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One of Vancouver’s best restaurants is re-opening for dine-in, but you’ll have to pre-pay for your meal

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In what we’ve started referring to as the “before times,” a reservation at Vancouver’s St. Lawrence restaurant was a hot commodity. The 54-seat Powell Street restaurant offering a fine dining take on the hearty meat-forward fare of Quebec has been a dazzling gem in the crown of Vancouver dining since even before it opened back in 2017.

Quebec native J.C. Poirier had Vancouver all ears when word broke that the former Ask For Luigi and Pourhouse chef was going to put cuisine of his home province on Vancouverites’ plates. Would a city obsessed with cold pressed green juices, Buddha Bowls, and sushi want to tuck into savoury game meat pies in buttery crusts, baked potatoes loaded with cheese curds and floating in gravy, and slices of sugar pie?

The number of Instagram shots of St. Lawrence’s signature Oreille de Crisse (fried and spice-dusted pork rinds) served brimming over a recycled Quebec maple syrup can (guilty!) should easily answer that question. St. Lawrence was an instant stand-out, and tables were booked months in advance.

It should come as no surprise that Poirier isn’t all that interested in being like everyone else when it comes to restaurants in Vancouver.

Given his step-ahead or outside the box approach with St. Lawrence, it should also perhaps not be surprising that the way in which the popular and critically-acclaimed restaurant plans to re-instate dine-in service as the province shifts into “Phase 2” of its COVID-19 economic restart is also unconventional.

Now, to get one of the even fewer dinner reservations at St. Lawrence, you’re going to have to buy your food before you get to the restaurant.

Starting May 28, St. Lawrence will offer a Table d’Haute three-course menu, available by booking – and paying – in advance.

Poirier says he arrived at the decision to have dine-in service at St. Lawrence be by pre-payment only in part because of the certainty it offers him in regards to food costs and staffing for any given night.

Controlling food costs are key at any time, but are even more so now, as the local food systems and the industry they support attempt to recover after crippling set-backs when COVID-19 forced local and provincial governments to close down restaurants to dine-in service.

Though Poirier says he is conscious at all times of minimizing food waste, COVID-19 has affected farmers and other suppliers to the extent that the system is “basically broken,” right now.

In those “before time,” as well, St. Lawrence could serve about 100 meals – called covers in restaurant speak – at night, with about two “turns” of each of the restaurant’s seats. Now he is having to pare down the capacity to 24 chairs, and has even opted to remove the bar seats – once the possible only spot for walk-ins – rather than affix a Plexiglass shield between the open kitchen and those seats.

A no-show before COVID-19 would chip away at the already razor-thin profit margins of a restaurant, but a no-show no would be exponentially more damaging to the bottom line.

“No shows will hurt a lot for 50 per cent capacity,” attests Poirier.

Sure, Vancouver might have the nickname “no fun” city, but we have also earned the rep in the hospitality business as being a “no show” city.

When St. Lawrence first opened, Poirier says they had about 30 per cent of reservations cancel last minute or simply not show up. After moving to Resy, an online reservation platform that gave St. Lawrence the ability to charge a cancellation fee, Poirier says their no show rate went down to closer to just five per cent.

After closing down in mid-March following B.C. public health and City of Vancouver orders, Poirier took some time to re-group before St. Lawrence went back online to offer take-home meals. It was then that Poirier moved St. Lawrence to Tock, the online booking platform that first appeared on the scene in Vancouver in early 2018 and that is structured to take advance payment for or charge penalties for missed reservations.

Those take-home meal offerings will be part of St. Lawrence’s immediate future, too. Poirier talks through the math, explaining that if he is able to do two “turns” of his dine-in tables and have about 50 meals ordered for take-out, their revenue would “be close to what we did before.”

Poirier does add, however, that he is also working on more revenue streams tied to the restaurant, like packaged products and offering delivery of those items through increasingly popular local services like Legends Haul.

Close is going to be probably the best we can expect our favourite restaurants to achieve right now, given the circumstances.

“I don’t think any restaurant will make money,” says Poirier of the industry’s immediate economic outlook. Instead, he surmises it will be a matter of survival and trying to “lose as little as possible.”

The chef and restaurateur acknowledges that St. Lawrence is not known for being a place you can just walk-in to, so the customer base may already be comfortable with pre-paying for their meals. “It’s a risky move, of course, but I think [diners] will understand,” he says.

