Greater Vancouver Real Estate Market Statistics – July 2018

Here are the latest real estate market statistics from Macdonald Realty on the Greater Vancouver listings and sales in July 2018.

Vancouver-West

In the Vancouver Westside, there were 57 sales of detached homes and 858 active listings at the end of the month. The benchmark sale price was $3,356,500, with average days on market of 54. The hottest markets for sales were Dunbar, Kitsilano and Southlands with 7 sales each.

In comparison, the condo market had 295 sales, 1,203 active listings and a benchmark sale price of $835,200 with an average of 26 days on market. The hottest market for sales was Downtown VW, 55. sales.

Townhome sales were 39, active listings were 198. The benchmark sale price was $1,288,600 with an average days on market of 29. Kitsilano with 8 sales was the hottest market of the month.

It’s a buyer’s market for houses in Vancouver-West.

MarketHotSheet_July2018_VancouverWest

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How to Buy in Vancouver

First, you’ll want to understand the taxes you’re going to pay

It is impossible to think about buying in Vancouver as a foreigner without considering the now- infamous tax on foreign buyers and speculators introduced in 2016 to make housing in the region more affordable and cool down an extremely hot market.

In Vancouver, foreigners pay a 20% tax on top of the purchase price. The tax was introduced because of the perception that Vancouver, the most expensive market in Canada, was becoming a parking ground for global capital.

Now approaching the end of the second year, many say the tax has not had its intended effect. Jerry Wang, of MacDonald Realty, a luxury brokerage in Vancouver, said that although the tax slowed the market at the beginning, foreign buyers are back in the game.

The largest island offers proximity to a 180-mile long For the luxury “Buyers can get a mortgage fairly easily, and relatively speaking, the price point for the Vancouver area is still very reasonable,” Mr. Wang said, compared to other large cities around the world.

He said his clients have just shifted to a slightly lower price bracket to account for the tax, and are still “buying at a discount.” They also still buy at the high end. “This year we have seen so many properties over C$10 million (US$7.7 million) sold in Vancouver,” he said. “Most of them are to Chinese families still wanting to be here.”

Because of the tax, he added, it is “properties in the middle that are suffering,” referring to those in the “affordable luxury” range.

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Big Fat Deal: $11 Million to be a Minimalist in Kerrisdale

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Each week, BCBusiness takes you inside one of the most outrageously upmarket real estate offerings in the province

Address: 6485 Cedarhurst Street, Kerrisdale

Price: $10,998,000

Listing: R2234536

The skinny: Five-bedroom, seven-bathroom, 6,481-square-foot house on a 15,847-square-foot lot in Kerrisdale.

The bling: OK, it’s time to get with the times and leave the frou-frou behind. Yes, we know you love your frills and fancies, your chintz and your shag, but being a person of high net worth brings with it responsibilities. What? This is news to you? Don’t panic, we aren’t coming after your non-declared income or your shady shell companies. There’s no shorting your market up our sleeves, honest. We just think you should be aware that if you really want to look good around town right now, you should try living in a sleek, modern box with sliding windows for walls and (extremely expensive) natural materials that downplay your wealth rather than all that Italian marble and Svarowski crystal you’ve been bedecking your space with for decades. Seriously, dude, minimalism shows you’ve got so much money to burn you don’t have to prove it. You can clad your walls with wood and shower among lumps of raggedy rock, and people will think you have style. Sure, the through draft of indoor/outdoor living and that fabulous skinny pool are only really of value maybe two months of a Vancouver year, but that in itself shows your reserves are bottomless. And anyway, a dozen more patio heaters screwing up the environment isn’t your problem. Right? Rich people responsible? We were only joking.

The hidden extras: Wok room, media room, wine cellar, gym, air conditioning (because you might not want to, you know, open one of those great big wall windows and you deserve to live in a climate-controlled world).

This article was originally posted on BCBusiness on May 17, 2018. Written by Fiona Morrow 

 

Squamish, Whistler and Sunshine Coast Real Estate Market Statistics – April 2018

Here are the latest real estate market statistics from Macdonald Realty on Squamish, Whistler, and Sunshine Coast listings and sales in April 2018.

Squamish

In April 2018, there were 24 sales of detached homes and 125 active listings in Squamish. The benchmark sale price was $1,024,900 with an average days on market of 36.

The Condo market had 12 sales and 51 active listings at the end of the month.  The benchmark sale price was $544,400 with an average days on market of 31.

Townhome sales were 16 sales, active listings were 21. The benchmark sale price was $937,800 and the average days on market were 18.

It’s a seller’s market for townhomes.

MarketHotSheet_April2018_Squamish

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Greater Vancouver Real Estate Market Statistics – April 2018

Here are the latest real estate market statistics from Macdonald Realty on the Greater Vancouver listings and sales in April 2018.

Vancouver-West

In the Vancouver Westside, there were 71 sales of detached homes and 874 active listings at the end of the month. The benchmark sale price was $3,404,200, with average days on market of 50. The hottest markets for sales were Point Grey and Dunbar with 10 and 11 sales respectively.

In comparison, the condo market had 351 sales, 928 active listings and a benchmark sale price of $841,700 with an average of 19 days on market. The hottest market for sales was Downtown VW, 72 sales.

Townhome sales were 42, active listings were 169. The benchmark sale price was $1,302,200 with an average days on market of 21. Kitsilano with 12 sales was the hottest market of the month.

It’s a seller’s market for condos and townhomes in Vancouver-West.

MarketHotSheet_April2018_VancouverWest

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Let your situation — and not the signs — direct real estate decisions | Vancouver Sun

With Lunar New Year beginning on Friday, Vancouver realtor Grace Kwok smiles and notes that this year’s zodiac figure — it’s the Year of the Dog — carries with it advice that she would follow year in and year out in the world of real estate: Consider your needs first before consulting the stars.

Under Chinese zodiac lore, if you were born in a Year of the Dog, one of the 12-year cycle of signs, you possess the best traits of human nature. According to the website, www.yourchineseastrology.com, you are honest, friendly, faithful, loyal, smart, straightforward, and you have a strong sense of responsibility.

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Foreign buyers not swayed by 15-per-cent housing tax, data show | The Globe and Mail

Condos in the Gilmore area of Burnaby are seen in the distance behind houses in east Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday September 20, 2015.

The proportion of foreign buyers in the Vancouver region is at its highest level since the province’s 15-per-cent tax on these purchasers came into effect a year ago, with experts and industry insiders saying international interest is strong in the surging condo market and the suburbs of Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey.

Provincial government data released on Tuesday show foreign buyers accounted for 5 per cent of homes bought in Metro Vancouver in September, with Richmond and Burnaby showing the highest levels, at 10.8 per cent and 9.6 per cent respectively. In Surrey, the city in the region where the most properties changed hands, the rate of foreign buyers more than tripled from August to September – jumping from 1.7 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

Although it is too early to say whether the September data represent a new baseline for the level of foreign buyers in the region, industry insiders and academics say these numbers are likely related to the region’s surging condo prices, which are driving Greater Vancouver’s real estate market in the wake of slowing sales in the once-mighty segment of detached houses.

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B.C. takes aim at shadow flipping in the real estate market

Business News Network (BNN) speaks with Jonathan Cooper of Macdonald Real Estate Group on the BC government’s new regulations aimed at what is called “shadow flipping”. While the aim is to further protect sellers in residential real estate transactions, just how much of an effect will this move have on the hot housing market?

Click the video to watch.

(To view the video on mobile devices, please click here.)
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Macdonald Realty CEO Lynn Hsu recognized in the 2016 Swanepoel Power 200 List

Macdonald Realty’s President and CEO Lynn Hsu has been included in the Swanepoel™ annual list of The Most Powerful People in Residential Real Estate for 2016.

Ms. Hsu’s acquisition of Macdonald Realty in 1990 coincided with Vancouver’s emergence as an Asian hub on the international stage. She has subsequently grown the firm to 20 offices throughout British Columbia (Canada) with nearly 1,000 agents responsible for an estimated $5 billion in annual sales.

Lynn Hsu, recognized for growing Macdonald Realty from one office in 1990 to 20 offices and nearly 1000 agents 25 years later, is listed as #105 for the Power 200. This is the overall SP200 list which identifies the 200 leaders that have the most power and influence to impact the residential real estate brokerage industry.

In addition Lynn Hsu ranks in the Top 20 on their Women Leaders list, along with Pam O’Connor of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, our global network of market-leading independent brokerages. We’re also happy to see Stephanie Pfeffer Anton of Luxury Portfolio International® and LeadingRE named #1 in the Top 20 Social Influencers of Residential Real Estate.  Our friend and colleague Paul Boomsma, President of Luxury Portfolio International® also made the Power 200 list.

View the complete 2016 Swanepoel Power 200 lists.

 

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Big Fat Deal: This is what $15 million will buy you in Vancouver | BCBusiness

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Each week, BCBusiness takes you inside one of the most outrageously upmarket real estate offerings in the province in their Big Fat Deal real estate blog.

Price: $14,988,000
Address: 1268 Tecumseh Avenue, Vancouver
MLS: V1100762
Listing agents: Erin Mulhern and Manyee Lui at Macdonald Realty Ltd. in Vancouver

Custom built in 1984 with a Georgian design, this 7,000-sq.-ft. residence’s stately grandeur matches its location just off Vancouver’s exclusive Crescent enclave in the city’s First Shaughnessy district. For history buffs, the Crescent has always been synonymous with wealth and power, being the preferred address of lieutenant governors and the city’s elite over the past century.

Fast forward to present day and the area still holds cache with numerous august homes and estate-sized lots. This gated residence is described by listing agents Erin Mulhern and Manyee Lui as “simply exquisite” with a beautifully appointed interior that starts with a dramatic foyer accented by 18-foot ceilings and a sweeping double staircase leading to a galleried landing that sets the tone for the rest of the home.

The kitchen counts professional-line appliances while an expansive great room with vaulted and coffered ceilings provides an outlook that spans the entire south-facing garden. A butler’s pantry serves as a connection between the kitchen and the dining room, where mirrored ceiling panels and a chandelier add a touch of glamour.

The formal 23-foot living room can easily accommodate a baby grand piano, while hardwood floors flow through to the adjoining study where wainscoted walls imbued with a deep red gloss add a further notch on the imperial chart.

The upper level is home to four bedrooms including a private master wing endowed with the required walk-in closet and a spa-like ensuite bathroom complete with a rain head shower and bench seating, plus a stainless-steel freestanding bathtub. A one-bedroom suite above the three-car garage provides additional accommodation.

Pull up a chair in the recreation room downstairs where a well-stocked bar and separate wine cellar will keep the libation flowing, or decamp into the media room for movie watching.

Multiple french doors lead out into a garden oasis with large terraces that are perfect for summer entertaining, and a swimming pool and a tennis court for friendly—or more serious—competition.

This article was originally posted on BCBusiness, April 24th, 2015.  Written by Nicola Way.

Nicola Way runs the property listing sites BestHomesBC.com and AssignmentsCanada.ca.

BC assessments show strong appreciation in Vancouver single-family home values | The Vancouver Sun with Dan Scarrow

Metro Vancouver homeowners have grown accustomed to healthy increases on their annual BC Assessment notices, which are now landing in mailboxes.

What’s new this year is that condo values are also rising in the region, after a few flat years that saw condo construction outpace homebuyer demand.

“Condominiums, that’s apartments and townhouses, up until 2014 had been relatively flat over three years,” said Cameron Muir, chief economist of the B.C. Real Estate Association.

Over 2014, however, Muir said condo sale prices have risen in step with inflation. Condo prices in Vancouver and its nearer suburbs were up about two per cent as of July, when B.C. Assessment sets its values for the next year’s assessment roll.

Single-family home values were up a more substantial 6.5 per cent, Muir said, but some of the condo valuations were a departure from the previous year.

“We’re probably looking, in Vancouver, at sales (increases) of 16 to 17 per cent in 2014,” Muir said, “so, there’s much stronger demand, and we’re also seeing inventory levels steadily decline.”

B.C. Assessment doesn’t produce average assessment values for property types in Lower Mainland markets but does highlight representative examples.

In Vancouver, a typical east-side two-bedroom apartment increased 4.7 per cent to $381,000, from $364,000 a year earlier.

On Vancouver’s west side, values for a typical two-bedroom apartment rose 7.5 per cent (to $616,000), in line with the growth in value of a detached home on a 33-foot lot (up 7.5 per cent to $1.575 million).

In its real estate assessments a year ago, B.C. Assessment had highlighted decreasing condominium values in the range of four to five per cent — the second consecutive year that condo prices declined or offered minimal increases.

“Changes within a plus or minus five per cent range, that’s what we categorize as stable,” said Dharmesh Sisodraker, B.C. Assessment’s deputy assessor for the Vancouver Sea to Sky region, which takes in Vancouver and the North Shore all the way to Whistler.

Assessments, which are used by municipalities to set property taxes, tend to lag the overall market by the time they are released.

In east Vancouver, a typical detached house on a 33-foot lot saw an increase of 11.3 per cent, to $993,000.

In Vancouver Heights, typical detached home prices rose five per cent to $955,000.

“(Condominium) prices are still under pressure versus detached homes, mostly because there is so much (condominium) product on the market,” explained Ray Harris, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, and the increases in condo prices are “sporadic.”

In Metro Vancouver, demand for new condos has been in high-growth areas linked to rapid transit, such as the Marine Gateway development at Cambie and Marine in Vancouver or the Metrotown and Brentwood town centres in Burnaby.

“If a complex is in demand and there are not a lot of units in the market, you can get more of a lift,” Harris said.

Suburbs such as Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody — communities either on SkyTrain, or where SkyTrain is being built — are among those that have seen modest increases in the range of two to three per cent.

However, the gains weren’t shared equally and some spots still showed decreasing assessment values. B.C. Assessment cited an example at Simon Fraser University’s UniverCity development, where the assessed value of a two-bedroom highrise unit declined 2.5 per cent from 2014.

“There are a few pockets where values decreased slightly,” said Zina Weston, a deputy assessor for B.C. Assessment in its North Fraser region, which takes in the eastern suburbs closest to Vancouver.

“If there is a lot of building that comes on in a short period of time in a finite area, there might be some (downward) pressure on pricing,” Weston said.

Harris added that condo owners trying to re-sell are having a tougher time because developers are selling new units at lower prices than they would be if the market were stronger.

Condo values also declined in Fraser Valley suburbs from Langley to Chilliwack, where single-family home prices are in the reach of more buyers.

Dan Scarrow, a vice-president at Macdonald Realty in Vancouver, added that some municipalities are more encouraging to condo developers and “as a result of that, maybe some areas tend to get overbuilt.”

“Then, in some municipalities, say Vancouver, it is more difficult to get a project off the ground, but demand is actually quite high,” Scarrow added.

Markets that rely on recreational property sales — such as Whistler, the Okanagan and Kootenays, where sales collapsed and values declined following the 2008 recession — also took part in some of the rebound in 2015 assessments.

B.C. Assessment cited examples in Kelowna where assessments were up from four to seven per cent. In Whistler, a typical home in the White Gold area increased in value 7.4 per cent, to $1.06 million.

 

Homeowners can look up their assessments on the B.C. Assessment website.

This article was originally posted on The Vancouver Sun, January 3, 2015.  Written by Derrik Penner.

What Changes to Immigrant Investor Program Means for Vancouver Real Estate | by Dan Scarrow, Macdonald Realty

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Last month, Canada announced the cancellation of the Immigrant Investor Program along with its 65,000 applicant backlog. Some analysts have predicted that this will have a negative effect on our housing market and the media has picked up on this sensationalist narrative. We here at Macdonald Realty have been following the situation closely as there is certainly some merit to the theories that these analysts have.

To start, the immigration investor program was introduced in mid 1980s by the federal government to promote the immigration of business people and their families. Quebec subsequently negotiated with the federal government to have its own, parallel program. The investor program enables qualified investors to obtain permanent resident status in Canada and are then eligible to obtain Canadian citizenship after residing in Canada for a number of years. To be qualified for this program (prior to the cancellation), applicants needed to have at least two (2) years of business management experience, have minimum net worth of CDN$1,600,000 and make an investment of CDN$800,000 (interest free loan to the government for 5 years), and meet certain health and security requirements. The federal government admitted about 2500 families per year (with Quebec admitting a similar number) under this program. For the past 8 years the main source of investor applicants are multi-millionaires business people from China and most of these immigrants purchased properties in some of Macdonald Realty’s market areas.

But let’s put some things in perspective first:

  1. In the most recent set of data available (2012), Canada admitted 257,887 immigrants
  2. Of these 257,887 people, 2,616 families, representing 9,350 people, entered via the Immigrant Investor category (3.6%)
  3. Quebec continues to run a parallel Investor Immigrant category that (as of now) continues to process applicants at roughly the same number as the now-discontinued Federal Program (roughly 2,500 families/year)
  4. Canada now has a 10-year, multiple entry VISA that many immigrants in the queue may find even more attractive than citizenship
  5. Canada has announced that they will be replacing the discontinued program with a new one (but apparently not the Quebec one), although details have yet to be announced

So if that’s it, why all of the fuss?

  1. The vast majority of applicants in this category were from mainland China and have large fortunes
  2. The majority of these applicants were likely planning on residing in the Lower Mainland, specifically Richmond, West Vancouver, and the Westside of Vancouver
  3. Most of these applicants would have (or already have) bought a substantial house/condo in these areas
  4. If, for example, 2,000 families each buy a $1 million house, that’s $2 billion in foregone investment in a relatively small market area. Every year.

So on the face of it, it seems as though there is certainly the potential for a correction, but remember, this is foregone FUTURE investment. The money that has already entered the housing market will likely stay here. If there were rampant speculation happening in the lead up to this announcement, we would be worried, but our data shows that speculation has been at a relative low point for several years now after a flurry from 2008 – 2010.

The key question that everyone is trying to answer is how will this impact the housing market moving forward.

The reaction of our immigration consultant contacts in China has been surprisingly muted. Most have already diversified away from Canada and are now focused on the US immigration programs, although they say that, all things being equal, Canada (meaning Greater Vancouver) is still a preferred destination. Some of their clients who were in the Federal Program queue had, because of the long processing times, already given up on Canada and applied to other countries anyway. Others, whose hearts are set on Canada, may find different, admittedly constrained, methods to immigrate (the British Columbia “Provincial Nominee Program, as “international students” for children, 10-year multiple-entry visas, or the revamped federal investor program).  Surprisingly, few China-based immigration consultants express much concern about Vancouver’s housing market.

Our view therefore is that, while there will certainly be some affect from these changes, they will be only another variable in a host of factors that affect BC’s housing market.

This view is shared by others, including respected immigration lawyer, Dave Thomas:

“Will this affect the Vancouver real estate market?

I don’t believe it will.  Firstly, the Investor program has effectively been closed for almost 3 years now.  Quebec also has an Investor program but it had drastically limited its intake of new files.  So even though the immigration route has slowed, we have not seen the slowdown in the movement of capital out of China.  There are more “Chinese push reasons” than “Vancouver pull reason” for that capital to make its way here, regardless of current immigration programs.

Historically, the business immigration programs for “wealthy immigrants” only made up about 2-3% of the total number of immigrants coming to Canada each year. Admittedly, their presence in places like Vancouver was more apparent, especially when it came to high end real estate.

There are other ways to come into Canada. Younger people are coming as students, and then availing themselves of post-graduation work permits that lead to permanent residence.  Younger people with good English language skills and a job offer will have a good chance.

One negative trend, certainly, is that older immigrants with limited English skills will have more difficulty in immigrating to Canada, no matter how much money they have.”

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Vancouverism: How Vancouver Invented Itself | UrbanLand by Patrick Kiger

“Vancouverism” is now synonymous with tower-podium architecture, green space, and breathtaking views. But the much-admired Canadian city’s real secret of success may be its value-based development process.

It’s a measure of the universal appeal of Vancouver that more than 7,200 miles (11,600 km) away, on the other side of the planet, one of the city’s designer-developers was hired to create a fastidious replica of it. The United Arab Emirates’ Dubai Marina, developed by Vancouverite Stanley Kwok and erected in what once was an empty stretch of the Great Arabian Desert, seems to lack only picturesque mountains, a harbor, and coastal British Columbia’s temperate climate. “It’s almost a perfect clone of downtown Vancouver,” urban designer and architectural historian-critic Trevor Boddy has written. “Right down to the handrails on the seawall, the skinny condo towers on townhouse bases, all around a 100 percent artificial, full-scale version of False Creek filled with seawater from the Persian Gulf.”

The Emirates’ commissioning of an ersatz Vancouver may be the biggest homage paid to the city, but others have sung its praises as well. “Modernist, sustainable, and performative—is this the model for the future city?” the Guardian, a British newspaper, once asked. The Seattle Times once called it “a glittery, mini-Manhattan, but cleaner and far more livable.”

In terms of both aesthetics and livability, Vancouver is one of the world’s most widely admired cities—a place where the skyline has been painstakingly designed to preserve striking views of the mountains and harbor, where high-density residential neighborhoods are mixed with green space to create a walking-scale environment in which cars are an afterthought.

But while planners and developers elsewhere seek to copy the salient features of what has come to be known as “Vancouverism,” those involved in the shaping of modern Vancouver caution that there is more to it than just view corridors, slim towers juxtaposed with mid-rise development and bike paths, or the breathtaking natural environment. Instead, they say, the real secret of Vancouver’s success has been its deliberative, values-driven evolutionary process, in which local government planners, developers, and the citizenry have labored over the past few decades to form a consensus vision of what their city should be like—and then come up with creative solutions for achieving it.

“The urban form we’ve developed here is resilient,” says Gordon Price, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University, and a city councillor from 1986 to 2002. “It keeps reinventing itself. What stays the same are the values.”

Defying the Car Culture

If there’s one thing that Vancouver is known for, it’s the view of the mountains and the water. Or rather, the multitude of views, which are protected by regulations compelling architects and builders to work around 27 different view corridors that pass through the city. The necessity of protecting those spaces has resulted in a multitude of carefully spaced towers that tend to have smaller floor plates than those in most North American cities. “Vancouver handles its tall buildings better than most cities,” Australian travel writer Kari Gislason wrote in 2012, adding that “the effect on the eye is that the city always seems to be making its way to the water.”

In addition to the public view corridors, Vancouver goes to lengths to protect private views. Proposed apartment towers, for example, must undergo a complex computer analysis to ensure that they don’t affect the vantage point of residents in nearby buildings. Otherwise, “you could have spent $600,000 on an apartment, only to have someone build a building across from it and block your view and cause you to lose half of your value,” explains Larry Beasley, who was codirector of planning for Vancouver during the 1990s and early 2000s. “The city isn’t going to let that happen.”

Vancouver is so committed to protecting its visual beauty that in 2010, city council not only voted to preserve existing corridors, but also added two more.
“We’ve created a visually interesting city,” Beasley adds. “You’ve got the views of the mountains and the water, but you also can see into the city as well. There are some fascinating views in that direction.”

Vancouver’s view corridors are just one of the strictures in what is arguably the most heavily regulated development space in North America. But while there have been periodic complaints that the process has slowed Vancouver’s growth, it doesn’t necessarily stifle creativity. Case in point: architect Arno Matis’s Vertical Forest building, recently approved for construction at the intersection of Main Street and Kings­way in the city’s Mount Pleasant area. The building’s design incorporates six different geometric forms, which not only conform to view corridor regulations but also provide angles that will allow for production of passive solar heating and cooling. The architect and developer, Amir Virani, had to go through an 18-month process that included not only scrutiny by city planners but also meetings with neighborhood residents—who reportedly urged Matis to create an edgier, more innovative design. “One of their key concerns was that we avoid another ‘cookie-cutter tower,’ ” Matis recently told the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper.

The view corridors “are really only one small detail that illustrates the value system we have,” explains Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s chief planner from 2006 to 2012. “We think constantly about our access to nature, how we connect to the mountains and the water. Vancouver used to be described as a setting in search of a city, but over several generations, we’ve been striving to develop a city that’s worthy of the setting.”

As a relatively isolated city that developed later than most other major urban areas on the continent, Vancouver had a chance to learn from everyone else’s mistakes, Lance Berelowitz writes in his 2009 book, Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination. “It was largely bypassed by the worst of North American urban renewal—freeways, elevated and underground pedestrian systems, huge shopping malls, big-box retail, oversized curvilinear dead-end streets in place of the traditional street grid,” he says.

One salient feature of Vancouver, for example, is that—unlike many other major cities—it is not surrounded and bisected by freeways. The city escaped that fate in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when municipal officials of the time—who, like their counterparts elsewhere, feared urban stagnation and decay—proposed a massive urban renewal project that would have obliterated historic neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Gastown to build elevated throughways.

“The citizens rose up and said, ‘No way,’ ” recalls Beasley, who was a college student at the time. “The politicians who were behind it were turned out of office.”

That rebellion—driven by a youthful, idealistic Vancouver counterculture that would later spawn the environmental organization Greenpeace—created a new mandate. Vancouver, founded in the late 1880s as a port and railroad center for the region’s timber and mineral wealth, was still a Victorian-style urban village, and residents wanted it to re­­main that way, instead of morphing hastily into a typically car-centric modern metropolis.

The rebels got their way: Four decades later, Vancouver is “still this old streetcar city,” explains former city councillor Price. “It still works in the pattern that was laid out in that era. People get around by walking and cycling and taking public transit—enough so that the car doesn’t dominate the way it does in Calgary or Phoenix.”

By the same token, though, Price says it’s a mistake to assume that Vancouver has waged “a war on the car,” as some critics have charged. “There’s a place for cars, but they have to be part of the mix. But people have gotten used to not having them.” He cites the example of one condo complex, where the developer provided two parking spaces per unit—only to discover, after the building was occupied, that a quarter of the spaces went unused.

While municipal officials had to honor residents’ desire to maintain the urban-village lifestyle, the consensus also enabled them to design a city that worked to achieve those goals. In the 1970s, then–planning chief Ray Spaxman favored the sort of urban development he had seen in his native England, and developers packed the city’s West End with apartment buildings. Vancouverites were willing to accept mixed-use neighborhoods with population densities that might have been resisted elsewhere—in part, because the city also offered amenities such as 1,000-acre (405 ha) Stanley Park, which University of British Columbia urban designer and historian Boddy describes as “the largest downtown garden and natural reserve on the continent.”

Much of Vancouver’s downtown development is in a tower-podium style, with a few floors that fill up most of the block, followed by a much narrower tower—an effect that Atlantic Cities writer Nate Berg likened to “a tall candle on a big, flat cake.” It’s often assumed that the style was borrowed from Hong Kong or other similarly high-density Asian cities, but Beasley says that it’s a homegrown style that Vancouver architects began experimenting with as far back as the mid-1950s. It’s an approach, he says, that actually reflects the influence of European urban landscapes, because it creates more street-level activity and gives pedestrians a more interesting milieu. “In Vancouver, we didn’t want pigs in space—towers in a vacant plaza,” Beasley notes. “You had to have hous­­ing and shops.”

Seizing Opportunities

Another key point in Vancouver’s development came during the late 1980s, after the city hosted Expo ’86, a world’s fair that commemorated the city’s centennial.

As Dutch urban historian John Punter, author of The Vancouver Achievement, has written, the fair gave the city a chance to pump up the local economy with public works projects during a recession, and left the city with some important assets, including SkyTrain, the rapid transit line. Afterward, the Expo site itself—former railroad land on the north shore of False Creek—provided an opportunity to develop a new urban neighborhood, for anyone bold enough to deal with the provincial government’s requirement that they take over the entire parcel. While other prospects balked, designer-developer Kwok, backed by an investor with deep pockets, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, took the deal and then developed a plan that made it through the arduous regulatory gantlet. One of Kwok’s masterstrokes was to cluster dense development around green parks, rather than along the waterfront. The park created a shared amenity, while connecting the buildings to one another.

The new development eventually became home to 30,000 city residents. As Boddy has written, the buildings came onto the market at about the same time that a surge of well-educated, affluent Hong Kong residents was emigrating ahead of incipient mainland rule, and the development became a huge success.

“False Creek North provided a testing ground for a model of densification with amenity concessions to provide the recreation spaces as well as housing,” design critic Brendan Hurley noted in a 2012 article for Spacing Vancouver, a website devoted to the city’s land use. “The development is now the standard by which we look at the impacts of high-density living and developer contributions.”

“Stanley Kwok promoted the idea that you would work with government,” Beasley says. “We came to call it the cooperative planning model.”

The opposition to freeways and devel­opment of the Expo site created two game-changing opportunities in Vancouver’s evo­­lution. The city hoped for a third when it won a bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. The games’ Olympic Village, built to house athletes and Olympic officials on Southeast Falls Creek, provided an opportunity to erect a complex that used energy efficiency and sustainability systems such as solar heating and green roofs, with the aim of converting the complex to residential and commercial uses afterward. While the development weathered some financial difficulties, a November 2013 report to the city by accounting firm Ernst & Young reported that 91 percent of its for-sale units had been purchased, and 100 percent of its rental properties had been leased.

Is the Vision Sustainable?

As Vancouver heads further into the 21st century, some question whether the city will be able to sustain the vision that has set it apart from so many others. In a digital technology–driven culture in which people increasingly focus on their devices rather than on their neighbors, it is unclear whether Vancouver residents will continue to accept regulations and limits intended to benefit the common good. Government efforts to build inner-city bike paths and bring some outlying lower-density neighborhoods in line with the city’s high-density model have met with uncharacteristic resistance and protests, according to former planner Beasley. “Over time, I think the dedication of the public to engagement has waned a bit,” he says.

One issue that may provide a test of public commitment to Vancouver’s vision is its plan for future redevelopment of the West End. The recent blueprint published on the city’s website would increase residential density, with the aim of creating more affordable housing in an area that accommodates mostly young renters with families. It also would further encourage residents to walk rather than drive, by widening sidewalks and in some cases narrowing roadways.

Other dilemmas challenge Vancouver’s future as well. While municipal policy has long emphasized accommodating low-income residents, until recently there has not been a similar push to help the middle class, and affordable housing has emerged as a major problem. Toderian worries that as pressure for a quick fix increases, the city may compromise some of the long-held values that have shaped Vancouver’s identity. “If you build too much affordable housing and the buildings get too big, and you don’t use the tools you have to build new public spaces and maintain our heritage, you lose our balanced approach,” he says. “Then Vancouver starts to become something different.”

But Vancouver also has much in its favor. “With climate change on the horizon, Vancouver will benefit,” explains Price. “Rich investors will be looking for safe places to put their money, and this location is a good bet. People keep thinking that there’s a real estate bubble in Vancouver, but somehow, the bubble doesn’t burst.”

That’s why Price, Toderian, and others remain believers in the city. “Regardless of the bumps in the road, Vancouver will continue to be an urban innovator,” Toderian predicts. “It’s in our DNA.”
This article was originally posted on UrbanLand, Feb 14, 2014.  Written by Patrick Kiger, a Washington, D.C.–area journalist, blogger, and author.

 

For more information contact Macdonald Realty at 1-877-278-3888

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The Erikson, a twisting tower of luxury residences along False Creek, was designed by Vancouver native Arthur Erikson and was built by Concord Pacific in 2010. It is an example of the tower-podium style of design.

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The Marinaside, a waterfront complex of mixed-use towers. (Concord Pacific)

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A rendering of Vancouver’s sports and entertainment district, showing the planned False Creek Central development, announced in late 2013. Plans call for eight buildings with more than 1,300 condominiums, and 90,000 square feet (8,400 sq. m) of comme

BC luxury home sales above $3-million fell by a third in 2012 | The Vancouver Sun

“Based on a Macdonald Realty Luxury Report, this past year the sales number of luxury homes over $3 million has fallen one third since 2011. However, 2012 is only second to 2011 in sales. In a Vancouver Sun article, Dan Scarrow, Vice President of Macdonald Realty, commented on the impact immigrants buying patterns, investor sentiment and psychology has changed in the past year affecting the lower mainland’s luxury market.

“For the past few years, we’ve seen lots of new investor-class immigrants coming into the market,” Scarrow said. “ … They’re not just buying a house for themselves, but also three or four residential investment properties as well.”

This “exuberance” among immigrant buyers has slowed, Scarrow said, as the economy slowed in China and prices rose rapidly in Vancouver.

Macdonald Realty, REALTOR Will McKitka also commented in the article discussing his specialty of luxury penthouse homes, a segment of the market considered to be attracting buyers.

Read more www.vancouversun.com
Vancouver Sun article BC home sales above $3-million fell by a third in 2012 from March 1, 2013

Macdonald Realty Voted Best Neighbourhood Real Estate Office | Georgia Straight

For the second consecutive year, the readers of  the Vancouver Magazine the Georgia Straight have voted Macdonald Realty number one in the Best Neighbourhood Real Estate Office category.  You can see the rankings here.  Covering Vancouver business and culture, the Georgia Straight is a weekly publication with over 690,000 readers; for the 2011 (16th annual) Best of Vancouver rankings, the magazine received over 10,000 ballots from Vancouverites.

 

Luxury real estate booming in Vancouver | Financial Post with Dan Scarrow and Matthew Lee

If you think Vancouver’s housing prices are overdue for a major price adjustment, tell that to the surging number of luxury home buyers.

According to MLS statistics provided by Macdonald Realty, a record 375 homes — including nearly 50 condos — sold for over $3-million in 2010, breaking the record of 209 set in 2009 and more than double the 167 sold in 2008.

Of those, 73 homes sold for over $5 million.

The sales were primarily, but not exclusively, on Vancouver’s west side, with the priciest home going for $17.5-million at 3489 Osler.

The second and third priciest homes — the second also on Osler and the third on Point Grey Road -both sold for about $11 million.

As well, Macdonald Realty says, if current patterns hold, the number of $3-million-plus homes is expected to reach 550 this year, raising the spectre that in some neighbourhoods a $3-million home may no longer be considered particularly exclusive.

In 2000, just 10 properties in Metro Vancouver sold for over $3-million, none of them condominiums.

The market for luxury homes is now “insanely hot,” with mainland Chinese buyers — who are also affecting the Richmond market in a big way — the primary purchasers, said Dan Scarrow, Macdonald Realty vice-president of corporate strategy.

“Ninety-per-cent (of the luxury home purchases) are on the west side, probably some in West Vancouver,” he said in an interview. “But it’s incredibly striking, when you think what the prices were 10 years ago.”

Scarrow said that while a $3-million house has always been categorized as “luxury,” he no longer knows if that’s the case in key West Side neighbourhoods, including Shaughnessy and Point Grey.

“We’re part of a global luxury market by the ultra-wealthy,” he said. “And from the buyers’ perspective, prices here are cheap for what you get.”

Tsur Somerville, director at the centre for urban economics and real estate, Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C., said in an interview that just because there are more homes selling for over $3-million doesn’t mean they’re not luxury homes.

“It’s pretty subjective,” he said. “But $3-million is an expensive home. And just because it’s on a small lot doesn’t mean it’s not a luxury house.

“And the fact that there’s a whole lot more ($3-million homes) than a decade ago, with the price increases, there’d better be.”

Mr. Somerville also said that China is a huge source of immigrants to B.C. and that mainland Chinese immigrants tend to be investors and entrepreneurs.

“Clearly, there’s a very targeted demand for higher-end properties that many associate with the mainland Chinese market.”

But he said there’s an absence of clear data on the specifics of those buyers, whether it’s primarily immigrants or investor money from China. As an indication of how the luxury condominium market has grown, Mr. Scarrow said that last year a total of 49 condos sold for over $3-million — including seven for over $5-million — with the top three closing in on $6-million each, the priciest at Two Harbour Green, 1139 West Cordova, in Coal Harbour, for $5.8-million and the other two at the Shangri-La in downtown Vancouver.

Scarrow said many more properties are crossing the $3-million threshold, which now buys a new or newer house in the 2,500-to 3,000-square-foot range on a smaller west side lot.

“Now, you see multiple $3-million-plus homes on every block. I’d say $5-million is now where you’re going for that luxury range.”

Alice Zhang, who moved from Hangzhou, China, to Vancouver two years ago, now lives in one of six properties that she and her husband have purchased in Vancouver since moving here.

Zhang, who has two children, is waiting to move into a new home they’re constructing on a Shaughnessy lot that they bought for about $3.1-million. The house is expected to cost another $3 million, which Zhang believes is a good deal.

“We moved from the most beautiful city in China to Vancouver, which we consider more beautiful,” said Zhang, whose family owns hotels and a real estate development company in China.

“I think that compared to other Canadian cities, Vancouver is expensive. But, China is more expensive (than Vancouver).

“And the air is very fresh here and it’s very green. You feel like you’re in a garden.”

Scarrow cited another client who purchased a 2,600-square-foot condo in Coal Harbour for about $1,600 a square foot.

“(She and her family) has homes all around the world. In Knightsbridge, London, a flat was sold to her for $8,000 (Cdn) per square foot. Their flat in London was 3,000 square feet and they paid $24 million for it.”

She also has two homes in Hong Kong, one in Lake Tahoe, one in San Francisco, one in New York and one in Madrid, Spain, Scarrow said. “They all say their Vancouver property is their favourite home. They think it’s the best value.”

Macdonald Realty sales manager Matthew Lee, whose firm sold the three most expensive homes in Vancouver in 2009 and two of the five most expensive homes in 2010, believes that it’s not just mainland Chinese who are fuelling the luxury market, “but buyers from Europe and the U.S. are willing to pay these prices as well. Globally, Vancouver is still seen as a relatively good bargain.”

While the west side of Vancouver had the largest number of luxury homes sold, other areas in B.C. have also seen some very expensive sales, including the Fraser Valley’s top three sales between $5.3-million and $6.1-million, the Okanagan, from $5.4-million to $10.7-million, and Victoria, from $3.9-million to $6.8-million.

And while Vancouver has seen some very expensive homes sold over the past decade, including one for $17.5 million in 2008 and one for $17-million as far back as 2004, it’s the sheer numbers that are striking. In 2000, just 10 homes sold for over $3-million, and 78 in 2005.

 

To view this article in Financial Post click here  By:  Brian Morton, Financial Post – Postmedia News

 

The Price of Paradise Vancouver Real Estate | Report on Business with Lynn Hsu & Manyee Lui

The house Manyee Lui is showing today is listed at $2.2 million. Although the lot is only 33 feet wide and the house is nothing more than a blandly handsome two-storey, Lui expects it to sell quickly, even though the market’s turned a little tepid. With 2,900 square feet, the place is big enough for four bedrooms and an additional self-contained suite. All things considered, she says, “It’s not so expensive.”  Lui is simply telling it like it is: This house in the Dunbar neighbourhood may not be anyone’s idea of a dream home, but it delivers respectable accommodation for a reasonable price, at least by the standards of Vancouver’s west side. With a standard city lot trading hands for around $1.4 million and construction costs running at least $200 a square foot, it doesn’t take much of a house to hit the $2-million mark. And this summer and fall, as real estate markets wilted in most of the country, vertigo-inducing prices for properties on Vancouver’s west side held steady or even edged a little higher.

The question a lot of people were asking is, Who on Earth is buying them?

Lui explains why she’s so confident the home will sell: “It will appeal to a buyer from China.” She allows there was a time when Chinese buyers’ architectural preferences differed significantly from the local norm, but over the last 10 years their tastes have widened and become more westernized. Now long-term Vancouverites and incoming Chinese are seeking almost exactly the same thing-except, Lui says with a laugh, “we can’t afford it.”

True. When Lui says “we,” she’s talking about the locals, people who make their living in Vancouver. Now that the forestry industry has been eclipsed and the place has a median household income that is only average by Canadian standards, Vancouver is a city with no visible means of support. The affordability ratio has rocketed upward so quickly that it is now the steepest on the continent: more than double the Canadian average and more onerous than in places like New York and San Francisco. No wonder Vancouver is at the top of the media’s suddenly urgent bubble watch, not just in Canada but also in the United States; outlets ranging from Reuters to Businessweek have reported on a housing market they suspect is ripe for the kind of downfall the Americans are only too familiar with.

