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People often tell me, "I'm waiting until the market falls until I buy" or "I'll sell when the market is stronger."

The problem with trying to "time" the market is that this strategy rarely works! However, there are still a few ways to make money on real estate, which I will discuss along with pitfalls and examples of what is happening right now.

Entering the Market

First time buyers often wait to buy in hopes of the market falling. The challenge with this strategy is to have everything come together when they buyer is ready to jump in: a depressed market, low interest rates, ample supply of homes to choose from and security in the buyers' employment and personal situation. More often than not, one of these criteria is missing.

Currently, there is a healthy supply of condominiums downtown; however, other areas on the West side are experiencing higher competition. More homes traditionally come on the market in Spring.

Downsizing

If you are selling a larger or more expensive home to free up money and purchase a smaller home, it is best to do so in a "hot" market. This will maximize your selling price and free up the greatest amount of funds. Although you still have to buy another home, you are minimizing the amount of home that you purchase at a (relatively) inflated price. The challenge with this strategy is that when the market is hot, homes sell quickly and the selection may be limited.

Moving Up

If you are selling your home and using the proceeds towards buying a more expensive home, then it makes the most financial sense to do so in a "down" market. This will minimize the amount you have to pay mortgage interest on in order to live in the home you desire. The challenge with this strategy is that when the market is depressed, it is often in difficult economic conditions generally, so it requires a buyer who is financially secure as well as confident about their employment situation.

In today's market, if you own a large single family home in Vancouver West, now is a great time to sell your home and downsize into a condominium in the city. There is a shortage of single family homes in Vancouver, and a healthy supply of luxury condominiums downtown.

Moving to a Different Market

Even within Greater Vancouver there are distinct markets. The North Shore and Vancouver West Side, for instance, are often in different phases of the market roller coaster. The challenge with this strategy is that it may take a few years to reach the optimal conditions for your move.

Currently, if you don't mind crossing the bridge to the North Shore, now would be a great time to sell in Vancouver and purchase a home in this location.Whereas two million dollars will buy you a small home on a standard 33' x 120' size lot in Vancouver, in West Vancouver, you can currently buy a large home on a ¼ acre lot with a view of the city and harbour in the background.At times, this equation has been reversed.

Investing

If you are purchasing an investment property in addition to your primary residence, you can afford to take risks and take your time. Generally, you will want to wait for a quieter market when supply is high and to avoid multiple offer situations that can inflate a purchase price above current market values.

I have recently viewed a few single family homes in the Douglas Park area (my neighbourhood) that sold for $100,000 to $500,000 over asking price after being on the market for less than one week. Some of these single family homes were in such demand that seven buyers were all offering on the same property (see side bar for some recent sales).

The final tip is not to rely on the media or even Real Estate Board statistics to judge the state of the market. Both of these sources provide backward -looking (lagging) information. I always inform my clients of what I am seeing in the market place. The indicators of a warming market (fewer listing opportunities, multiple offer situations, busy Open Houses, busy phones and Realtors who don't return calls) are generally evident weeks before the statistics come out and a month before the general public jumps on the bandwagon.

Of course, the best time to buy real estate in Vancouver, is when your personal situation is driving your decision. Always keep in mind that regardless of when you buy, a home is more than just an investment.It is something to be enjoyed and valued on a different level than other possessions and many memories will be attached to your home over the years of living there.

And if all else fails, given enough time, real estate in Vancouver has always historically increased in value. As the anonymous quote goes:

"You will never lose money on real estate in BC. You'll just sell too soon."

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