Poirier says customers have a lot to consider when it comes to the kind of businesses we want to have in our city in our near future. “Think about which restaurants you want to see on the other side,” of the COVID-19 pandemic, Poirier urges. He hopes consumers will throw support to those establishments that practice high standards, follow a strong work ethic, and serve top-quality food. But there’s also what else a restaurant brings to the table, that kind of “fill your soul” cultural experience.

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What Is A Housing Bubble? And Are We In One?

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What is a housing bubble? You’ve undoubtedly heard the term, but what does it actually mean, and is Canada experiencing one? Whether you already own a home, are considering buying one in the near future, or you’re waiting for the right time to sell, here we answer what is a housing bubble, what causes it, and how it may affect you.

What is a Housing Bubble?

A housing bubble happens when the price of homes rises quickly, at an unsustainable rate. Typically, a price-growth rate that’s in the high single-digits is considered to be healthy and sustainable. Under healthy conditions, homeowners continue to earn equity over time, sellers can make a profit on resale, and buyers can still afford to get into the market. This type of price growth can usually be explained by economic factors, such as an employment boom and favourable interest rates.

On the other hand, a housing bubble can happen as a result of non-organic growth. For example, if speculators were flooding the market, buying up homes to take advantage of rapid price growth, with the intention of selling in the near term for a hefty profit. When prices are deemed to have hit a high point, speculators list their properties for sale. This massive influx of listings, coupled with stagnating demand, causes prices to plummet and results in a “housing market crash.”

A housing bubble is a temporary event and prices eventually return to normal levels, when demand rises again and home-buying activity resumes.

What Happens When a Housing Bubble Bursts?

During a housing bubble, homes become overvalued. When the bubble bursts, prices fall. Homeowners who have no intention of selling are unlikely to feel the direct impacts of the bursting bubble. However, these market conditions often indirectly impact other aspects of the economy, so to call homeowners who aren’t selling “free and clear” would be misleading. The ripple effects of a bursting housing bubble would likely touch most of us, in one way or another.

Homebuyers who purchased a home during a housing bubble likely paid considerably more than it is worth. Properties bought by end-users as a residence, with no intention of being sold in the short-term, will eventually rebound closer to “normal” values and at some point, return to positive growth.

A housing bubble poses the biggest risk to home sellers. Those who purchased in the bubble, but now find themselves forced to sell their home, will come up short on resale. They bought the home at a price that exceeds what they can recoup, putting them in the red with no asset to show for it.

For example, someone purchased at peak market prices, but due to circumstances such as a job loss or the inability to carry the costs for any reason, now has no choice but to sell in a down market. The seller still owes money to their mortgage lender on a home that they no longer own.

Are We in a Housing Bubble?

The Canadian housing market took a surprising upward turn during the COVID-19 pandemic, after coming to a grinding halt in mid-March. The slow-down was short-lived, and what followed through the remainder of 2020 was a a spike in demand for homes met by a shortage of supply. With 2021 well underway, there appears to be no end in sight.

There are a number of factors that indicate we’re not experiencing a bubble caused my market speculators, contrary to some media reports.

A recent online survey of RE/MAX brokers and agents in Western Canada, Ontario and Atlantic Canada found that speculators are not a factor in the Canadian real estate market at this time. In fact, more than 96% of RE/MAX brokers and agents supported this finding, confirming that the majority of homebuyers are end-users. Speculators tend to wait out hot markets, buying when prices are down and selling when they’re up again. The short-term investment opportunities they’re generally looking for are hard to find under current market conditions. Bully offers and bidding wars are commonplace, and we continue to see demand outpacing supply with the release of the monthly housing market data. These factors are generally inhospitable to speculators and investors.

For a housing bubble to burst, there needs to be a steep incline in inventory and new listings, and a decline in demand – neither of which is likely to happen any time soon.

Housing Crash 2021? It’s Highly Unlikely.

The Canadian housing market is still feeling the impacts of the pent-up demand from 2017, when the government introduced the foreign buyer tax and the mortgage stress test as a means to cool the overheating market. These policies prompted many homebuyers to move to the sidelines, opting to wait and save, with plans to re-engage in the housing market in a few years.