 

If “buyers from China” answers the “who” question about Vancouver’s unique real-estate market, the follow-up question-”Where is this leading?”-is harder to answer. The torrid affair between eastern Asia and Vancouver real estate, now in its third decade, is actually a love triangle from which each party derives very different things. When wealthy Chinese immigrants buy property in Vancouver-and they utterly dominate the top end of the market-they’re actually buying a form of insurance. What the federal and provincial governments get out of these newly minted Canadians turns out to be a modern form of the infamous head tax that was imposed on Chinese migrants in the 19th century. And what Vancouver gets is an economy that boasts a lot of froth, and not much substance. From all three angles, it feels like a relationship that is built not so much on Commitment as on enjoying the good times while they last.

In 2003, renowned Vancouver architect Bing Thom remarked that his city was becoming “the Switzerland of the Pacific.” The Hong Kong-born Thom was referring to the way the city offered a safe and comfortable harbour to elites from around the Pacific Rim in search of fresh air, good schools and geopolitical peace of mind. About the same time, Andrea Eng heard a Korean billionaire refer to the city as “the Geneva of the Pacific.” Eng, who has spent most of the past two decades brokering deals on both sides of the Pacific for Li Ka-Shing-the world’s wealthiest Chinese businessman-picked up on the phrase and began to use it on her website. By 2009, the concept had received academic validation, after University of British Columbia historian Henry Yu invoked it in a journal article about the network of Asian-born and -descended Canadians who link this country to the world’s newly dominant economic zone-a place that will increasingly determine Canada’s own prosperity. “Vancouver, in particular, is an incredibly sought-after location,” he says.

Yu is careful to add a caveat, though. Vancouver is popular as a lifestyle destination for those who can afford it-not as a place to make a living. More ambitious immigrants, Asian and otherwise, are more likely to choose Toronto. In fact, British Columbia (which essentially means Greater Vancouver) receives about 15% of all Canadian immigrants, which, given its population, is only slightly more than its proportional share. On the other hand, it gets about half of the annual 10,000 or so people who can prove they are already wealthy and therefore eligible for easier, if more expensive, rides in the entrepreneur and investor classes. And the rest of Vancouver’s 15% share fits a distinctly different profile than do immigrants to places like Toronto and Montreal: more skilled and better educated, and much less likely to arrive as refugees.

A couple of kilometres east of Dunbar, in the old-money Shaughnessy neighbourhood, Lui is showing another home-a 1920 Georgian listed at a hair under $5 million. Here the seller is an immigrant from China who’s building a larger home. The buyer will likely be from China as well: Lui estimates that up to 80% of recent sales in this price range have been going to buyers from mainland China.

Moving a little downmarket, the proportions are lower but still significant. At Wesbrook, a high-rise development on the University of British Columbia campus where units typically run $1.5 million to $2 million, some 40% to 50% of buyers are from mainland China, according to George Wong of Magnum Projects, which markets condos for Wesbrook’s builder, Aspac Developments. Another 30% of units go to longer-term Canadians of Chinese descent. Across the Fraser River in Richmond, at a massive new development called River Green (average condo price: $930,000), the proportions are roughly the same.

UBC geographer David Ley has attempted to address the question of “Who’s buying these places?” in a different way, checking sales data for Vancouver neighbourhoods against variables like interest rates, unemployment levels and house construction-none of which correlated well. Instead, the strongest indicators of price movement were related to international investment and immigration. The arrival of other Canadians from elsewhere in the country actually dampened prices. The same effect showed up when Ley widened his lens to Greater Vancouver: The highest values occurred in areas with high immigrant populations and a predominant Chinese ethnicity. So Vancouver may be the first North American city where the phrase “there goes the neighbourhood” should be uttered when a Caucasian moves in next door.

The data used in Ley’s study are more than a decade old, but the same conclusion springs from the relationship between Vancouver’s west side-home to neighbourhoods like Dunbar and Shaughnessy, as well as the downtown peninsula-and the City of West Vancouver, which is just across the Lions Gate Bridge and boasts a beautiful mountainside setting right on the ocean. The two areas have always contained the region’s highest-priced real estate, with West Vancouver’s bigger houses on bigger lots historically 10% or 20% more expensive. However, West Vancouver is less appealing to Chinese immigrants and, at least partly as a consequence, homes on the west side of Vancouver proper have been appreciating much more quickly-by 66% in the last five years compared to West Vancouver’s 23%, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s benchmark index.

Price increases of that sort are irresistible to smaller-scale residential renovators and developers, who have been transforming the west side and other Asian-preferred areas such as Vancouver’s east side and suburban Richmond at breakneck speed. On some blocks in Dunbar, virtually the entire stock of mid-sized homes from the 1920s through to the 1950s has been replaced by 3,500- and 4,000-square-foot open-plan designs with exteriors dressed up to look like bank managers’ manses from the turn of the 20th century. Houses like these, which executives or energy traders might pay $1.5 million for in Toronto or Calgary, and engineers and educators might pick up for $800,000 or $900,000 in Winnipeg, sell for $2.5 million to $3 million each.

Back in the late 1980s, before Tiananmen Square kicked off the great Vancouver land rush, it would have taken a particularly prescient forecaster to pluck Dunbar from among the west side’s also-ran neighbourhoods and anoint it as a contender. The area is largely deficient in the mountain and ocean views that can add several hundred thousand dollars-millions at the high end-to the value of a home. But it does benefit from another feature that most Asian immigrants view as more important: its proximity to the region’s best schools. UBC is handy, several of Vancouver’s best private schools are located in the area, and even its public schools score near the top of the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of B.C. schools.

A common scenario for an investor immigrant from mainland China unfolds like this, explains immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens: One member of the household qualifies under a category of the Business Immigration Program and posts a $120,000 bond in lieu of making the $400,000 investment stipulated under the program. (Some qualify instead as “provincial nominees,” and follow a somewhat different scenario involving an actual investment.) Portions of the money are divvied out to various immigration advisers and service providers, while the interest accrues to the federal government, which in turn spreads it around to provincial governments-about a half billion dollars annually of late. Essentially, the money is treated as the cost of Canadian entry-although in a further wrinkle, many breadwinners never move to Canada, instead retaining their offshore jobs or businesses as well as Chinese citizenship, to maintain their income stream and taxpayer status in China, which helps shelter income from higher Canadian taxes.

Researching places to live in Vancouver is simple enough: There’s a vast network of expats to survey, and Chinese-based websites discuss favoured neighbourhoods in considerable detail, with special attention paid to schools. Typically, one of the parents, usually the wife, moves to Canada with the children while the husband stays in Asia, coming for visits when he can.

This arrangement is a rational response to the reception immigrants typically receive: High-status entrepreneurs or executives back home, they are rarely given an opportunity to duplicate that success here, and instead are often relegated to work in retail, in restaurants or even delivering newspapers. The syndrome was outlined in a 2007 Statistics Canada report indicating that new immigrants’ incomes have recently been dropping compared to previous eras. “There was unanimous sentiment among all respondents that economic success in Canada, even limited success, was extremely difficult to achieve,” confirmed UBC’s David Ley, after conducting dozens of interviews and focus groups for his 2010 book on Vancouver’s Chinese phenomenon, Migrant Millionaires.

The children, meanwhile, are enrolled in private or public schools, quickly picking up English-complete with the Canadian accent, which is preferred to British- or Australian-sounding speech or regional American accents. When they have graduated from high school or, more likely, university, the sons and daughters may return to Asia to take over the family business from their father. At that point, the couple may retire to Vancouver-a place that women in particular grow to appreciate-or the entire family may return to Asia, ending the cycle, which, as Ley points out, could more accurately be termed one of “migration” rather than “immigration.”

The scenario is a generalization, of course, and every story is different. Take the experience of Fang Chen. A litigation lawyer back in China, Chen arrived two years ago, while her husband stayed behind to manage a successful business, visiting when he can. Their son, now 6, arrived in Canada to start school this year. Chen is boning up on the Canadian legal system, but has no plans to join the bar here, because, she says, “it would be almost impossible for me to break in.”

The couple bought a house in Port Coquitlam, a middle-income bedroom suburb nearly an hour’s drive east of central Vancouver. To the free-thinking Chen, the place holds an advantage: The proportion of Chinese is among the lowest in Greater Vancouver. “I want my son to know more about Canadian culture,” she says. “I didn’t want a neighbourhood where most of the children are Chinese.” If all goes according to plan, Chen and her son will rejoin her husband back in China in about two years, after the son has become fluent in English and has gained a jump-start from an education system that Chen views as more enlightened than China’s. Joint Chinese-Canadian citizens, the family may well return at another stage of his education-another common trait of Chinese parents, who often see an advantage in blending the rigorous but also rigid system back home and Canada’s more liberal approach.

