February 26, 2010
Open House. Open House on Saturday, February 27, 2010 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Please visit our Open House at 2245 154A ST in Surrey.
Open House on Saturday, February 27, 2010 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Centrally located on a quiet street, this home has a lot to offer. Great yard, open plan, and totally renovated. Come see this open Cape Cod floor plan. The home is perfect for a young family or retired couples. Shows like a 10!
February 15, 2010
TAC Real Estate plans to hand out 2010 red umbrellas in Yaletown Tues Feb 16th at 11am
From the Georgia Straight...
Cameron McNeill and TAC Real Estate plans to hand out 2,010 red umbrellas in city core
Vancouver real-estate marketer Cameron McNeill has ordered up 2,010 red umbrellas, which he and his staff will be handing out in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday (February 16). The giveaways will take place between the Yaletown Canada Line station and David Lam Park.
McNeill, founder of TAC Real Estate Corp., says these umbrellas will go to people who might have "forgotten" to wear red to express support for Canada's Olympic athletes.
"I think downtown will be a sea of read and if TAC can be a small part of that, we are proud to help," McNeill stated.
Anyone needing shelter from the rain can pick up a free TAC umbrella at 11 a.m. on Tuesday at the corner of Homer Street and Pacific Avenue.
It's a timely gesture. Today, Vanoc announced that heavy rains forced the cancellation of standing-room general admission tickets at Cypress Mountain snowboard ski cross events on Monday (February 15) and Tuesday.
Meanwhile, organizers of today's Chinese New Year Parade in Vancouver's Chinatown asked teams of marchers to wear red to express their support for Canada's Olympic athletes--which created an even redder-than-usual procession along Pender, Gore, and Keefer streets.
February 11, 2010
Happy Chinese New Year - It is the year of the Tiger
February 11, 2010
What does the Year of the Tiger hold for us? Sherman Tai, a local fortuneteller and feng shui consultant, offers his predictions on the economy, politics, and people.
The year 2010 is the Year of the Tiger, a very special year, especially for Vancouver and Canada. Not only does it mark the beginning of a new decade, it is also the year we host the 21st Winter Olympics. Economic benefits? Perhaps not, but it will definitely help increase the exposure of Vancouver and Canada, something we all need during these stressful economic times.
Because the Canadian economy is strongly tied to the American economy, how the U.S. will do this year deserves some attention before we turn to Canada. The importance of the U.S. as a major economic force will slowly start to decline in 2010. Not only will there not be any significant improvement in the economy before the fall, we can expect to see a major scandal globally or within the U.S. The effects of this scandal shouldn’t be too serious and will be related to banking, lending, or credit cards. However, it will lead to a minor second coming of the global recession in the spring or summer. Though it won’t be as serious as what we have experienced, it will certainly shatter the optimism and confidence people have gained. Intervention by the American government can help reduce its impact through efforts such as maintaining low interest rates, printing more currency, and subsidizing industries to encourage consumer spending; however, I don’t foresee any significant improvement in the economy related to these strategies.
The U.S. unemployment rate will range from 8.5 percent to as high as 11 percent. Real estate, finance and banking, stocks, and currency continue to be unstable in 2010. The financial markets will experience large fluctuations. The value of gold will climb to US$1,200 per ounce and crude oil will range from US$70 to US$90 per barrel. The recovery of the economy will be slow, but by the end of the fall there should be more stability.
History was made with Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president. With regards to the global recession, hopes were high from the American people, but though he may have talent he does not have much to work with. As a result, due to unpopular policies, Obama’s popularity will continue to decline this year. Expect him to make an error in judgment that further exacerbates his already declining popularity. Illness, accident, or injury may also befall the U.S. president this year. A continuing challenge will be an increase in terrorist activities from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the Middle East. As a result of terrorist threats, military spending will increase, further burdening the economy. The Year of the Tiger is a year when many things will be happening in the U.S., with fears of terrorism and instability of stocks creating an atmosphere in which consumer confidence will not easily be restored.
With more auspicious stars positioned over Canada—and the eastern provinces in particular—we will do comparably better than the U.S. Canada is more protected due to our abundant resources, such as crude oil and precious metals. Though our economy will inevitably be weakened, we will not see a drastic decline, nor will there be much visible growth either, partly due to our close ties with the U.S. and the limitations of a minority government lacking clear goals and good economic policies. In the past, Canada has relied too heavily on the U.S.; however, what the Stephen Harper government will do this year is create even stronger ties with Asia—China in particular, as well as India and Japan—which will encourage exports to these countries.
The economy will continue to be slow in the spring, though in the summer there will be some improvement in the retail, construction, and distribution industries. The unemployment rate will range from 8.5 percent to as high as 9 percent, but toward the fall it will decline to about 6.7 or 6.8 percent. The Canadian dollar will remain strong in 2010, at approximately CAN$1 to 94 to 97 cents US. Interest rates will continue to be low, with a slight increase of not greater than half a percent in the fall. Crude oil, telecommunications, precious metals, and mining products will do well this year, but wood products, automobiles, and machinery will be stagnant. With a weak minority government, there will again be another federal election attempt; this time, the Conservatives have a high chance of forming a majority government, which will be beneficial to Canadian politics and the economy.
Real estate will continue to be stable, particularly in B.C. and Ontario, where there will be a good market with increasing values at the beginning of the year, but with a tendency to fluctuate. Therefore, I do not recommend investing in real estate this year, especially in B.C. The Olympics will not have a major effect on real-estate values in Greater Vancouver. I anticipate that after May or June and into the fall, there will be a large correction, especially on the west side of Vancouver and in Richmond, areas with many Chinese residents. On the other hand, Saskatchewan and Alberta—Calgary and Edmonton in particular—will see a slight increase in real-estate values. In the East, real estate will be fairly stable in areas like Montreal and Ottawa, but Toronto will experience greater fluctuations, where there will be an initial increase followed by a slight decrease.
As for stocks, there will be a slight increase, but the TSX can be expected to reach no higher than 12,000 points. Those who have extra money to invest may consider buying stocks in mining, retail, or banking, but with caution and in small amounts. Vancouver hosting the Winter Olympics will not have solid or lasting benefits for the economy; rather, this will result in an increased tax burden on top of the new HST, which is definitely here to stay despite opposition. I can only say that it will have negative effects ultimately leading to a decreased standard of living for the people of B.C.
Natural disasters and destructive human activities continue to be serious. Because the fire element is strong in the Year of the Tiger, forest fires will be more severe than we have seen in the past. Home fire safety, particularly around Halloween, should be taken seriously. We will see harsher weather this year, with heavy winds and snow, as well as extremes in temperature. Gang shootings, especially in Greater Vancouver, will continue to be a serious problem, along with rising youth violence and home invasions. Though the Canada Line has improved access to Richmond, it will unfortunately also bring more crime to the city.
Luck changes yearly with the position of the stars, and overall we see a better year in the Year of the Tiger compared to the past year, the Year of the Ox. With the Winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver this year, it is a unique opportunity for us to celebrate the excellence of athletic achievement. How will we do? I predict that this will be one of the best years for Canada in the Winter Olympics.
For extensive individual Chinese-zodiac predictions, visit Sherman’s Web site.He can be reached at 604-278-8381 or email@example.com
February 9, 2010
How will the Vancouver 2010 games influence Real Estate, from a Calgary point of view
The historical push to buy property in Vancouver has neither been limited just to residences nor to the Hong Kong market.
Photograph by: David Hecker / AFP / Getty, Vancouver Sun
Will the Winter Games help or hinder the metropolitan Vancouver real estate market, or hardly have any affect? Opinion, of course, is divided. Who can know the future?
The past, however, suggests Vancouver real estate is simultaneously exceptional and unexceptional.
Advances and retreats in value, and supply and demand, occur here just as they do in any other metropolis.
But whatever occurs here occurs in a physically singular and culturally diverse geography and occurs because the living here is better than there, not cheaper, but better.
The first private sale of Canadian Pacific Railway land, in 1886, is illustrative of the course of the better-life attraction of Vancouver residency.
The buyer was Walter Graveley, a small-town Ontario native who had done well by real estate in Manitoba. When values there retreated, he came to British Columbia and never left.
He was a co-founder of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and lived long enough to be among those inaugural Vancouver voters who gathered at the old Fairmont Hotel Vancouver in 1936 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city's incorporation.
In 1886, Vancouver was already an ethnically diverse place.
In the 1881 census, Vancouver residents reported 20 different ethnic or national attachments; in 1891, even more.
Strathcona particularly emerged as a neighbourhood of working class residents, from China and Japan and Italy, followed by South Vancouver.
By the Great War, there was a genuine downtown skyline to the west of Strathcona, capped by the claims of first the Dominion Building, at Hastings and Cambie, and then the World Building, at Pender and Beatty, now better known as the Sun Tower, as tallest buildings in the British Empire.
The municipalities of Point Grey, South Vancouver, and Vancouver would amalgamate as the Great Depression was beginning in 1929. Even during that period the demand for housing continued, with apartment buildings appearing along Oak and Granville Streets and in Kitsilano.
Renting rather than home ownership became the norm in the late '60s as affordability soared beyond the reach of many and a snapshot of the cityscape at the time reveals both low and highrise residential buildings in many areas. The shift to attached residency was noticeable by the middle '70s with the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver issuing guides on what the Strata Property Act meant for consumers.
Political unrest through the '50s, '60s, and '70s in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East sent people to Canada, and a swell of immigration from South Asia began in the late 1970s.
But it was the influx of Hong Kong money leading up to 1997, and the end of Crown colony status there, that really demarcated a hugely visible influx of overseas investment.
"People flight and capital flight," says George Wong of Magnum Projects, a veteran organizer of local real estate sales and marketing campaigns. "There are two reasons why people look for a safe haven for their families and their money, free from political instability."
George Wong's mother left China's Hunan province in 1949, frightened by how her "bourgeois" family might be treated under Communist rule.
The family settled in Hong Kong, but tumultuous protests there against the Cultural Revolution had her feeling unsettled again. In 1973, the family began looking overseas, well in advance of Hong Kong's handover date to China in 1997.
"Some Hong Kong families were very forward thinking, they took the long view," says Wong. "Vancouver was very attractive because it's like the Switzerland of North America."
Safe, stable, with an excellent quality of life and the advantage of being one direct flight away from Asia, Vancouver interested many. Generous rules around an ''investor'' category smoothed the way for individual families to immigrate in the late '20s and early '90s, but also led to criticism that Hong Kong Chinese were ''buying'' Canadian citizenship.
There were also rumbles of discontent over the perception the Hong Kong buyers had artificially inflated prices with their sudden influx of demand for residential property, or that they were absentee landlords, detrimental to the social fabric of individual buildings.
"The resentment, I think, came from the conspicuousness of the wave of spending," says Wong.
Many immigrants from Hong Kong at the time chose to start fresh with their Canadian households, picking up an expensive car or two, furnishing sizable empty homes from top to bottom, or even tearing down existing houses to build new ones.
"It was obvious change that was too much, too fast," Wong points out gently. "I don't think Canadians are prejudiced, but it's human nature to see a new element as an outsider. This is true even within sub-groups of the Chinese community."
There could hardly have been a more conspicuous purchase by a Hong Kong presence than Li Ka-shing's acquisition of the former Expo 86 lands on the north shore of False Creek, for $320 million.
Matt Meehan worked for the world fair and on the sale of the site to Li Ka-shing. Now a senior vice-president with Concord Pacific -- the company developing the massive parcel of land -- he remembers how people working on Expo knew it would be huge, even though the fair didn't seem to register on public consciousness in the Lower Mainland until it was halfway over.
"You have to remember, back then, people were handing around cassette tapes. Unless you'd been to an exposition, people didn't know," Meehan says. "It's not like the electronic age now where if you want to look at anything you can just go to the Internet."
He believes the purchase and development of the Expo lands as one cohesive parcel was the catalyst for what has been dubbed Vancouverism: high-rises developed to complement natural landscapes and community-building amenities like parks and public space.
"If the Expo lands had been chopped up into five or six parcels, we never would have seen the number of parks we have in Downtown South," Meehan says. "I remember when the Urban Fare [grocery store] went in at Davie and Marinaside, people really got a sense that there's a neighbourhood here."
He also remembers the concept of pre-sales -- putting down a deposit on a condo not yet built -- as being something in which Vancouver led the way for the rest of Canada.
"It was something quite familiar to Hong Kong buyers, but pretty foreign for others," Meehan says. "It was quite a new thing to commit to buying a place just by looking at a floor plan, and then waiting a couple of years."
The historical push to buy property in Vancouver has neither been limited just to residences nor to the Hong Kong market. Commercial real estate investment and development analyst Clare Stevens, now with the firm DTZ Barnicke, recalls a boom in selling fully tenanted office buildings in 1978.
"Companies needed space to house the baby-boomer workers," says Stevens. "There was more European investment at that time, and purchases from large financial interests like SunLife and Great West Life Insurance."
The 1982 North American recession put a severe damper on commercial real estate development, but it roared back by the late '80s. However, Stevens says a change in tax policy in the early '90s under the NDP scared away many international investors. The Asian financial collapse of 1997 also virtually eliminated investment from Japan.
In recent days, there have been nibbles from abroad, but "nothing solid," Stevens says. He's not expecting a boom in commercial real estate investment after the 2010 Winter Games, because he simply doesn't see the demand for it in Vancouver.
George Wong of Magnum Projects says healthy residential real estate investment continued in the 1990s from the Taiwanese, and into 2003-2004 from mainland China. He says super ultra-high net worth individuals (i. e., the rich) from all over the world are continuing to buy Vancouver homes to serve as vacation properties. Some of that spending has in turn led to business-related investment, as the newcomers establish a feeling of connection to their playground.
"I think we're an international city that's incredibly livable, and that we've become a world resort destination," Wong says with a smile.
Concord Pacific's Matt Meehan takes it a little bit further, saying Vancouver's success with livable neighbourhoods downtown is being studied with interest by many international cities.
"Expo 86 was a chance for the world to discover us," he says. "Maybe the Olympics are a means for us to show the way."
Broadcaster and reporter Claudia Kwan is a regular contributor to Westcoast Homes. She reads correspondence at twitter.com/thatclaudiakwan.
© Copyright (c)
February 8, 2010
Vancouver Real Estate sales surge
Vancouver Real Estate Sales Surge Ahead Of Winter Olympics
When the Olympic flame enters BC Place Stadium on Feb. 12, the world’s spotlight will fall on one of North America’s hottest property markets.
In November more than 7,721 properties were sold in British Columbia, the highest volume for the month since 2005, according to the British Columbia Real Estate Association. And it wasn’t spurred by foreclosures and short sales; the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s housing price index for the area jumped 16.2 percent to $562,463, from a year earlier.
“We’ve seen a dramatic rebound in home sales,” said Cameron Muir, chief economist for the BCREA. Home prices have been on an uptrend for several months, “scratching record levels,” Muir says.
A few weeks ago, in a throwback to the old days, 20 buyers camped out over night in the cold to buy units in a Vancouver development called the Mark, a tower in the trendy neighborhood of Yaletown. In one day 163 of the 214 available condos sold, with units ranging from 460- to 730-square-feet priced between $320,900 and $660,900. (All figures in Canadian dollars; the current exchange rate is $1USD=$1.03CAD.)
International buyers are playing a “very significant” role in the upturn, according to Ross McCredie, president of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “Over half of the homes sold over $5 million in Vancouver sold to mainland Chinese,” he said. In West Vancouver, known as Vancouver’s most expensive neighborhood, there has been consistent activity from Middle Eastern and U.K. buyers, he says.
The bulk of the international buyers are making a lifestyle purchase more than a simple investment, taking advantage of Vancouver’s reputation as one of the world’s most livable cities, McCredie says. “They are not necessarily retirees, they’re just looking for a change,” McCredie said.
A few years ago 25 percent of condo buyers in Metro Vancouver were considered investors, according to tracking data by LandCor. Last year the number was closer to 8 percent.
“Speculators have never understood this market,” McCredie said.
The upcoming Olympic Games, local experts agree, has little to do with the recent surge. Low interest rates and pent up demand fueled sales, they say. Vancouver’s natural shortage of developable space also serves to artificially inflate prices, keeping Vancouver among Canada’s most expensive cities, even in down times.
Last year, prospective buyers held off buying, but jumped backed in as soon as the market started stabilizing, creating the recent flurry of activity, said Robyn Adamache, senior market analyst, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.
Even for Vancouver, recovery in the property market has been much quicker than in past cycles, Adamache says. The regional unemployment rate is still relatively high at 7 percent, she notes. “It’s not the economy that has picked up so quickly,” she says.
But Vancouver’s property market is not dependent on locals. The region attracts a net migration of new residents of about 40,000 people a year—most of them from outside Canada, according to Canadian Mortgage and Housing data. China, Taiwan and India are the largest contributors, data shows.
In contrast, the number of U.S. buyers has slowed in the last year. Californians, in particular, are still struggling with the ripple effects of the housing crisis, industry executives say. But a pickup in buyers from Asia has more than compensated for the U.S. drop-off, Vancouver executives say.
Some compare the surge in Chinese buyers to the huge flow of money from Hong Kong in the ‘90s.
“We’ve seen a huge influx of buyers from mainland China,” said Dave Watt, a Realtor with Royal LePage and past president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
Most are doing business in the area or sending their children to school, and they’re buying in the $1 million to $3 million range, he says. In December, the Chinese government gave Canada “approved destination” status, which should increase the connection, Watt notes.
Outside Vancouver, British Columbia is a patchwork of different markets. Victoria is known as a retirement community, with a sunnier climate and year-round golf. Kelowna is a region of lakes, mountains and picturesque vineyards. Whistler is a classic upscale ski resort, known around the world.
In the last few months, the second home markets, in particular, have seen a jump in activity, analysts say, after a long slow period.
“The recession hit us worse than everybody else,” said Ursula Morel of Sea to Sky Premier Properties in Whistler and the 2010 president of the Canadian chapter of FIABCI, the International Real Estate Federation. “The higher the prices, the more you go down.” Most of the activity in the first half of 2009 involved fractionals, she says.
However, in the second half of 2009, Whistler sales picked up again, with 11 sales between $2 million and $3 million. “It’s not Olympics driven, but there is definitely more hype in the air,” said Morel, who puts “Home of the 2010 Olympics” in the subject line of all her e-mails.
Foreign buyers in Canada are typically required to put 25 percent down, which has helped provide a level of stability to many markets, with few debt-to-equity problems and little urgency to sell, Morel said.
Clearly buyers believe there are no more steep drops in the Vancouver area’s near future. In Vancouver a property recently sold for more than $10 million and two in Victoria sold for more than $6 million.
Vancouver is expected to see price increases of four to seven percent, according to local analysts. Royal LePage predicts a 7.2 percent jump in the next year.
“Everything is pretty hot right now,” said Pete Shpak, managing broker for Sea and Sky Properties’ West Vancouver office. “I’ve been in a few multiple offer situations, which wasn’t happening a year ago.”
But there is still an air of caution. Many believe the recent surge only reflects the pent up demand and once that dissipates sales volumes could slow. A jump in interest rates could also put a wrench in the recovery.
“The high end is still softer than it has been in past years, and that is largely the result of the economy crawling slowly out of recession,” said Muir of the BCREA.
But then there’s the wild card—the Olympics, sure to supply a non-stop, two-week stream of soaring images of Vancouver’s spectacular coastline and picturesque mountains. In many ways, it will be one long advertisement for the region.
“I think it’s going to be pretty amazing how many new eyes see us,” Watt said.
February 8, 2010
Colourist wants you to add colour to your Vancouver Real Estate
Colourist wants you to live dangerously
Banish those safe greys and beiges from your interiors
Kora Sevier has spent a lifetime studying and celebrating colour -- and that's evident when you step into her home.
The walls of the living room are green. The sofa is purple; the drapes, fuchsia and orange.
A Vancouver colour consultant, Sevier is passionate about paint and colour, and it shows.
"I love bringing colour into people's lives," says Sevier, who has her own company, kcolour. "It's all I do."
As a colourist, Sevier's goal is to breathe colour into some of the drearier palettes seen in some West Coast homes.
Sevier believes the Vancouver weather, and the grey, rainy winter days, can affect our attitudes about colour. In fact, she suggests, some people will be affected by that grey environment to the point that it will be reflected in the colours they choose for their homes.
"It can seep into your being," says Sevier, who suggests that in Montreal, people embrace colour to a greater degree.
"You don't have the grey that you have here. From the dramatic fall colours, to the intense quality of light in the winter, where the sun reflects off the snow and makes colours vibrate, you tend to see more colour there."
