When I first started in real estate thirty-two years ago, the company I was with brought in Laurie Skesrit, the first Canadian to climb Mount Everest. As a motivational speaker, he was meant to inspire agents to reach the peak of their potential. I found his presentation captivating. Although I would never come to have the desire to climb Everest, the thought of such an undertaking stuck with me. The challenge most certainly peaked my interest.

About fourteen years later, a colleague in my office was preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa with Summits of Hope, a charity for Children’s Hospital. I remember being so in awe of his determination. He was taking donations to place flags on the top of the mountain and, since my father had recently passed away, I purchased a flag in my dad’s honour. I thought at the time that if this fellow realtor could do such a climb perhaps one day I could as well.

Years later the premier of our province, Gordon Campbell, did the same Kilimanjaro climb and it was then that I started to think I should give it a try. The climb is not technical in nature, no crampons, ropes or crevices to overcome, but the mountain is 19,450 feet high so problems with altitude can be an issue. I started talking openly about it and finally decided it would be my goal for my sixtieth birthday. My husband and I planned the trip and then started hiking in preparation.

In Tanzania, hiking Kilimanjaro is a highly regulated enterprise that provides employment, so we were joined on our excursion by two guides, a cook and a server, and ten porters. Imagine having a crew of fourteen for just the two of us! When we arrived at the base of Kilimanjaro I was terrified, but I knew that like any goal worth achieving it would require a lot of hard work. For the next eight nights my husband and I slept in a small tent and our only other shelter was the occasional use of a dining tent that doubled as a sleeping space for some of the porters. We were fed well and guided every minute of the day. The daily treks were hard and we were constantly instructed to move slowly to allow our bodies to adjust to the altitude. On day five we approached a solid rock wall to overcome but the narrowest of paths allowed us to safely traverse.

On day six we reached the base camp and went to bed early knowing we would be woken at 11:30 pm to get dressed and prepare to summit (we slept in most of our clothing anyway because it was so cold). We left our camp in the dark with our two guides, one in front and one behind. We had headlamps on to illuminate the trail and we were dressed as warmly as possible. One slow step at a time up a very steep 4.5 km trail got us to Stella point in just over five hours. The wind was blowing and our Camelback watering tubes were frozen solid, but we made it. We had another forty-five minute hike to Uhuru point (the peak of Kibo, the highest of the three Kilimanjaro craters) but that last kilometer was much easier and, despite the altitude, I was so excited I was practically skipping to the top. It certainly helped that, as we were making the last push, a beautiful African sunrise greeted us.

We reached the summit sign post, hugged our guides, took the obligatory photos and then had a good look around. It was an amazing view of the glaciers, the crater, and beyond. We were so thrilled to have made it - what a wonderful feeling. We probably stayed less than fifteen minutes because of the cold and altitude but it was with pure elation that we headed back down to the base camp. Thankfully, the altitude was never a big problem for my husband or myself with only slight symptoms on various days. The next morning, as we headed out for our last ten-kilometer hike to the exit gate and the bus back to our hotel, I can say that it was one of the happier days of my life.

I understand that hiking Kilimanjaro might not be for everyone, but everyone has aspirations. For me, deciding to take on the challenge, executing a plan, and achieving my objective, was a richly rewarding experience. I encourage you to find your Kilimanjaro - it is worth every minute.

N.B. - One of the things I learned throughout our travels in Africa is the high levels of unemployment, and the struggle for families to provide their children an education. One of my clients is Vice-President of Operations for Power of Education Africa (POEA), a Canadian Charitable Foundation that assists girls in impoverished areas of Kenya, gain access to secondary and higher levels of education. Our business spotlight this week features POEA.    

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Mortgage Rate Update - From the Experts - What's happening with interest rates?

May 29, 2019, the Bank of Canada left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.75%, the highest rate since December 2016. The BOC has maintained this rate since late 2018. How are lenders responding to this unchanging bank rate? What might the effect be on fixed and variable rate mortgages?  We asked three local, prominent mortgage brokers who many of our clients deal with to provide their thoughts on current fixed and variable rate mortgages. 

Michael Friedman, Accredited Mortgage Professional
Bad News Is Good News?

Being that this is my 30th year in the mortgage business I have seen some highs and lows as it pertains to mortgage rates, would you believe when I started my career rates for five-year mortgages were at 11.75%, and today they are below 3%.
A common question I am asked weekly is what I think will happen with interest rates. For the record, if I or anyone truly knew for sure they would be very wealthy.
What I can tell you is that there is a direct correlation between how the Canadian, the United States, and global economies are performing and which direction rates will go, and yes if you want lower rates “Bad News Is Good News”.
At this point it would be of value for you to know where interest rates are today in relation to recent historical rates. We are going to use a five-year mortgage as our example as it is the most common mortgage requested.
As of this month, June 2019 five year mortgages are below 3%. Historically, for the past ten years a five-year mortgage has averaged close to 4%, so this puts rates today 25% below a 10-year average.
One of the main factors I believe that has pushed interest rates down in the past nine months has been the ongoing trade wars between the United States and various countries which has created some uncertainty and, in turn, pushed capital into the bond market creating the stage for lower rates.
So what does this all mean to you and me? If you are looking at taking advantage of buying a home in Vancouver’s recently adjusted real estate market, you will also be taking advantage of rock bottom historically low-interest rates. This is truly a very rare occurrence when prices have adjusted, and rates have done the same.
For others that may be renewing their upcoming mortgages, you will be able to take advantage of the current low-interest rates, but a word of warning, shop around as your current lender may not be offering you best deal.

Mike Slater of Slater Mortgages

This week the lowest 5-year fixed rates dropped back to levels last seen in 2017. Canada’s lowest 5-year fixed mortgages are now 2.69% for default insured mortgage applicants. (Insured and 25-year amortization).

What drives the fixed rate market?                                                          
It's global uncertainty that weighs on the market, 5-year bonds yields can’t get a boost. They’re now threatening to dip into the 1.40% range. (Bond yields, charted below, generally guide fixed rate mortgages)

Markets are impacted by trade wars, falling oil prices, stocks dipping and so on. It’s this kind of worries that make investors go in for the “safety” in government bonds. (Generally speaking, greater bond demand = lower yields = lower mortgage rates)

Variable Rates: Black sheep

Current demand is overwhelmingly focused towards fixed rate. Floating rates are simply not priced low enough – relative to 5-year fixed. Most investors think the rates are still heading lower.

Ultimately,  VRM (variable rate mortgage) borrowers may come out on top if the next move in the prime is down. But only a small number will gamble.

Gord Pipkey of Verico Realmortgage Services

The result of falling interest rates (fixed) is making your mortgage more affordable; however, as the stress test rate has NOT been decreased, the fact is decreasing rates has not made any difference in qualifying for a mortgage. The financial institutions are in a  situation of having to depress rates to entice enough prospective borrowers in trying to qualify them in the stress test environment.

The debate now is variable vs. fixed rates especially for those who we placed into a variable rate term for all the right reasons, when fixed rates were approx .75% higher than the variable rate. Over the course of the last 7 months fixed rates have declined by over 1%. So this maybe the time to contemplate converting your variable rate into a fixed rate.
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It's Spring and there's been a lot of talk around our office about gardening - and succulent plants in particular. What are succulents? Here are some interesting extracts from an article by Ashley Watters for Home and Gardens that give you plenty of information.

Succulents are plants that store water. Derived from the Latin word sucus, which means juice or sap, these plants are often considered to be drought-resistant. Succulents are usually characterized by thick, rubbery, or “fleshy” parts. However, there are many options and these plants come in an array of shapes, sizes, textures, and colors. Succulents are often noted for their exotic or unusual appearance.


Succulents are typically adorned with thick leaves, stems, or roots. The thicker parts of the plant are used to store water. These plants are common in geographic locations that experience high temperatures with little rainfall. They can store water to survive long periods with little or no moisture. Native to areas like deserts or steppes, these plants will usually appear swollen when preserving water.

Succulents cannot survive in freezing temperatures. While some may last through a brief spell, these plants will thrive in warmer temperatures. They are often characterized by spiky, needle-shaped or rosette-shaped leaves.

Succulents are also unusual because they propagate easily. On occasion, a new plant will even grow from a piece of fallen leaf.


In recent years, succulents have grown in popularity as houseplants and in gardens. These plants are ideal for gardeners who don’t have an immense knowledge of sophisticated gardening practices. Here are some reasons these unusual plants are easy to care for:

  • As part of their exotic nature, these plants are striking and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Succulents require little watering or pruning.
  • They are easy to transport from their native areas because of their low-maintenance nature.
  • Easy to contain, these plants can be placed in small pots and placed almost anywhere.
  • Most pests are not attracted to succulents.
  • Succulents can be planted alone or among other plants.
  • Many types of succulents are inexpensive.
  • Some, like aloe, even have alternative or medicinal uses.

For more info about succulents, or any other gardening concerns, check out the Prickly Pear Garden Centre in Steveston, featured in our Business Spotlight. The Prickly Pear has a large selection of succulents available.

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Family Day Fun



There’s an old saying we love: “Families that play together, stay together.” In a time when our work-life balance has been thrown off by constant access to email, texts and social media, it’s more important than ever to value and nurture quality time with our loved ones. 

  • Head to the Mountain: If you love playing in the snow, suit up, pack your skis/snowboards/toboggans and head to Grouse, Seymour or Whistler-Blackcomb, each of which has special deals for Family Day. Grouse is offering 50% off admission to the mountain, Whistler has half-price ski tickets Feb 12 and at Seymour, kids can ski free after 2:30pm Feb 9-11 (with a maximum of two free kids per paying adult).

  • If you relish the view but aren’t up to physical exertion, this is a great time to try the Sea to Sky Gondola, where admission is half-price Feb 10-12. And if you want your snow with fondue, head to Grouse for the Valentine’s Day Snowshoe Fondue Feb 12 and 14. The guided group snowshoe tour has a delicious chocolate fondue finale. A magical end to a Grouse Mountain evening is the Light Walk, free with the price of a lift ticket.

  • BC History Up Close: Fort Langley National Historic Site is a spectacular place to spend a half-day and learn about BC’s early history. Far from a dusty museum, this site is filled with interactive, fun exhibits that cover the fur trade, blacksmithing and barrel-making. On Family Day there will also be an opportunity to make bannock.

  • Kid-focused Fun: If your Family Day includes small kids, there’s a choice of activities in the Lower Mainland. The annual Richmond Children’s Art Festival takes place all day at the Richmond Cultural Centre, while Burnaby Village is offering unlimited carousel rides, a range of children’s art activities and entertainment 11am-2pm. Splash around at Surrey’s recreation centre pools, where family swims are free at various times. For details, visit

  • Food with a view: If you’re looking for a really special Valentine’s dinner with your loved one, book ahead for a meal on a yacht. Magic Yachts Tour, Pride of Vancouver and Vancouver Cruises are each offering impressive date-night opportunities on the water, some including live music, a good buffet and drinks.

  • Warm up your Valentine’s Day by attending the 7th annual Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival February 14. A series of cafes, bakeries and dessert shops will be participating in this rich, calorie-laden fest that runs January 19 through February 14 and raises funds for the DTE women’s job training program. Info:

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In the good old days, winter was a walk in the park. But all that’s changing in Richmond, where over the last few years our winters have been getting progressively colder. While we all know to bundle up, there are some lesser known safety hazards associated with a cold winter. Here’s what to look out for:
  • Leave it outside: If the power’s out and you need to barbecue, do it outside, even in inclement weather. Never bring your gas grill or your generator (if you have one) inside for the winter – as both emit carbon monoxide that could be fatal if they are used in a small space.
  • Stock up ahead: particularly on essentials like a good snow shovel and a de-icer product you can spread on your walkways after ice has formed. An ecologically healthy de-icer will create the traction you need without corroding concrete or toxifying your plants.
  • Get it Delivered: If you find yourself snowbound this winter and need to stock up on groceries, place an online order with Save-On Foods. For a minimal fee Save-On will package your online order and deliver it to your door.
  • Concerned about flooding during heavy rain? It helps to know the Public Works Yard at 5599 Lynas Lane has materials for sandbags in case you need them. For info call (604) 244-1262
  • It sounds simple but how many of us really know how to manually override our electric garage doors? In the event of a power outage, knowing how to release your car from the garage is crucial. Hint: look for the cord with the red plastic handle and pull hard.
  • Drive Safe(r): Forget cruise control in slippery, icy or wet driving conditions, as if your car is on cruise it will take you longer to slow down if/when you need to. Drive slower than usual, and if you feel your vehicle slide or fishtail, always steer into the slide.
  • If your car is covered with snow, never sit inside with the vehicle running unless you’ve cleared the snow from your exhaust. Carbon monoxide unable to escape through the exhaust could potentially make its way into your vehicle with fatal consequences. 
  • If you have an alternative to driving in severe weather conditions, rather play it safe than getting behind the wheel. According to ICBC, casualty crashes in the Lower Mainland increase on average by 21 percent from Fall to Winter. Don’t push your driving skills to the limit if you have a choice.
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          As a feeling of festivity descends on our community in the weeks and months before the winter holidays, don’t get too cozy just yet. There’s work to be done if you want to be properly prepared for the cold season and as always, advance preparation is key. Winterizing includes a host of activities – some fun, some geared at safety – but all of them necessary if you’re going to make it comfortably to the Spring. Here are our top tips.