Historian Yu, who is descended from families who were kept apart by Canada’s discriminatory Head Tax, views the growth of Canada’s Asian population not as a new phenomenon but as a renewal of North America’s Pacific ties. At the turn of the 20th century, B.C.’s population was about 10% Chinese-a proportion that was only regained around the beginning of the 21st century. The largely Chinese-constructed CPR was not so much an act of nation-building, Yu says, but rather a gamble by investors who hoped to cut transportation time to Europe for precious Asian goods like silk and tea. For most of the 20th century, Canada looked east toward Europe, the source of most immigrants and non-U.S. trade. But today more than half of all immigrants are from the Asia-Pacific region (more than 90% in B.C.), and trade across the Pacific easily exceeds its Atlantic equivalent.

Yu is optimistic that the resentment that bubbled up in B.C. during the late 1980s, when Hong Kongers and Taiwanese first began to arrive in large numbers, has subsided considerably. That animosity was a function of Canada’s legacy of white supremacy, he believes; of so many middle-income people-”accountants of empire”-having had it so good for so long. Vancouverites, especially younger ones, now see the real estate situation for what it is, a simple case of market economics, he thinks. “Almost no one under 40 cares,” he says, suggesting that Vancouver’s rapid transformation has been relatively painless, all things considered. Even in the wake of the arrival of a ship carrying Tamil asylum seekers, British Columbians remained more favourable to immigration than any other Canadians, according to a September Angus Reid Public Opinion poll. “In B.C. there’s a sense of a gain from immigration,” confirms Reid.

Still, it’s undeniable that there has been a downside to the influx of wealthy people; Bing Thom, whose firm has given Vancouver some of its most iconic buildings, expresses a common view when he laments how real estate prices have banished young families from close-in neighbourhoods, except for the increasing number who choose high-rise condos over houses. He also worries about the city losing the bohemian air that has always contributed to the Lotus Land effect: Where will all the chefs and designers live, let alone the artists and musicians? “We are emptying our city,” he says. “A lot of young people are forced to leave.”

At the same time, there’s a vein of thought that Vancouver’s recent focus on rezoning land to provide places to live-especially a downtown condo forest that has become the city’s defining feature-has left it with a dearth of office buildings and factory sites where all those new residents might actually be able to find work.

Still, if Vancouver must be on guard against some of the changes wrought by the influx, a city with an economy disproportionately dependent on the real estate industry must also be wary of the day the arrivals lounge empties. This past summer, when the pace of sales eased right across the country, the soul-searching in Vancouver was particularly intense, even though local prices did not decline. If a real estate slump were a mere reflection of Canadian circumstances, that would be one thing; but if a breakdown in the Asian relationship, that’s quite another.

Lynn Hsu owns Macdonald Real Estate Group, home base to Manyee Lui and almost a thousand other agents; since buying a single office in 1990, Hsu has turned the company into Western Canada’s largest realty operation, and she is well aware that Vancouver is vulnerable to changes in Asian investment and immigration. After 1996, when immigrants from Hong Kong stopped arriving and many in fact returned to Asia, real estate swooned, reviving only around 2002, when economic conditions improved and immigration from mainland China began to surge. Hsu says there is little agreement about what would happen to the market if China itself experienced a real estate meltdown of some sort. “One view is that it may have a negative effect,” due to the depletion of fortunes built on real estate and development (the primary contributor of wealthy migrants, alongside manufacturing and mining, she says). “But the other view,” she says, “is that Vancouver will look more appealing as people look for ways to get their money out of China.”

Hsu cites another factor that has the real estate industry on tenterhooks: the imminent doubling of requirements for investor and entrepreneur immigrant programs, raising minimum net worth to $1.6 million and minimum investment to $800,000. What will this change do to the supply of wealthy immigrants? “That’s the question everyone is asking,” says Steven Meurrens, the immigration lawyer.

Some 80% of immigrant investors are from Asia; at Immigration Canada offices in cities such as Beijing and Hong Kong, there are three-year backlogs of applicants who qualify under the old rules. Thus it will likely be years before the number of people arriving under the investor program dwindles. And as long as wealthy immigrants continue to arrive, pretty much everyone believes they’ll continue to buy homes here, rather than, say, invest in American cities where property is now much cheaper. “They’re here, not there,” says Hsu flatly. “They need a place to live.”

There’s also general agreement that a large proportion of Chinese immigrants won’t opt to rent instead of buying, even if the economics make more sense. “People in China always feel very insecure if they do not own their own house,” says Fang Chen. “Even those with a very low income will spend their savings to buy.” It’s a trait common to any country with an agricultural heritage and limited land, explains Tsur Somerville, an associate professor at the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate. “There are some countries where the only collateral has been real estate.” Historian Yu even compares Vancouver real estate to a Swiss bank account-not for its secrecy, but for its rock-solid value and political peace of mind. The icing on the cake: Capital gains on a primary residence are tax-free in Canada.

So there’s a consensus of sorts: Vancouver real estate prices are unlikely to rise in the near future and may or may not fall. But if they do fall, the primary reason will not be a dearth of wealthy immigrants. That still leaves the bigger question: Is Canada’s third-largest city forever doomed to make its living selling condos, or will its connections and favoured geographic position translate into something new and significant? In other words, will it be New York, or will it be Halifax-a place haunted by a heyday it failed to exploit and can never recapture?

Most of those near the centre of the Vancouver/Asia nexus are inclined toward the more prosperous scenario. “Hong Kong was the entrepôt to China. Now that Hong Kong is part of China, Vancouver is the next stop, the Asian gateway,” says Thom. In a world connected primarily by air and electronics, the city’s isolation is no longer an issue, he says; second homes are being purchased and offices established because a place once seen as remote is now becoming central. Andrea Eng adds a classic Left Coast wrinkle to the same argument: “This is the best time zone in the world,” she says. “I get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and do all my Europe, Asia and East Coast e-mails, and then I go to yoga.”

Eng believes that the obsession with real estate is merely a phase for the adolescent city. True, she says, Asians get their first look at Canada’s huge expanse and say, “Let’s urbanize it!” But that impulse will pale compared to the continent’s appetite for Canadian resources, which is rapidly becoming the next chapter in this story. As ownership regulations loosen and Asian companies rush to secure their necessary shares, Vancouver, their North American toehold, will be in a position to wrestle away some of the action from places like Toronto and Calgary, not to mention Houston and London. Or so the theory goes. The desire to live here is certainly strong enough, Eng believes. A generation ago, many Asian immigrants landed in Canada as a consolation prize because the U.S. had lower quotas and stricter entry requirements. Opinions differ, but Eng thinks Canada is now a first choice, not a fallback. “It’s definitely preferable to the U.S.,” she says. “By miles.”

Meanwhile, there’s a sense that the rivets joining local and Asian economies are finally being hammered down. “The notion that there are limited business opportunities connecting Vancouver and Asia is an increasingly outdated one,” says Yuen Pau Woo, CEO of Vancouver-based Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, a think tank charged with analyzing and supporting those links. He points out that many national and international legal and accounting firms are beefing up their Vancouver offices to serve the Asian market. In September, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson sought to capitalize on the China connections on an 11-day Chinese mission, with green technology the primary focus.

Even the apparent failure of many immigrant families to take root may be advantageous, thinks Woo. The foundation estimates there are as many as 600,000 Canadians living in Asia-an instant network in waiting. Given that there is arguably more human interaction between Canada and China than between any other OECD countries, there is nothing “heritage” about Vancouver’s Asia-Pacific status, unlike a city like San Francisco, the original would-be Geneva of the Pacific. Woo cites the recent spread of British Columbia’s White Spot hamburger chain in Asia as a case of “taste transfer” of a sort that will only accelerate as Asian and North American cultures become more intertwined.

At the same time, he says, “the opportunity to tap into Vancouver’s Asian knowledge and networks is grossly underutilized.” Asians and non-Asians alike often still see Vancouver chiefly as a retirement or lifestyle destination. “But the raw material to be a hub is already in place,” Woo argues. It’s a matter of “mobilizing, energizing and creating a critical mass of business, networking, and intellectual activity.”