Sevier says there's something else that can affect our choice of colours: the active local real estate market.
"Because Vancouverites are so real-estate driven, they are afraid to stray from what I call masking-tape beige," she says.
Often, Sevier says, we tend to be caught up in the "I might sell my home soon [and therefore it must be beige] trap."
But she says we don't fall into that trap because potential buyers are necessarily interested in beige or grey. Rather, a fear of making a "colour mistake" can keep us from taking a chance.
With many of Sevier's clients, the initial reaction to climbing out of the beige rut can be a bit of a shock.
"I tell them that's natural, they are leaving their comfort zone. I suggest they live with the colour for a while and get used to it.
"Once they do, they never go back to beige."
Sevier was raised in Montreal and began her career in commercial photography. She pursued studies in fine art, and in set and lighting design, before starting a colour consultation and painting business.
Sevier then spent time in the United Arab Emirates, where she taught art and design and worked as an artist and colour consultant. When she returned to Vancouver, she joined Kerrisdale Heritage Paint and Paper as its in-house colour consultant, specializing in Farrow and Ball paints.
Sevier says the secret to creating a vibrant and colourful home is to consider the tonality of colours, since colour is all about relationships. Colours that may initially seem incongruous can blend beautifully if they have the same tones.
Her living room, which is anything but beige, is a good example.
"I tell my clients, if you were to photograph this room in black and white, all of the colours would appear to be a very similar shade of grey," she says.
"Naturally, as a colour consultant, I attempt to make people's surroundings esthetically pleasing. A beautiful room exudes a feeling of harmony, peace and comfort. Who doesn't need that in their life?"
Those who are preparing their homes for sale would do well to forget about beige and grey, Sevier says.
"Gorgeous trumps everything. Just make your home beautiful."
For more information, visit www.kcolour.com.
February 6, 2010
More on Vancouver's new "micro lofts"
It was interesting hearing people on talk radio (most of whom lived in the burbs in 3000+ sq ft homes) who simply couldn't believe that anyone could live in such a spot.
Turns out, as noted in the article below, that small living spaces are pretty normal throughout the world and perhaps Vancouver, as unaffordable as it can be, needs to adapt.
Size does indeed matter. Just ask the Surrey homeowners troubled by the 4,000-plus-square-foot home overshadowing their rancher. Or the folks who can't wait to move into a 270-square-foot rental in East Vancouver.
The former is viewed by municipalities, proponents and opponents as a rather prickly issue that is not easily resolved. The latter has generated much to-and-fro discussion ever since a developer issued a news release heralding his 30 micro-suites as "the smallest self-contained rental apartments in Vancouver."
The new boys on the Burns Block in the Downtown Eastside are anything but newbies.
The developer, Reliance Properties, is a privately owned Vancouver company with more than 50 years experience in Vancouver's real estate market. In the past decade, Reliance has built about 300 rental lofts in Gastown and the Downtown Eastside, and has won several heritage awards.
Reliance's project partner, ITC Construction Group, is the largest residential construction company in Western Canada and has completed 115 projects in B.C. and Alberta. ITC has been selected as one of Canada's best-managed companies for six straight years, and is committed to corporate social responsibility.
Not a bad partnership handling the makeover of a 100-year-old, five-storey, 18,000-square-foot building. As a former board member of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, I can tell you the once-abandoned structure promises to be a polished heritage jewel when work is completed next year.
The suites will offer a space-saving wall bed with built-in, flip-down dining table. The kitchen will include a bar-size fridge, two-burner cooktop, sink, convection microwave, countertop and cabinets. The bathroom will have a shower, sink and wall-hung toilet. A computer work area will have space for a wall-mounted TV. A large window will take up almost the entire space on the exterior wall.
Monthly rents will be as low as $675, reasonable in a city just pegged by a public-policy research group as the most unaffordable in the world. (The group's assumptions and conclusions are considered somewhat flawed by some industry watchers, but that's a story for another day.)
Despite the need for more affordable housing in this region, the project has its detractors. As soon as media outlets posted the story on their websites, comments from the public quickly followed.
One fellow wrote that living in such a small apartment would be akin to occupying a prison cell. Perhaps he has claustrophobia issues but, for the record, the average prison cell built today is a cosy 70 square feet. Another guy said he wouldn't last more than a few months in a 270-squarefoot apartment.
Here's the thing. The Burns Block concept is not new, far from it. So all this naysayer chattering about some newfangled housing form coming soon to Lotus Land-by-the-Sea is a tad bothersome.
Tiny homes exist all over the world, and the folks who live in them are quite happy and content.
Take, for example, Californian Jay Shafer, who for more than 10 years has lived in a 96-square-foot home complete with galley kitchen, bathroom with shower, seating, desk, bookshelves, closets and fireplace. The home is easy to heat and cool, and meets California's strict energy-efficiency standards. I don't know Shafer's significant-other status, but his sleeping loft accommodates a double bed.
New York is home to the Prokops and their two cats. Compared to Shafer's home, the Prokops' Manhattan coop apartment is mansion-like at 175 square feet. They have given new meaning to the term "downsizing", starting out with a 1,600-square-foot apartment, then 900, now 175. The married couple plan to renovate their home this year, a process that likely won't break the bank or take much time.
Worldwide, the story is the same. Los Angeles is home to a growing number of small-unit condos and apartments, including the Rosslyn Lofts in the historic downtown. The 297 rental apartments range in size from 200 to 325 square feet. The homes add to the variety of mixed-income housing, which helps to attract a diverse group of tenants, enhancing the vitality and diversity of the downtown area.
Small is also big in Santa Monica, where space-efficient 375-square-foot apartments in a central location close to amenities are popular with renters. And in Edinburgh, Scotland, renters are flocking to 350-square-foot contemporary concrete-and-steel apartments, complete with balconies overlooking green space.
In Toronto, the city's smallest detached home, built in 1912, is only 330 square feet. It even has a backyard.
In 1990, Gordon Price lived for a month in a 290-squarefoot apartment at Drake and Seymour in downtown Vancouver because he wanted to see if such a small space was livable. Turns out it was.
"The apartment was absolutely livable for me. If the space is designed and proportioned to both day and night uses, it will be perfectly fine for all functions. In my case, the apartment's Murphy bed tilted up in the morning, replaced by a dining room table for the rest of the day," said Price, a former Vancouver city councillor and now the director of the Simon Fraser University City Program.
"It is important the apartment remains uncluttered, and the furniture is appropriately designed for the space. And you need lots of natural light, preferably from a floor-to-ceiling window," said Price.
"People who live in small spaces typically spend more time in the public realm -making use of parks and other amenities, eating in restaurants, that sort of thing. Because they spend so much time away from their apartments, it is important that their neighbourhood is clean, green and safe," said Price.
Tom Durning of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre is always happy to see an increase in the production of affordable rental units, particularly in Vancouver, where supply is tight and costs high.
Durning was quoted recently in this paper as saying, "Any rental housing is good housing these days."
