Everyone knows that owning your own home can be expensive, and the Internet has lots of useful advice and resources for both property buyers and owners. There are lots of local Fraser Valley real estate websites, provincial, and national websites dedicated to providing useful information on how you can save money, and protect the environment. There are lots of different grants available, both provincially and federally that many people just don't know about. These range from mortgage savings and renovation loans to appliance grants. Your local city council website is also a great source of information on grants and incentives that can save the average homeowner hundreds or thousands of dollars every year. Here's just a few top tips:

Energy Saving Mortgages. A 10% CMHC mortgage loan insurance premium refund and extended amortization period without surcharge may be available when you use CMHC insured financing to purchase an energy-efficient home or make energy-saving renovations. Read more on this at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website

LiveSmart BC: Efficiency Incentive Program. Tens of thousands of BC home owners are saving energy and money because of their participation in this program. There is lots of great info on this website on environmental rebates and ways you can save money around your home and help the environment at the same time. 

BC Residential Energy Credit. The Canadian government is providing a provincially administered energy allowance of the British Columbia component of the harmonized sales tax (HST) on residential energy, including electricity, natural gas, heating fuel, heat, steam, kerosene, propane, firewood and pellets purchased for residential use. Find out more on this on the BC Government website

BC Hydro Rebates and Buy-Back Programs for Home Owners. BC Hydro offers several rebates and buy-back programs for appliances to help the environment. Get up to $75 off select ENERGY STAR® labelled clothes washers, dish washers, refrigerators and freezers. They also offer incentives and rebates on everything from windows, to low-flush toilets to home electronics. Read more at the BC Hydro website.

FortisBC Rebate Program. If you are making home improvements or just shopping for new appliances, FortisBC provide offers to help home owners save even more money and help the environment. See all the details at the FortisBC website

BC Water Meter Programs. Depending on which city you live in in BC, the amount you pay for your water can vary. Either way, water metering is good for the environment. Find out more, and how you can save money by installing environmentally-friendly water-saving hardware at the City of Surrey website

Surrey's Waste Reduction Challenge is a call to all Surrey property owners and businesses to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills by creating less waste, and recycling more. The goal is to achieve a 70% waste diversion by 2015. There are lots of tips on the website for home owners, as well as a contest where you could win a trip for four to Whistler. 

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2010 was a great year for the Fraser Valley real estate market. The City of Surrey website still carries a feature from June 2010 titled "Surrey Ranks #1 in B.C. Real Estate Market and 4th in Canada". The article described the City of Surrey as the best place in B.C. to invest in the residential real estate market, and the 4th best city in Canada. That was based on a report published by Real Estate Investment Network of Canada titled “Top Canadian Investment Cities”. That report examined factors such as home affordability, income level, economic growth, job creation and population growth. Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts was quoted on the website as saying “For the second year in a row we’ve been named the number one city in B.C. to invest in residential real estate”. It will be interesting to see if Surrey real estate will be ranked number one in 2011, and make it three years in a row.

In January, the (then) Fraser Valley Real Estate Board president, Deanna Horn, was quoted as saying that the Fraser Valley real estate market "was a bit of a roller coaster in 2010 with buyers appearing earlier than expected in the year, tapering in the summer and returning in the fall…”.

Horn said at that time that "If there’s one lesson buyers and sellers can take from our market in 2010, it’s to recognize there are real differences in home values based on their type and location…". While that statement is true of any real estate market in B.C., it's especially true of the Fraser Valley real estate market. A good example of this is the benchmark prices of condominiums. Last year the benchmark prices of condominiums in North Surrey decreased by 3.8 per cent, while the benchmark prices of detached homes in west Abbotsford have increased by 4 per cent.

This year's March home sale activity started strong, with an early spring surge in sales and new listings in February and March seeing a five-year high in the Fraser Valley. April home sales returned to balance after the strong start to the year. It looks like 2011 could be a roller coaster year for the real estate market. April finished with five per cent more active listings on the MLS® than it had in March this year. New listings saw a decrease however, of 14 per cent compared to March. Fraser Valley property prices increased across the board for real estate; detached homes, townhomes and condos or apartments all increased on April 2010 figures.

Reasons why the real estate market in the Fraser Valley continues to grow is primarily down to location. With two border crossings to the USA, links to five major highways, deep sea docks, and four railways, it’s easy to see why the Fraser Valley is a prime location to do business and to live. The city of Surrey continues to grow and grow, and the amount of properties for sale in Fraser Heights, Guildford, Walnut Grove and other suburbs show that it's not just the city centre that has lots of inventory available. Talk to us if you need any information on any listings.

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According to the monthly press release by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board levels of home sales are beginning to return to normal, based on the Fraser Valley real estate stats for April 2011. A total of 1,516 property sales were processed by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board on its Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) in April. That works out to be a 15% decrease compared to April 2010 numbers, when 1,793 properties were sold.

The president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, Sukh Sidhu, said explained the terminology of "return to balance" used in its press release. The 20-year average for residential property sales was 1,580, just above the 1,516 number of April 2011.

Numbers in April were down slightly on March too--down 17% in total. But the Board is not worried by those number either. The spike in February and March and normalization in April was expected because of the tighter credit conditions that were introduced by the Canadian Federal Government on March 18.

Not all areas of the Fraser Valley experienced lower sales numbers, certain market areas within the Fraser Valley have remained active in April. Sales of single detached homes in White Rock/South Surrey have remained strong. Property prices have continued to increase in those areas too; the benchmark price of detached homes in the White Rock/South Surrey area have increased by 11% over the last three months.

The same levels of property price increases were not seen in all areas of the Fraser Valley however; the average increase was 3.9%. According to the press release, the benchmark price for a detached home in the Fraser Valley was $525,510, up 1% on the April 2010 price. The benchmark price of a townhouse was $332,992, up 2% on April prices. For condos or apartments, the benchmark price was $252,689, up 1.3% on April 2010 prices. The benchmark price is the estimated sale price of a benchmark property. Benchmarks represent a typical property within each market.

In regards to real estate market listings, last month finished with 9,697 active listings on the MLS®--5% more than in March, but a 9% decrease on the number of active listings in April 2010. The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board received 2,918 new listings last month, down 14% on March. Several areas in the Fraser Valley had a high level of new listings; Fraser Heights real estate listings came in strong comparatively, as did listings on the market around Surrey City Centre.

You can find more information on the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board website, or follow our commentary of Fraser Valley real estate news and stats on our blog, where we cover every angle of property news from the Fraser Valley.

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The data relating to real estate on this website comes in part from the MLS® Reciprocity program of either the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) or the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB). Real estate listings held by participating real estate firms are marked with the MLS® logo and detailed information about the listing includes the name of the listing agent. This representation is based in whole or part on data generated by either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. The materials contained on this page may not be reproduced without the express written consent of either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB.