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Optimizing commercial real estate space | REM




The concept of real estate optimization is hardly new. While its definition varies somewhat, most real estate professionals agree that at its core, optimization is all about maximizing the efficiency and productivity of a commercial property – in effect, creating a space that contributes to, rather than detracts from, a company’s bottom line.

While real estate optimization traditionally has been about fitting more people into less space, that notion has changed over the past decade as businesses increasingly have recognized the importance the workplace experience plays in employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.

This year real estate optimization will take on even greater significance. Changes in reporting requirements mean that businesses must report the cost of their lease (and thus the full extent of their real estate-related debt) on their balance sheets, rather than in the footnotes of financial reports. Because this rule change will provide investors with even greater visibility into the companies in which they have a stake, businesses face greater pressure than ever to demonstrate the way in which real estate is working for them … and to make changes when the numbers suggest their plans are off the mark.

To meet these often-competing needs, businesses increasingly are turning to technology. Sensors, for example, can now enable a company to measure the occupancy and usage of its real estate, demonstrating conclusively whether it is being used effectively. This approach has led many businesses to reassess spaces that often go unused, such as board rooms or larger conference rooms. When paired with a modular design, such spaces can be quickly and easily reconfigured to meet day-to-day needs, increasing their functionality and ultimately making for a more effective use of existing space.

Sensor-based technology can also play a key role in allowing companies to test the effectiveness of a new space design or even a new furniture installation before committing to implementing it companywide. This is particularly important for businesses that have multiple locations.

Increasingly, such workplace data is playing a key role in both mid- and long-range corporate planning. Businesses are better able to plan for future growth if they can also factor in real data about space needs and effective use beyond current occupancy. Similarly, companywide renovations or even future acquisitions can be informed by occupancy and usage data, ultimately resulting in cost savings.

While technology can provide immediate insights into the use and effectiveness of a company’s workspace, it can also empower employees to do their best work in the kind of space that is best-suited for that work. Although sensors track work activity and not specific employees, they nevertheless provide managers with greater insights into the ways in which work teams are accomplishing specific tasks. That data subsequently can be leveraged to adjust the workspace in a way that better supports both the workers and the work product now, while permitting configurations to shift as needs change.

Creating this agile workplace takes real estate optimization to a significantly deeper level. Because it is no longer static, such workplaces become living, breathing entities that support and reflect the individuals who work there, as well as their work product.

This becomes especially important when you consider the attitude toward work exhibited by millennials and Generation Z. Generally, these younger workers, who now dominate the workforce, care more deeply about the setting in which they work, how work fits with their personal lives and whether employers are involved in their communities or other “worthy activities” versus strictly material rewards (salaries, bonuses, job titles).

Because these workers want more than simply “a job,” they look for workplaces that suit their lifestyles. They want surroundings that offer everything from quiet spaces where they can lounge comfortably, sip coffee and concentrate on their laptops to team spaces that allow them to interact and brainstorm ideas with fellow workers. As a result, desks and cubicles have given way to open spaces, distraction-free zones, lounges and on-site cafes. Increasingly, companies are also demanding their workers have ready access to health and fitness facilities, a variety of restaurants, entertainment and even cultural activities.

Quality of light is also playing a key role in real estate optimization. Recognizing that employees’ access to natural light can boost well-being and reduce stress (not to mention serving as another enticement to attract and retain workers), companies are moving enclosed spaces – file rooms, copy rooms – to the interior core and positioning open space and even private offices and meeting rooms around the perimeter of each floor.

Bottom line? True real estate optimization must take into account the health of the overall building, because it will impact the health of the workers who occupy it. And ultimately, it is both the physical and mental health of those workers that can spell the difference between corporate success and failure.

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Real Estate

Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation





If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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Real Estate

7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips





The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Real Estate

Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?





(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at

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