Many groups -- including housing advocates, developers and governments -- will be watching to see how the Burns Block project fleshes out. So far, I believe all can agree it's not a bad experiment.
February 6, 2010
A new book on Downtown Vancouver's Eastside
Reviewed by Tom Sandborn
From Saturday's Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Feb. 05, 2010 12:33PM EST Last updated on Friday, Feb. 05, 2010 5:46PM EST
By Charles Demers
Arsenal Pulp, 272 pages, $24.95
A Thousand Dreams: Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and the Fight for Its Future
By Larry Campbell, Neil Boyd and Lori Culbert
GreyStone, 320 pages, $24.95
If Vancouver doesn't make you a little crazy with grief or laughter, you probably aren't paying enough attention. Canada's major Pacific port is getting a lot of attention these days, what with its lucrative globalized trade, the imminent arrival of the Olympic circus and the vertiginous excitement of a real-estate market on crack. Add to this the frequent shootouts as the city's drug gangs settle territorial disputes with AK-47s, and the quotidian comedy of errors as politicians from all three levels of government tap-dance and manoeuvre around the city's baffling problems, and you have an urban landscape guaranteed to appall and fascinate.
Vancouver is any writer's dream subject, whether the genre is poetry, such as Malcolm Lowry's searing visions of hell on Hastings Street, the novel, such as Timothy Taylor's comic masterpiece Stanley Park, urban history, such as the magisterial and entertaining works of Chuck Davis, or volumes of earnest social analysis, produced by the cubic yard during the city's tumultuous history. Here are two new contributions to the city's canon.
Vancouver Special is an entertaining and intelligent collection of essays by Charles Demers, a multitalented local stand-up comic, TV personality and social critic. (He's also recently published a debut novel, The Prescription Errors.) Demers writes with impressive erudition and wit about everything from the distinctive and graceless Vancouver residential design that gives the book its title to the city's approaches to racism, pot, anarchism, rich people and the homeless. There are, of course, a few passages in which his attempt to find the comic element in essentially serious subject matter comes off as strained, but these are mercifully few.
Demers also provides a wonderful guide to Vancouver's many neighbourhoods, a more pungent and nuanced account than you would get from the chamber of commerce, but a loving and accurate view of the city's dizzying diversity nonetheless. His portrait of Commercial Drive, one of the city's most interesting bohemian enclaves and his current home, is particularly vivid, but he is also impressive on Chinatown, the gay village along Davie Street and the Little India neighbourhood around Main and 49th. Readers who loved Stan Persky's classic book of Vancouver essays, Buddy's, or Bruce Serafin's Stardust, will find Demers's blend of acute observation, wit, intelligent reflection and lapidary prose similarly attractive.
One of the most moving chapters in Vancouver Special addresses the ongoing tragedy of the city's Downtown Eastside. The chapter opens with an account of a CBC-TV special that featured haggard drug addicts, the exploitative pharmacists who prey on them, pathetic anecdotes about petty crime and an interview with a hard-boiled cop who has grown old and cynical. The kicker to this otherwise unremarkable account, Demers tells us, is that the special ran six decades ago. Some urban nightmares seem to go on forever.
While Demers takes on the whole city, former Vancouver mayor and now Liberal Senator Larry Campbell, criminologist Neil Boyd and journalist Lori Culbert focus on the Downtown Eastside and its poverty and addiction-ravaged streets in A Thousand Dreams. They bring a rich body of varied experience to bear, and the book's lucid prose – most probably the work of Culbert, an award-winning Vancouver Sun writer – makes their policy suggestions and the storytelling that supports them equally accessible. Some of their stories horrify, especially the account of police and public indifference long after neighbourhood activists suspected a serial killer was preying on sex-trade workers in Vancouver.
The otherwise impressively fair-minded and persuasive work is marred by a few puzzling omissions that seem hard to explain as anything other than lapses into professional or political spite. Campbell's left-wing opponents within his own caucus during his term as mayor, for example, receive little narrative attention, and the explosive fracturing of his majority – which might have been able to do more to address the tragedy of the Downtown Eastside absent his heavy-handed leadership – does not, perhaps unsurprisingly, get the attention it deserves. And the work of Simon Fraser University researcher (and Neil Boyd colleague) John Lowman, which brilliantly documents the lethal stupidity of Canadian prostitution law, is mentioned only once, and parenthetically at that.
Most of the book's suggestions for reform – saner prostitution and drug policies, adequate social housing and more effective outreach to the vulnerable – are sound and have been heard before. What remains to be seen is whether we can muster the political will to make them work. If that long-deferred goal is finally achieved, books like these will have played a role in making it possible. In the meantime, no one in Vancouver, or the nation, should miss these two remarkable and valuable works.
Tom Sandborn is a writer and social-justice activist who has lived in Vancouver since 1967.
February 5, 2010
January 2010 sees a balanced market in Vancouver Real Estate
Vancouver - Diverse selection and favourable interest rates continue to drive demand in the Greater Vancouver housing market.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 1,923 in January 2010, an increase of 152.4 per cent compared to January 2009 when 762 sales were recorded and a 23.5 per cent decline compared to the 2,515 sales recorded in December 2009.
In terms of historical perspective, January ranked as an average month for number of residential housing sales over the past decade, with higher sales in January 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006.
Over the last 12 months, the MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver increased 17.2 per cent to $573,241 from $489,007 in January 2009. This price is 0.8 per cent above the previous high point in the market in May 2008 when the residential benchmark price sat at $568,411.
“Although home prices in the region have largely returned to their previous peaks, we still see a significant number of first-time and move-up buyers in the market, thanks to low interest rates and the diverse range of properties available today,” Jake Moldowan, REBGV president-elect said.
“There is also closer alignment between supply and demand in today’s housing market. At 18 per cent, the sales-to-active listings ratio in January is approximately 10 per cent lower than we’ve seen in our market over the last six months,” Moldowan said.
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,147 in January 2010. This represents a 39.1 per cent increase compared to January 2009 when 3,700 new units were listed, and a 139.1 per cent increase compared to December 2009 when 2,153 properties were listed on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in Greater Vancouver.
At 10,218, the total number of property listings on the MLS® increased 14 per cent in January compared to last month and declined 26 per cent from this time last year.
“Looking ahead, it’s difficult to know exactly what the Olympic effect will be on our market in February, although I think it’s fair to say it should be a quieter period for home buyers and sellers and so, in fact, may be a good time for motivated buyers to search for properties,” Moldowan said.
In January, sales of detached properties increased 141.4 per cent to 705 from the 292 detached sales recorded during the same period in 2009. The benchmark price, as calculated by the MLSLink®
Housing Price Index, for detached properties increased 19.5 per cent from January 2009 to $788,499.
Sales of apartment properties in January 2010 increased 146.8 per cent to 891 compared to 361 sales in January 2009. The benchmark price of an apartment property increased 15.2 per cent from January 2009 to $385,487.