Angus Reid the businessman has a slightly different take on Vancouver’s position than Angus Reid the sociologist. From the latter perspective, the city’s multiculturalism is paramount. But as CEO of Web polling firm Vision Critical, which is expanding rapidly around the globe, he seconds the views of Thom and Eng about Vancouver’s privileged position. “It is as mundane as time zones,” he says, “but Vancouver is also a really good source of talent.”

And maybe that’s a start: a high-end workforce if not yet a lot of high-end jobs. What Vancouver needs now is a hundred more enterprises like Reid’s that bubble up from within to capitalize on the talents of the multilingual and multicultural children of the multimillionaire immigrants, the folks who are now bussing tables and delivering papers. When that happens, maybe Vancouver will have finally found a way to parlay its Asian connections into an economy that’s capable of supporting its Swiss-watch lifestyle.

By Jim Sutherland, Globe and Mail Report on Business, December 2010,  Price of Paradise Vancouver Real Estate

The 2010 Olympics, the Luxury Market, and Asian Buyers | Square Foot Magazine (Hong Kong)

Vancouver’s property market bounces back and is poised to be stronger than ever

With the Pacific Ocean to one side and the Rocky Mountains to the other, Vancouver is one of the world’s most scenic and liveable cities — and anyone from Vancouver will tell you that. Urban without being overwhelming, Canada’s third largest metropolitan area has a laid back pace that belies its economic importance and has been attracting buyers from around the world — and Asia in particular — for years. Only moderately affected by the financial meltdown of 2008, Vancouver’s property market looks to be holding firm, and the immediate future is looking bright.  A bump from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games would be expected, but the rise in interest in Vancouver pre-dates the actual Games. “The Winter Olympics resulted in a bump in the real estate market prior to the event. Vancouver won the bid in 2003 and real estate prices have been on a relatively strongupward trajectory since that time,” explains Macdonald Real Estate Group’s Vice President of Corporate Strategy Dan Scarrow. “The [effects] on real estate prices post-Olympics has been more muted; however, the long-term effect of the Olympics on real estate activity in Vancouver will be positive.”

Few were spared the wrath of 2008’s global financial agony, but things could have been much worse than they were in Canada. The country’s mixed economy spared it from more considerable damage and, “Vancouver, in particular, fared very well through the turmoil,” in Scarrow’s view. Property prices were off 25 percent from their mid-2008 peak but rebounded strongly enough in mid-2009 to surpass their previous peak. “This indicates that the housing market in Vancouver was effected largely by psychology rather than market fundamentals,” theorises Scarrow.

So who is driving the market these days, and what kind of market exactly is Vancouver? Scarrow breaks down the three traditional buyer segments: “The lower end is still driven by local buyers. Before the financial crisis, investors played a large role in Vancouver’s real estate market, however, since then, the market has shifted more towards owner/occupiers as investors remain relatively skittish about the global economy.” Pure investment has been on a slow rise in the last few months, but it has yet to reach pre-2008 levels, as global economies are still in a recovery process.

It comes as no surprise to determine who’s driving Vancouver’s luxury market. “The higher-end of the real estate market (over CA$2 million) is being driven largely by Mainland Chinese buyers. That’s not to say they are the sole purchasers of these properties, but their presence has resulted in this price range being highly active over the pastseveralyears.” According to a February report in the  Vancouver Sun, 31 homes priced over CA$5 million were sold in Greater Vancouver in 2009. But as Scarrow pointed out, they’re not alone: Australians, Europeans and Americans are also getting on the Vancouver bandwagon. Properties in key locations like Shaughnessey, South Granville, urban Yaletown, and tony Coal Harbour, Point Grey and Dunbar (Vancouver’s most expensive location per square foot of land), even with a strong Canadian dollar, are also something of a bargain — with land — for Hong Kong and Mainland buyers.

Vancouver, and Canada in general, has the kind of government and social atmosphere that has made it an investment and immigration preference for decades. “Canada is in a unique fiscal position in the world with relatively low public debt and deficits and a quality of life that is second to none. Thispoliticalandeconomic stability is attractive to a whole host of people from around the world who see troubling times ahead. This, combined with Vancouver’s natural beauty, makes it a perfect place to raise a family,” Scarrow reasons. For Asian buyers, Canada is a strong choice for wealth protection and a good spot to send children for a Western-style education. In addition, Vancouver is, quite simply, relatively close to home.

The same luxury pattern evident in Hong Kong is slowing broadening in Vancouver. The high-end market has been strong for the last few years, including the recent recession, and the city’s burgeoning international image is attracting affluent buyers. “Vancouver’s famous Coal Harbour neighbourhood, overlooking the mountains, ocean, and Stanley Park, now sells at nearly $2,000 per square foot, where less than 10 years ago, it sold for less than $500,” states Scarrow. That’s a middle-class or entry-level price in Hong Kong, where space it at a premium. If Canada has one thing it’s land, and Vancouver has seen its share of shifting with the influx of overseas wealth. “There are two distinct markets in Vancouver, the luxury market and the local market. Like Hong Kong, Mainland Chinese buyers are the largest players in the luxury market and are bidding up prices at a ferocious rate,” admits Scarrow. “This includes former family neighbourhoods like Dunbar and Point Grey, which now boast ‘average’ prices well in excess of $2 million.” But unlike in Hong Kong, the local market can move, and has, “responded by moving east, with former low-end markets such as Main Street, and Commercial Drive gentrifying in order to accommodate local buyers,” who aren’t willing to leave town altogether. “Vancouver is a lifestyle city,” said Macdonald Realty’s Gregg Baker in a press release earlier this year. “It’s no secret that people like being here.”

 

From a 2010 edition of Hong Kong’s Square Foot Magazine.

Vancouver Real Estate Supply and Demand in a Global Context

Were we spoiled by the early spring flurry?   Probably.

Does the inventory have to decline at the same rate as the number of units sold to maintain market integrity?  Probably not.

The market appears to be levelling.  Prices are adjusting slightly downward but not in all areas depending on inventory.  Once again proving that one of our principle rules of real estate analysis is “supply and demand” and that rule is absolute.  Inventory is declining and prices may be stabilizing but perhaps not at the same rate.  Buyers and sellers are having trouble reading the market signs.

With the stock markets and the economies of USA, Europe and others regions all are emitting mixed signals, it is hard to pick a cause or effect that has any long term significance.  This brings to mind our second rule of analysis, that of “cause and effect”.  Good things cause good things to happen and bad things cause bad things to happen.  One day consumer confidence is good then the next day builders confidence is down then business leaders are optimistic then Ben Bernanke says he won’t intervene, and then he will.  The stock market goes down and then recovers.  The bank of Canada says interest rates will rise then when they do the banks ignore and keep offering low mortgage rates.  Nobody knows what is to do and nobody can predict how the various markets will react and that I guess is why they call it a market.

 

Today, according to the Conference Board of Canada, consumer confidence in BC is down.  Experts say this is the result of the implementation of HST.  We would guess it is a combination of many factors and externalities.  Although we must admit we have seen a lot of confusion as to the HST and Real Estate.  No doubt our industry could of done a better job of educating the public.  But so could have the government and the fifth estate (who spent a lot of time creating a kafuffle to sell papers rather than explaining the tax).

Throw in our last rule of real estate analysis, that ”history repeats itself” and it gets even more confusing. As we have noted previously, and our friend Bruno recently calculated, that after the last big real estate correction in Vancouver, it took 7 years (from 1996-2003) for prices of West Side detached houses to recover to the previous high .The following 6 years (from 2003 – 2009) saw a compounded average growth of 13% for Westside detached houses. Then in the last three quarters of 2008 and first quarter of 2009 we experienced a 20% plus downward correction but then were fully recovered by the fall of 2009.  Anybody heard of the “dead cat bounce”?

Prices seem to have corrected downward over the past few months by 5%-10% although we may be seeing a levelling.  It should be noted that it is not uncommon for prices to adjust up and down during a cycle, upward or downward cycles.

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Blog post provided by Murphy Costello Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR®  with Macdonald Realty in Vancouver.