Cory Raven | 604-220-9399

 

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?

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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.

Good intentions

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."

Progressive Reporting

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.

Priceless Future

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

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Are you planning a visit to our beautiful city during the Olympics?  Be aware that due to the high demand for short term rentals, there are a large number of scammers out there on various websites.

See article below

Olympics schemers already at start line

Appeared in print: Sunday, Jan 10, 2010


The 2010 Olympics are approaching, but the scams already have arrived, according to the Oregon Better Business Bureau.
 
These include phony ads for British Columbia rental properties that are popping up on craigslist and other online classifieds, the BBB says.
 
Victims of these type of rental scams typically say they were told by the supposed landlord that they needed to wire a large deposit in order to receive the keys to the rental home.
 
When the victims ask if they can check out the property first, the landlords claim that they are out of the country. Often, the scammer lifts photos of actual houses that are for sale that have been posted online — a scam that also showed up in Eugene last year, real estate agents reported.
 

The BBB advises people who are looking for rentals for the Olympics to watch out for these red flags:

The landlord claims to be located outside the area where the rental is and will only communicate via e-mail. Scammers frequently say they’re out of the country for a job or on missionary work.
 
The landlord asks the potential renter to wire money through wire transfer services, such as Western Union or MoneyGram. “Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve,” the BBB says, “and once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse — if any — for getting your money back.”
 
The landlord requires a big deposit before giving you the keys — or even showing the home. “Don’t pay any money before inspecting inside the property,” the BBB says. If you absolutely can’t inspect the property in advance, the BBB says, get a contract with all the terms, details and conditions spelled out. Make sure the rental is furnished, ask for proof that the person actually owns it, and ask if you can pay when you arrive, after signing a contract, instead of in advance.
 
Homeowners who are renting out their home, condominium or apartment for the games are required to have a business license through the city of Vancouver — ask for a copy. A license is not, however, required to rent a single room.
 
Finally, the Olympics has an official Web site, www.2010destinationplanner.com , with a list of hotels, bed and breakfasts, private home rentals and rooms on cruise ships.
 
Cory Raven
Managing Broker
TAC Real Estate Corp.
604.220.9399 (direct)
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Well well well, looks like the media is catching on to the technology I have been offering on my www.coryraven.com/m (go there from your iphone or android, blackberry coming soon)
 
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Starting the house hunt in Metro Vancouver no longer needs to be a static pursuit. A couple of firms have joined the technological wave of text-messaging and map-location to launch services that deliver property information to consumers on their wireless devices.
 

Starting the house hunt in Metro Vancouver no longer needs to be a static pursuit. A couple of firms have joined the technological wave of text-messaging and map-location to launch services that deliver property information to consumers on their wireless devices.

Photograph by: Graphics, Vancouver Sun

Starting the house hunt in Metro Vancouver no longer needs to be a static pursuit.

A couple of firms have joined the technological wave of text-messaging and map-location to launch services that deliver property information to consumers on their wireless devices.

It is the thin edge of making property searches completely mobile, although not a lot of consumers may be aware they are available.

“There’s no doubt that mobile is where it’s at,” says Kye Grace, a tech-savvy realtor and consultant in Vancouver. “From searching right down to a realtor [website] having a mobile option for iPhones, Blackberrys and Android phones.”

The logic for realtors, Grace said, is that “you want to be where the consumer is. And in all reality, the consumer is going mobile.”

From the consumer’s perspective, Grace said regardless of how much time consumers spend looking up property listings on their computers at home, they still wind up driving around to see the offerings, so its more convenient and efficient if you can deliver information to them where they are.

RealtyText is one program created by the Vancouver-based firm RT RealtyText, which uses text-messaging to deliver information to house-hunting consumers.

Company president George Haddad said realtors can subscribe to the service, which allows them to upload their listings to RealtyText’s system, then put an addition to their property signs printed with the realtor’s special code.

The consumer who sees that sign texts the code to the RealtyText system, which sends back the listing information — including specs, photos and an option to contact the listing agent to set up a viewing.

“Business has been really, really good,” Haddad said of his company’s initial sales campaign.

“What [realtors] like is that they’re providing information to clients 24/7,” he added. “As well, they love the fact they can monitor activity on a property,” by seeing how many people request information.

Haddad, an active developer, said he got the idea for RealtyText out of his own frustration at not being able to get information quickly while he was on the road.

And from watching American Idol and registering the show’s method of text messaging for viewers to vote for favoured contestants, Haddad thought that text would be the way to do it. After about 18 months of development, he launched RealtyText earlier this year.

The technical experts at Myrealpage.com dreamed up a more comprehensive search tool that marries Google Maps with the Multiple Listing Service databases of B.C.’s real estate boards, and provides a search tool accessible through a mobile version of a subscribing realtor’s website.

“With the mobile product, it gives consumers their first opportunity to go and shop for a home away from their home computer,” Ray Giesbrecht, Myrealpage.com’s sales and marketing manager in Vancouver, said in an interview.

The service uses the iPhone’s GPS navigation system to show consumers MLS property listings within the vicinity of their location on a Google Map, and set it to follow them around, plotting more listings as they travel through neighbourhoods.