Attached property sales in January 2010 are up 200 per cent to 327, compared with the 109 sales in January 2009. The benchmark price of an attached unit increased 13.4 per cent between January 2009 and 2010 to $482,478.
February 5, 2010
Vancouver Realtor Cory Raven wonders if Vancouver can learn a lesson...
Can Vancouver learn lessons from this developer/development? Vancouver is hoping to bill itself as the world's green capital, and it may just be time to do something drastic. Your thoughts?
California developer introduces 'One Planet' ethic to this coast
"True sustainability' is the goal of 1,700-residence initiative north of San Francisco, not 'just a reduction in emissions'
If any organization has a truly global vision of sustainability, it's Bioregional.
The United Kingdom-based company has created an initiative called One Planet Communities. Those communities, now in place in several countries, are committed to reducing the ecological footprint of their residents to a truly sustainable level by 2020.
"The point of the One Planet program is to try to achieve true sustainability instead of just a reduction in emissions relative to something abstract like building codes or 1990 levels," says Greg Searle, executive director of BioRegional's North America office.
"The only real absolute that we know is that we have one planet and that there are nearly seven billion of us on a limited amount of bio-productive land. It's a kind of global speed limit that we're exceeding unsafely."
The One Planet initiative was inspired by BedZED, an urban eco-village Bioregional helped create in 2002 in the U.K. BedZED ended up being a living laboratory for ecological living, inspiring a new generation of design and public policy, Searle says.
"The One Planet program grew out of the observation that if we could create that much change in one country, just by building a small demonstration project, that we ought to challenge conventional ideas about sustainability with larger, more ambitious demonstration projects around the world."
Searle, a Canadian and an Ottawa resident, is One Planet's North American manager and a member of the organization's international steering committee.
There are now One Planet communities in Portugal, China, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and most recently in the U.S.: the Sonoma Mountain Village, or SOMO, in Rohnert Park, Calif., just north of San Francisco.
The SOMO project has all-encompassing sustainability as its goal. Sonoma Mountain Village is a 200-acre, mixed-use, solar-powered zero-waste community, of almost 1,700 homes that aims to have every resident no more than a five-minute walk to groceries, restaurants, day-care and other amenities offering local and sustainable products and services.
When asked how the initiative differs from green-building programs such as LEED, and in particular LEED for Neighbourhood Development, Searle says One Planet is goal-driven rather than point-driven, but also works to inject sustainability into every aspect of the project. For example, one development in the U.K. not only ran a sustainable canteen for construction workers, it also encouraged them to bike to work.
"Just going to the highest level of a green-building rating system like LEED doesn't get you out of trouble [with carbon emissions] in the building category, and does very little to help the waste and transportation contributions that are often very significant," he says. At last year's Living Futures Conference, Bioregional and SOMO developer Codding Enterprises presented a study on the total carbon footprint of households in various green-building scenarios.
To live truly sustainably, the report said, U.S. households would have to achieve a 75-percent reduction in their total carbon footprint.
The study found that even households in an LEED for Neighbourhood Development platinum project -- the highest ranking possible -- achieved only an 18-per-cent reduction. Green buildings and smart-growth planning are important steps, says Searle, noting that while LEED works nicely with the One Planet program, green buildings alone are not nearly enough.
Rising to the challenge
Already frustrated by the process and results he was seeing in his own LEED projects, Geof Syphers of Codding Enterprises welcomed the challenge One Planet Communities offered when developing the Sonoma Mountain Village.
"Even in the very best-case scenario, under an LEED Platinum project, we were only reducing CO2 emissions by 15 to 20 per cent relative to the status quo," says Syphers. "Even if we were beating stringent codes by 40 per cent, and we're supplying half of the power with renewable energy, we're still providing the other half with fossil fuels and causing a net detriment to the planet."
Syphers says the One Planet framework was attractive, in part, because it lays out exactly what is needed to achieve sustainability. "It makes no claim that you'll succeed," he says, "but if you fall short, you'll know exactly what the gap is and why, and then they publish that widely.
"Instead of patting ourselves on the back for reducing waste by 89 per cent, we say we made good progress, but still have a long way to go, and if you can help us, that would be great. It allows real science to happen."
An important tool in the One Planet program is a publicly available annual audit. Searle
describes this aspect as particularly timely in light of recent negative press over green buildings found to be underperforming. "Monitoring is generally a huge gap and it's rare to find a real estate developer that's willing to take risk over a 10-year period to have their progress reviewed. I think it makes a much better product for the consumer and raises the integrity and credibility of a project enormously."
Searle argues that we need to go into sustainable projects with the spirit that they are pioneering opportunities for us to learn what works, and perhaps more importantly, what doesn't.
Both Searle and Syphers acknowledge that they cannot control the environmental impact residents have when the developer leaves the SOMO development, but when they consider the BedZED experience and others, they estimate that the design, planning and services of the development with help residents reduce their total direct carbon emissions by 83 per cent.
Perhaps even more impressive than this, or the development's enviable bells and whistles, are the great strides being made in changing policy and bylaw barriers.
"My main motivation is to first legalize this and enable it," says Syphers. From variances needed to narrow streets, to the three bills now pending to expand solar applications, Sonoma Mountain Village's greatest impact, like BedZed's, could well be in forging the way for others.
For more information on the SOMO's impressive attributes, visit sonomamountainvillage.com,worldchanging.com/archives/009448.html,or oneplanetcommunities.org
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
February 3, 2010
Vancouver prices rise, suburban sales levels taper off
VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver house prices reached a new peak level in January while the overall pace of sales across the Lower Mainland eased off the torrid pace seen in December, according to reports from the region’s real estate boards.
In Metro Vancouver, the benchmark price for a single-family home, the average price for typical homes sold, hit $788,499, some 20 per cent above January a year ago, when prices were still falling during the economic downturn, and two per cent above the previous peak of $771,250 in May of 2008.
That new high, however, was driven mostly by the sales of higher-priced properties in specific municipalities, Robyn Adamache, a market analyst for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., said in an interview.
“Mostly, the areas above [the peak] are the west side of Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and the Tri Cities,” Adamache said.
In the rest of Metro Vancouver within the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s territory, house prices are still below their previous peaks.
While the bounce-back has been rapid, Tsur Somerville, a real estate expert at the University of British Columbia, said the new highs are less concerning given that mortgage rates remain at near record lows.
“That carrying cost and monthly mortgage payment is still down [from peak levels],” Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate at the Sauder School of Business at UBC, said in an interview.
“We’re not at the point where we’re freaking out again [about high prices], but it bears watching.”
Somerville added that with overall sales cooling a bit in January compared with last December’s high level, the rate of price growth is likely to slow as well.
Sales across the Lower Mainland in January eased off their December pace.
In Metro Vancouver, realtors recorded 1,923 sales through the Multiple Listing Service in January, which was more than double the number of sales in the same month a year ago, but off almost 24 per cent from the pace of sales in the previous month.
In the Fraser Valley, realtors saw 981 sales through the Multiple Listing Service in January, off 22 per cent from December, but still more than double the number of sales from the same month a year ago when markets across the Lower Mainland had nearly ground to a halt.