Now fast-forward a few years to 2020. COVID-19 had a similar impact on the market, whereby many homebuyers delayed their purchase plans due to pandemic-related uncertainties. That pre-existing pent-up demand for homes continued to swell. With Canadians subject to stay-at-home orders with nowhere to go and spend their hard-earned money, they collectively saved historically high sums, which was injected back into the housing market once consumer confidence returned. The spending came in the form of record-high home sales and for those who were unwilling to face the competitive resale market conditions, renovations to existing dwellings. In fact, Canadian real estate was said to be the driving force behind the Canadian economy in 2020.

Savings, low interest rates and low inventory continue to put pressure on the housing market.

Now, consider the housing needs of the 1.2 million people who are expected to immigrate to Canada through 2023, per the government’s 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.

Given all this, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll experience the influx of real estate listings needed for a housing market crash – and if we did see those listings suddenly come on stream, there should be plenty of buyers to absorb them.

Homebuyers and Sellers, Do Your Due Diligence

Challenging market conditions and a still-present global pandemic have added some personal risk on the part of homebuyers and sellers. It’s important to remember that conditions vary across Canada, and can be dramatically different between provinces, cities, and even from one neighbourhood to the next. Now more than ever, it’s important to work with a trusted, experienced professional Realtor who can guide you though the buying and selling process.

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CIBC poll shows majority of homeowners have no plans to sell amid a tight housing market and low rate environment

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TORONTO, April 21, 2021 /CNW/ – As supply remains tight in key regions of the Canadian housing market, a recent CIBC survey finds that most homeowners say the pandemic has not changed their intentions of staying put, with many choosing to use their accumulated savings to renovate their current property rather than list it.

With only six per cent of homeowners polled saying they planned to sell pre-pandemic, the majority (77 per cent) say the pandemic has not impacted their housing plans. Most (63 per cent) agree that low interest rates haven’t motivated them to sell and upgrade to a bigger home either.

Many homeowners (34 per cent) have renovated their homes over the past year, while a similar number (31 per cent) say they plan to make upgrades in the next twelve months. Of those who have renovated, most (71 per cent) funded this with savings.

“As a potential homebuyer, these results suggest that supply won’t be improving in the near term, which makes it essential to understand what you can comfortably afford within your budget, and work with an advisor before you start looking at homes to have appropriate financing options in place,” says Carissa Lucreziano, Vice-President, CIBC Financial and Investment Advice.

“It’s a positive sign that many homeowners are using cash versus debt to fund renovations – we’re seeing prudent financial behaviour from this group. But whether you’re looking to sell or buy a home, or invest in renovations, these are big decisions that would benefit from the advice of a financial expert.”

Renters continue to be outpriced
For renters, the story has also been more of the same. Half (47 per cent) say they are still unable to own a home due to housing prices, with 34 per cent citing an inability to save for a down payment as the major hurdle. Many (66 per cent) say low interest rates due to COVID-19 have not motivated them to look at purchasing a home with the majority (91 per cent) saying the pandemic has not impacted their ability to pay rent.

Of those who co-habit with family or others, 46 per cent have no immediate plans of moving out, but close to a third (32 per cent) are saving for a down payment.

A lack of knowledge when it comes to purchasing a home may be contributing to the hesitancy of some potential homebuyers:  Four-in-ten (41 per cent) of all the respondents admit they need help understanding all of the costs associated with home purchasing, and a similar number (37 per cent) need guidance on  obtaining a mortgage in the current environment. A quarter of Canadians (27 per cent) say the fear of a recession/economic uncertainty is impacting their decision to buy or sell a home and 31 per cent claim they will only be able to afford a home with an inheritance or gift from their family.

“It appears for those looking to get into the housing market, financing and a lack of understanding remains an issue. With the help of an advisor, you can get an assessment of your financial capacity for a clear picture of what you can afford as a new homebuyer to achieve the ambition of homeownership,” added Ms. Lucreziano.

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The Rule Of 3 When Buying A Home (VIDEO)

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When it comes to buying a home, there are many factors to consider and the decision is likely not going to be an easy one.

In this episode of All Things Money (ATM), host Nicole Victoria provides her advice for being successful with regards to purchasing a property.

One major component the Money Coach highlights is the importance of separating what is nice to have against what is a must-have.

In order to help navigate the tradeoffs, Victoria utilizes a rule-of-three system, using the factors of price, size and style, and location where “what the rule says is that you get to be sticky on two out of those three things.”

For more on this and other money-related tips and advice, check out the full ATM series here.

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