity: The Science Of History . . . Or Why The World Is Simpler Than We Think (Phoenix, 2000), is a book whose implications are so powerful they’ve given me vertigo. Buchanan makes a very strong argument that, despite all appearances to the contrary, human history may be governed by very simple mathematical laws. Unfortunately, those laws would guarantee history’s complete unpredictability, and they would also fundamentally contradict the economic and political theories informing our decision-makers.

The study of non-equilibrium statistical physics shows that critical states seem to emerge whenever systems are kept far from equilibrium in conditions where the forces of chaos and order are in constant flux, and where the components of the system exert some influence on each other’s behaviour. It seems that at least some features of our collective behaviour can be reasonably explained by these concepts.

Might as well just guess

Research suggests that both stock market fluctuations and the distribution of global wealth follow power laws. This is an unnerving finding, as it flies in the face of traditional economic theory,...the effects of a relatively minor economic variable may produce anything from unnoticeable effects to such calamities as the 1929 stock market crash and the collapse of the “tiger” economies of Southeast Asia in 1997.

This helps explain why economic forecasts are so consistently proven wrong. Buchanan writes that in 1993 the OECD “analyzed forecasts made between 1987 and 1992 by the governments of the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada, as well as those of the International Monetary Fund and the OECD itself. Their conclusions? Not only were each of these organizations’ predictions abysmally inaccurate, but they would have made better predictions for inflation and gross domestic product if they had scrapped all their sophisticated economic models and simply guessed that the numbers in each year would be unchanged from the last.” Similar studies have produced the same results. This has grave implications. Given that the study of economics presupposes equilibrium, and given that our nations’ powerbrokers rely upon economists for their understanding of the world, it seems that our leaders’ most basic assumptions about the economy are dangerously wrong-headed.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

the long and the short

I came across this cartoon through a Google search for "tired". It exemplifies how I feel in so many ways. Put on a good face for Li'l solipsist and the missus, run the world, process 100's of photo's, do the shopping, paint the paintings, make dinner, and try to skim what's current on the blogs (see sidebar for links).

As I considered this tiredness, I realized how tired I am of this real estate market. I sense the madness starting to go off the tracks, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence of a crash impending. Chipman's #'s are solidly in the sellers' market territory, and poor domus over there - doggedly trying to point the mad down the road to sanity. There is blah, blah from David Dodge, blah, blah, blah here, there, and everywhere. The reportage, and observation seems to be exemplified by the above cartoon as well. "Mustn't scare anyone while the boom is so...booming". Put on a cheerful prognosticator's mask, and pretend that all is well. I'm so fatigued by it.

My "neighbour" just sold his newly built monstrousity to a real estate agent who lives down the road (I have a lot to say about this case, but not tonight). She lives in a big house, so it is more of a lateral move than a move up.

Horse trading, I tell ya. I will get into this when I am more fresh of mind.

So how about that curb appeal/appal series? Tired of that yet? I have lots more...

And that's the long and the short of it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

curb appall

Sometimes I really wonder. Who designs this appalling junk?

I have watched this place go up over the last few months. The original house was small, and sold for about 529K - if memory serves. When they dug and poured the foundation, I wondered what the hell they were thinking of, as the new footprint seemed smaller than the original. Then it went up to three stories, and I thought that it might be interesting.

But look what they did to it! "The eyebrows" are mighty incongruous, and the doorways look as if they have range hoods above them. The fan coming out of the wall on the front of the house is a nice design feature. They missed out on the south-facing windows in the aerie, but made up for it with a windowless door, and a microscopic "widow's walk". The awning over that door would have been a better fit than the "eyebrows".

On the positive side, the view from the penthouse will be very nice, and the area is "improving" with all manner of modern monstrousities (as can be seen in the background).

I didn't bother researching the wish price, but I would wager that the place cost 300k to build, plus roughly 500k for the lot, plus financing, taxes, GST, PTT, commissions, etc.

What I would really like to know, is where the designer/architect got their training, and whether they have a severe drinking problem. I would be embarrassed to have my name on that wreck. What a mish-mash. It's like New England meets Arte Deco and crashes headlong into Vancouver City Hall.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

curb appeal #2

I wrote about curb appeal in a snide way a couple of weeks ago, and promised an example of what new construction could be.

The upper picture (below) is the new place that was built on the rear of a lot just off Commercial Drive. My understanding is that the lot is strata, but the house is freehold. I'm not sure just how that works.

The picture doesn't do justice, it has very nice exterior finishes congruent with the style of the house. I spoke to one of the workers there, and he said that it was pricey to build. But why not build something nice instead of an ugly box? It's worth that much more at resale time. Further, it doesn't ruin the character of the area, and invites a more social way of living with the big front porch. I'm not so sure I like the proximity to the lane way though.

The lower pic' is of the original house at the front of the lot.

There are other such places being built in the area, and I will post them as they progress.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

the grab bag # 7

Illegal tree removal costly for local realtor (redacted)

By Cheryl Rossi-Staff writer

A local realtor will have to pay $205,000 for the removal of 72 trees from three adjacent Point Grey properties.

Paulo Leung of Regent Park Realty pleaded guilty to 72 counts of tree removal without a permit and was fined $205,000, or $2,850 per tree, May 10.

Rosy Palace Investments, which owns the multi-million dollar Belmont Avenue properties, was found not guilty.

In November 2005, neighbours called the city to complain that 82 Douglas fir, holly, maple, weeping willow and fruit trees had been removed from the lots that sit above Spanish Banks and edge the University Endowment Lands.

"The surprising thing was that the complaints didn't come until the job was done," Jackson said.

The three properties were listed for sale at $14.8 million at the time the trees were removed.

Following a police investigation, the owner and realtor were charged with 82 counts under the city's private property tree bylaw.

The city, Greater Vancouver Regional District and Department of Fisheries and Oceans were left wondering how the clearcut would affect the stability of the nearby slopes and the salmon-bearing Spanish Bank Creek.

"The one comment that was made on this was that the amount paid exceeded the [realtor's] commission in the sale, so I thought that was interesting," Jackson said.

Leung continues to work for Regent Park Realty. He did not want to comment on the case. (from the Courier)
Also from the Courier, this letter:

Condo dweller living good life with clenched teeth

To the editor:
Re: "Centrepiece bowl of Granny Smith apples essential part of urban lifestyle," May 16.

Finally someone has said it. With humour and tongue planted firmly in cheek, Michael Kissinger has shone a light on the murkier aspects of developers manufacturing reality while marketers gleefully, albeit unimaginatively, sell the illusion.

Living in high-priced ghettos is even more laughable than considering apples in a bowl as the enticement. The hilarity of materials advertised in glossy portfolios, substituted by inferior products, rock bottom standards of construction and finishing is ever so amusing. For the novice to the pushy condominium concept of existence, please know that the vision of warranty inspectors will see no defects. Lilliputian-sized spaces that cannot accommodate furniture are augmented by the laughable absence of storage space.

I also enjoy the comedy of square footage that includes the balcony in the price point. Since marketing has become a euphemism for deceiving, living in a condominium in Vancouver is a clenched-teeth smile. Yes indeed, I'm living the life.

A. Gould
Could'na said it better myself...