  • Book those Santa photos early! Preparation is crucial to avoid long lines that result in cranky, scowling kids on your annual Christmas pics. Check mall websites to find out when Santa will be visiting and secure a date and time early to make this event fun, happy and memorable for all the right reasons!

  • Winterize your car for the cold season early so you’re ready for the snow. Four matched winter tires with tread no less than 3.5 mm are ideal and new winter wiper blades will remove snow and ice buildup from your windshield more easily and effectively than your old ones.

  • List-making is key if you’re to survive the holiday shopping expeditions. Know exactly who you’re shopping for, budget for each gift and start early so you’re not wading through the mall at the eleventh hour. If you can’t bear the thought of shopping on foot, do it online. Here again, timeliness is key as deliveries in holiday months are more likely to experience delays.

  • Get that flu shot! Yep, it’s the task you keep delaying because no-one enjoys a jab in the arm with a sharp needle. But the flu shot could be your answer to a flu-free winter, which is an exceptional alternative to the prospect of a runny nose and a cold-heavy head.

  • Check your fire and carbon monoxide detectors! If they’re more than five years old, consider  replacing them because a faulty detector is both silent and deadly.

  • Gutter talk: Full gutters means an accumulation of unwanted water in the rainy season, which can damage your roof, siding and wood trim as well as causing leaks. This is the time, before the storms arrive, to make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and waste.

  • Door Décor: a wreath on the door makes a bold statement about the mood just beyond your doorstep. Head to Michael’s to pick up a few basic crafting supplies and make this a fun DIY project with your family. Choose pine branches to add scent and consider drying the last of your Fall flowers to use as décor. Pinterest is full of great wreath ideas and with a base, some ribbon and a little creativity you can easily build a wreath that’s decorative, fragrant and cheerful.
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 As our glowing summer suntans recede and we brace ourselves for the crisp autumn air it’s time to start thinking about Halloween and the earthy fall comforts it brings. For home décor enthusiasts, Halloween promises beautiful pumpkin displays on our dinner tables and brimming pots of mums in our back yards. This is the time of year to frequent farmers’ markets for corn cobs, squash, apples and other fall produce straight from our fertile fields. Steveston Highway’s Richmond Country Farms ( is a great venue for Fall harvest produce and décor, and its famous pumpkin patch starts October 7 – an annual highlight for the under-five crowd with music, a petting zoo and fields littered with orange pumpkins.

There’s something celebratory about Fall and it’s a feeling that culminates with Halloween and the excitement it brings to our streets. This year consider bringing your neighbours together on Halloween for a communal hot chocolate outdoors while the kids trick or treat nearby. One Steveston neighbourhood has continued this tradition for years, gathering the grownups in the driveway for a warming beverage as ghosts, ghouls and goblins fired by too much candy, walk by. A get-together like this doesn’t take much planning – a few flasks of hot chocolate, some disposable cups and a sign on a shared mailbox is often all that’s required. But it brings people beyond their front doors, fostering relationships and conversations that might otherwise not occur.

If you have pumpkin carving enthusiasts in your household, remember to save those pumpkin seeds as the carving takes place. Roasted with salt at 400F, those seeds make a healthy, tasty treat. When you display your pumpkins, consider illuminating them with a flashlight or tea light instead of a lit candle, to avoid fire hazards. And if you’re keeping them indoors sprinkle the insides with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to add a great fall scent to your interior.