“Sales are not declining,” Somerville added. “But we’re slowing the rate of [sales] growth to something that makes more sense.”
He said January’s sales, while below 2005 levels, the region’s peak year for transactions, the month was still on par with 2006 and 2007, which were busy years on the region’s historical scale.
Somerville guessed that some of this year’s reduction in sales may be Olympic-influenced. Condo owners who are renting their properties out for the Games are more reluctant to list them for sale until the event is over.
Jake Moldowan, president-elect of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said January was still a busy month for realtors.
He added that a substantial rise in new listings in January was “refreshing for us, because we were getting short of product again.”
Homeowners put 5,147 properties on the market in January, which was 139 per cent more than were listed in December, and was 39 per cent higher than in January 2009.
Sellers listed 2,941 properties for sale in January, a near doubling from the number of new listings put up for sale in December.
The benchmark price for a Fraser Valley single-family home, the average value of typical homes sold, hit $500,931 in January, up almost 11 per cent from the same month a year ago, but still slightly below peak levels.
• PRICE POINTS
Lower Mainland real estate markets saw prices jump again in January, in some locations beyond previous peak levels to new records. Below are some year-over-year examples of benchmark prices, which are average prices for typical homes sold.
• Metro Vancouver
Single family: $$788,499 +20%
Townhouse: $482,478 +13%
Condominium: $385,487 +15%
• Fraser Valley
Single family: $500,931 +11%
Townhouse: $317,719 +8%
Condominium: $243,470 +10%
Source: Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
February 2, 2010
I have sold a property at # 203 1680 W 4TH AV in Vancouver
I have sold a property at # 203 1680 W 4TH AV in Vancouver.
MANTRA-Cressey's latest work. Ideally located steps to shopping & restaurants along W 4th Ave, South Granville & Granville Island. This 1 bedroom & huge patio approx 475 sf boasts spacious kitchen with KitchenAid Architectural Seriesappliances including GAS cooking & wine fridge along with glass tile backsplash, stone counters & huge pantry storage. This greenbelt/air conditioned & concrete home has the perfect floor plan with large living & dining areas, insuite laundry & storage rooms, built in entertainment niche, & designer bathrooms. Great common area gym & huge patio. OPEN every Saturday & Sunday 1-4 PM.
February 2, 2010
I have sold a property at # 903 7225 ACORN AV in Burnaby
I have sold a property at # 903 7225 ACORN AV in Burnaby.
AXIS Living. Brand New , Never lived in suite, on the rarely avaiable North East Corner. GST has been paid, pets and rentals are allowed. This is the perfect starter home or investment. Across the street from HIGHGATE Mall.Easy Commute in to Vancouver, central location with easy access to anywhere in the Lower Mainland. Call today for your private viewing.
February 2, 2010
I have sold a property at # 428 2008 PINE ST in Vancouver
I have sold a property at # 428 2008 PINE ST in Vancouver.
MANTRA-Cressey's latest work. Ideally located steps to shopping & restaurants along W 4th Ave, South Granville & Granville Island. The well laid out 2 bedroom boasts spacious kitchen with KitchenAid Architectural Series appliances includingGAS cooking & wine fridge along with glass tile backsplash, stone counters & huge pantry storage. This greenbelt/air conditioned & concrete home has the perfect floor plan with large living & dining areas, insuite laundry & storage rooms, built in entertainment niche, & designer bathrooms. Great common area gym & huge patio. OPEN every Saturday & Sunday 1-4 PM.
February 2, 2010
New property listed in Central BN, Burnaby North
I have listed a new property at # 2 3753 MANOR ST in Burnaby.
Boutique townhouse community close to Walmart, elementary school, high school, BCIT & Burnaby General Hospital. Buy now to avoid HST! Built with rainscreen & including full 2-5-10 warranty. See it before it is gone.
February 2, 2010
Real Estate Vancouver
REAL ESTATE AND MORTGAGE NEWS
Games Won't Boost House Prices in Vancouver, Says Study
A new study says that hosting the Olympic Games does not prompt an increase in local house prices, nor do prices crash after the games are over. In Vancouver, where the Winter Olympic Games get underway this month, that may be a good thing. Another report says the city has the least affordable housing of 272 urban centres examined around the world, including San Francisco, New York, London and Sydney, Australia.
In the first study , "We look at housing markets before, during and after a city hosts the Olympic Games to see if there is any evidence of an Olympic bounce through an increase in house prices. We find none," say authors Tsur Somerville and Jake Wetzel of the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, Sauder School of Business.
"However, in contrast to the shrill warnings of the anti-games Cassandras, we also find no evidence of a downturn or slowing in housing price growth following the games. More than anything else, our findings argue that hosting the Olympic Games is not about economic benefits. Instead, the focus in hosting the games should be on the opportunity to celebrate excellence and achievement, and to capture our collective imaginations," says the study.
The focus on house price changes is what differentiates this study from others that measure the economic benefits of the Olympics, say the authors. "Changes in house prices are an effective tool to identify benefits unique to a particular location because they have been shown to monetize an area's enhanced future economic opportunities from expected increases in employment opportunities, wages and higher local business earnings," says the study. "Critically, they will also rise from any increased quality of life that results from Olympic infrastructure spending and legacy facilities."
The study analysed house prices in Summer Olympics hosts Los Angeles (1984), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000), and Winter Games hosts Calgary (1988), Salt Lake City (2002) and Vancouver. Each was compared to a similar city that did not host the games.
"There is no consistent evidence that hosting the Olympic Games result in either higher or lower house prices and as well there was no pattern for an effect during the announcement period, the lead-up to the games, or the period following," says the study. "The U.S. host cities had higher price growth following the Olympics, but this was not statistically different from the price growth in the three similar cities that did not host the games."
Somerville and Wetzel say that while they could find no economic argument to support bringing the games to town, "We do not feel that economics alone need be the litmus test for hosting the games. Parties, festivals and celebrations may not meet an economics test, but they do make life interesting to live … . The athletes spark our collective imagination and inspire us. While the impact of this intangible element on the public conscious can never be quantified, it is the strength of the Olympic Movement and a reason why hosting and participating in the games carries so much prestige."
Even without a boost from the games, Vancouver house prices are already "severely unaffordable" according to a survey by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a Winnipeg-based think tank. "Vancouver is the most unaffordable of the 28 housing markets measured in Canada and the most unaffordable of the 272 metropolitan markets ranked in Ireland, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, the U.S. and Canada," says the survey. It measures affordability with an index based on the median price of housing compared to median income in each market.
For many years, housing affordability has been defined as being about three year's worth of income, say report authors Hugh Pavletich and Wendell Cox. But in Vancouver in the third quarter of 2009, the median sale value was $540,900 and the median household income was $58,200, giving a "median multiplier" of 9.3, or almost 10 years' worth of income. This is "unprecedented in modern history," say the authors.
The survey deems any index of 5.1
and over as "severely unaffordable". Other Canadian cities in that category are Victoria (7.9), Abbotsford, B.C. (6.6), Kelowna, B.C. (5.9) and Toronto (5.2).
The second-least affordable city in the survey was another former Olympic Games host, Sydney, at 9.1. The least affordable U.S. market was Honolulu at 8.2.
The most affordable markets in Canada were the Ontario cities of Thunder Bay and Windsor, at 2.2, followed by Moncton at 2.5, and two cities at 3.0 – Saguenay, Que. and Saint John, N.B.
The survey blames affordability problems on restrictive "smart growth" land-use policies. "Prescriptive land use regulation policies (principally compact development and urban consolidation) have virtually destroyed housing affordability in many markets," say authors Pavletich and Cox.
February 1, 2010
Intrawest's Whistler thrives despite 'Olympics aversion'
Intrawest's Whistler thrives despite 'Olympics aversion'
In 1991, Whistler Resort became the first mountain resort outside of the USA to be named #1 by a major American ski magazine. Five years later, in 1996, it became the only resort in history to be simultaneously named #1 by Snow Country, SKI and Skiing Magazines. In March 1997 Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation (which owned Whistler) merged with Intrawest Corporation (which owned Blackcomb) to create one of the biggest resort complexes in the world. Whistler Blackcomb/Intrawest
Forecasts were for dismal demand for the slopes at the B.C. resort. But good weather and deals beckoned skiers
VANCOUVER — From Monday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Feb. 01, 2010 12:00AM EST Last updated on Monday, Feb. 01, 2010 1:04PM EST
It's 9 a.m. on a Saturday, 70 centimetres of snow has fallen in the past 24 hours. Crowds throng the heart of Whistler Village, long lines of excited skiers and snowboarders ready to relish an epic day, everyone willing to face the equally epic queues that stretch from each of the lifts to ride up Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
This is the scene two weeks ago at Whistler Blackcomb, co-host of the Winter Olympics this month. Even though a bright global spotlight will shine on Whistler, the Games were expected to be bad for business as the feared "Olympics aversion" factor would keep the crowds away from the mountain all season long, not just in February.
It was supposed to be a big negative for the premier resort of heavily indebted Intrawest ULC, which has missed a major debt payment and is trying stave off angry lenders who are planning to foreclose on the company and auction the assets on Feb. 19.
But, at Whistler, business is good. Snow has been plentiful - almost 10 metres, the most ever recorded by the end of January. The lure of powder, and a series of special deals, has attracted increased regional traffic, even as international numbers are down. All in, skier visits are up almost 10 per cent from a year ago, according to Dave Brownlie, president of Whistler Blackcomb.
"It's not a record year but given the Olympics aversion, to be well ahead of plan is certainly a good thing," Mr. Brownlie said.
Better-than-expected business at Whistler is the only good news for Intrawest owner Fortress Investment Group LLC, the New York hedge fund and private equity fund that bought the company in 2006 at the peak of the real estate bubble for $2.8-billion in a heavily leveraged buyout. Its equity is now near worthless and Fortress has sold two ski resorts - Copper Mountain in Colorado in November and Panorama Mountain Village in southeastern British Columbia last week - to pay down debt.
Intrawest now owns eight winter resorts and one golf-beach resort in Florida. At Whistler Blackcomb itself, there is a minority owner, Japan's Nippon Cable with 23 per cent.
Last September, the mood was grim at Whistler. A marketing brochure asked: "Why on earth would you buy a season pass in 2010?" The pitch was "an offer you can't refuse," the $1,100 season pass that's cheaper than it's been in a decade, almost 30 per cent off the previous year for a resort routinely ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in North America and among the best in the world.
Hotels in Whistler offered many specials and Whistler introduced a three-day option for a regional discount card that normally is only available in prepaid one-, five- and 10-day versions. Buying a five- or 10-day card early got customers a free bonus day to use before Christmas.
Worse, the Olympics aversion year came after what Fortress told its investors was a "difficult" 2008-09 season for Whistler, whose high-end product suffered in the recession even as the mountain was battered by rain and a lack of snow. Also, in December, 2008, a gondola tower snapped, injuring a dozen people and stranding more than 50 for several hours, generating terrible publicity.
Starting today, the actual Olympics impact is felt - no day parking for skiers is available through the month. Traffic on the mountains is expected to be down by more than half. Whistler last week did announce some paid parking until Feb. 10, two days before the games begin.
So even though all of Blackcomb and a lot of Whistler will be open to ski - the races take place on the Creekside portion of Whistler - getting to the mountains will be tough.
Long lines at Whistler on January powder days won't be enough to save Fortress from its creditors, according to James Brander, a business professor at the University of British Columbia who said last week that "it seems very likely" the lenders will take over Intrawest. Fortress can avoid the Feb. 19 auction by getting court protection from creditors but that move would almost certainly knock its remaining equity value to zero, effectively losing control of the company.
Although Whistler is the most important piece of Intrawest's portfolio, it's unclear how much profit it generates. In 2006, when Fortress took over, two-thirds of Intrawest's profit was in real estate, not the mountains, which was not unusual given that Intrawest started as a real estate company that got into the resort business, rather than being a mountain operator at its core.
Also, while the Olympics aversion factor hasn't been as strong as forecast, Intrawest has expressed skepticism about the long-term benefit of hosting the games - even though billions of people will be watching on television.
"I don't know if it [the benefit] will ever be measured in dollars," Intrawest CEO Bill Jensen said at a ski conference last year. "The jury is out on whether we will experience ... a longer-term sustained bump."
| Buyer's Market
| Cameron Mcneill
| Central BN, Burnaby North Real Estate
| Central Pt Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam
| Clayton, Cloverdale
| Coal Harbour
| Coal Harbour, Vancouver West
| Cory Raven
| Downtown NW
| Downtown NW, New Westminster
| Downtown VW
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| Fairview VW, Vancouver West
| False Creek North
| False Creek North, Vancouver West
| False Creek, Vancouver West
| False Creek, Vancouver West Real Estate
| Guildford, North Surrey Real Estate
| Hamilton RI, Richmond
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| Highgate, Burnaby South
| Highgate, Burnaby South Real Estate
| King George Corridor, South Surrey White Rock
| King George Corridor, South Surrey White Rock Real Estate
| Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver
| MAC Marketing Solutions
| Main, Vancouver East
| Market Trendz
| Market Trendzs
| Market TrendzsPanorama Ridge
| Marpole, Vancouver West
| Mortgage Rates
| Mount Pleasant VW
| Mount Pleasant VW, Vancouver West
| New Westminster
| Panorama Ridge, Surrey Real Estate
| Prime Property
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| Raven's Real Deal
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| West End VW, Vancouver West
| West End VW, Vancouver West Real Estate
Please excuse the mess while I upgrade my website. In the meantime, you may access all my blog posts by clicking here.
Please excuse the mess while I upgrade my website to provide you with even more timely and topical information on our market and the process of buying and selling. In the meantime, you can access my blog by clicking here