The dark and the cold go hand in hand this time of year, so it’s more important than ever to keep our families safe. If you’re sending trick or treaters out onto the streets, be sure to decorate their costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers so they are clearly visible to drivers. Glow sticks or flashlights are useful and plastic or rubber masks that obscure children’s vision should be avoided at all costs. Send kids out in groups, preferably in the company of at least one adult when they trick or treat, and stay away from darkened doorways, a sure sign that that particular household is not welcoming visitors.   

Our office sends greeting for a warm, safe, happy Halloween to you and your family.
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One of the biggest challenges, as we accumulate more things, is where, exactly, to store them. Once you’ve decluttered, reorganized and pared down you still need a place for these items. This is where you have to get creative, scheduling time to examine your home carefully for storage space that’s not being maximized.

Gear Up the Garage
If you have a garage, there’s a good chance it’s underutilized. Frequently the least-cared-for room in a house, the garage tends to be the dumping ground for a huge assortment of things, from extra groceries to car parts, seasonal sports equipment, nuts and bolts and everything in-between. The garage is a large space, though, and with good organization it can serve you well.

  • Bike bliss: bikes leaned against the wall are a recipe for disaster. Major hardware retailers have an array of better solutions for bikes, including hooks that allow you to suspend them vertically from one wheel off the ground. This way they’re secure, out of harm’s way and easily accessible when you’re ready for a ride.
  • Storage: If you can afford it, consider asking a professional to create custom-designed storage space in your garage. There are outfitters who provide head-to-toe storage solutions that will make you so proud of your garage’s efficiency you won’t want to close the door! If you can’t justify the financial outlay there are less expensive options. Chances are you have shelving or retired cabinets you can repurpose on your garage walls. If you don’t, consider a visit to the ReStore in Vancouver, where other people’s retired shelving is readily available for prices so cheap you won’t believe it.

Examine Your Attic
One of the most creative storage solutions I ever saw was that of a Steveston couple who built their own attic. They cut an opening in their bedroom ceiling and installed a pull-down staircase (available at major hardware retailers). Then they added makeshift flooring and lighting up there. The end result was a large square footage readily available for items like luggage, clothes not required until the next season, the sewing machine they weren’t ready to part with, crafting supplies and other things that had previously been cluttering their small house. If you have a DIY guy in the house, this is the perfect challenge. If not, consider hiring someone to build your attic.


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Summertime is all about celebrating, and in Richmond, we have so much to celebrate. There’s the joy of nurturing close friendships and family ties, the kind of weather that makes us long for swimsuits and a day at the beach, and a local harvest of mouthwatering ingredients all raised, caught or processed in our very own backyards.

This is the time to pay weekly visits to the Farmers’ Market, head off the beaten track to the U-Pick farms for an hour of sublime berry picking and trek down to Steveston Wharf for seafood fresh off the dock. Pick your favourite proteins in Steveston, where Heringers and D Sausage Haus offer a selection of tantalizing options. Consider a pint of ice cream or gelato for dessert. Now add a quiet, shady backyard and a bottle of wine from the Okanagan and you have the perfect combination for an idyllic, made-in-Richmond meal experience.

If you’re not in the mood to stand over a barbecue, consider a patio meal at one of Richmond’s best spots. The Delta Hotel’s Pier 73 has a massive patio overlooking the Fraser River, a locally-focused menu and a selection of comfy outdoor furniture suitable for lounging languidly all afternoon over a beer, or gathering with friends for a classy dinner. If you’re a seaplane enthusiast, the Flying Beaver promises great entertainment. It boasts a view of seaplanes taking off and landing all day long, and its menu accommodates brunch, lunch and dinner in a casual environment - with large servings of Canadian comfort food.

Take a kid and a kite to Garry Park on a breezy day, or head to Terra Nova’s Adventure Park to try out the zip lines. Bike along the river if you’re looking for a good workout, or revisit the historic sites at Imperial Landing, - just one of Richmond’s charming, free-of-charge experiences.
However, you plan to celebrate, be sure to taste our city’s bounty and rejoice in its sunshine this summer. A few short months from now we’ll be longing for the long, lazy days of summer, the warm evening nights and the luxury of outdoor meals in our lush backyards!

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