This gives homebuyers “a more realistic context of the property vis-a-vis its neighborhood,” he added.

Giesbrecht said the system also has options realtors can access for users to flag favourite listings, grade them, and make comments on them for future review at the realtor’s office.

The Rogers-owned search service Zoocasa.com does offer a similar mobile application for the iPhone, but Giesbrecht noted that it aggregates listings from sources other than MLS databases, so its listings are limited compared with Myrealpage.com.

Grace, while he is not a user, offers a favourable review of Myrealpage.com’s offering.

“As far as individual products go, Myrealpage is the best,” he said, “but I don’t think they have any competition either.”

The difficulty right now, Grace added, is accessibility. At this point, consumers probably aren’t aware that the tools are available.

depenner@vancouversun.com

 
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This was in the Globe and Mail today.  Arg!  I know people think multiple offers are a great thing and Realtors must love them, but a balanced market is much healthier and sustainable
 
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JENNIFER VAN EVRA

Special to The Globe and Mail

When Vancouver real estate agent Terry Flahiff listed the Kitsilano bungalow a few weeks ago, he knew it would generate interest. Located on the city's west side, the 1926 home featured hardwood floors, a large renovated kitchen, a bright two-bedroom basement suite, a white picket fence and a tree swing.

Sure, the yard was small, the view out the back was a giant condo complex, the bedrooms were tiny - the master was slightly more than 100 square feet - and it was just half a block off one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. Still, those shortcomings were quickly forgiven by the dozens of prospective buyers who streamed through the first open house saying, "Honey, I love it" and trying to imagine life without closets.

Five days later, seven agents lined up to make their offers. The asking price was $959,000, but because of the competition, they knew they had to push higher. Only two bids came in at less than $1- million, and in the end, the home sold for a staggering $1.142-million - more than $180,000 over the original price tag.

"My clients were hoping to get around $1-million or maybe $1.05-million," Mr. Flahiff says. "I think they were very happy."

As neighbours south of the border continue to pay the price for their housing market collapse, it seems that home buyers in Vancouver have forgotten the global economic downturn like it was yesterday's news - and that rush of optimism is fuelling a return to bidding wars.

Earlier this week on the Eastside, a partly updated Commercial Drive bungalow with a two-bedroom suite and a new garage and studio drew 10 offers - most of them with no inspections, despite the fact that the 1926 house needed a new roof, electrical upgrades and drain tile work, and had an old oil tank buried in the back yard. The first showing was Thursday last week, and on Sunday it sold for $113,000 over the asking price.

The same dizzying chain of events is being repeated around the city, where homes are selling in a matter of days, some for prices that sellers could not have imagined just a few months earlier. To make matters worse, many are being bought outright, because an offer that includes subjects (that is, the buyers want a few days to get an inspection or appraisal, finalize financing and so on) just can't compete.

According to veteran agent Rod MacKay, prospective buyers who have been waiting in the wings for the past year feel more confident about the economy and want to capitalize on the record low mortgage rates and reduced home prices before they drift outside their financial grasp. And because of the low mortgage rates, home ownership is now within reach for thousands of first-time buyers who had been priced out of the market, adding to the pressure at the bottom. Meanwhile, sellers aren't jumping in nearly as quickly: A third fewer houses were on the market this August than a year earlier, giving buyers a tough lesson in the laws of supply and demand.

"Prices have moved up 10 per cent in the last six months, so people are worried that if they wait for the perfect house, it won't be affordable," says Mr. MacKay, whose client offered $62,000 over the asking price on the Commercial Drive home, but landed near the bottom of the pack because her offer was contingent on getting two weekdays to finalize the financing. "So if someone is offering on a house that's $950,000, but they can afford $1.1-million, they think they'd better pay it now because that house will cost $1.75-million before they know it."

Still, experts say that even though Vancouver posted record sales in August - a whopping 117 per cent over the previous year - the overheated market is not likely to last. The backlog of buyers will purchase homes, and more sellers will enter the market, marking a return to a more balanced situation.

"The volatility has definitely been very surprising. We expected to see improvement from the recessionary lows, but we didn't see it rising this quickly," says Brian Yu, an economist with the British Columbia Real Estate Association, pointing to a steep decline in mortgage rates and low inventory as the central reasons behind the speedy return to a red-hot market.

"But the Vancouver numbers are showing some signs of plateauing, so the markets are probably going to stabilize over the next while," he says. "They can't increase at this rate forever."

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Courtesy of Thane Stenner, published in the Globe and Mail
 
Looking west from the boardroom in our office, you can just see it: an enormous pit, perhaps 200 feet deep, where the crowning glory of Vancouver's skyline would have been.

Designed by the late, great Arthur Erickson, the Ritz-Carlton's 123 luxury residences would surely have been one of the most prestigious addresses in the city. Fully 58 storeys high, the tower featured a dramatic 45-degree twist from foundation to apex, with spectacular views of the city, the Strait of Georgia and the North Shore mountains.

At least, that was the idea. When the global financial crisis hit last fall, the Ritz-Carlton was one of the casualties. Faced with sky-high construction costs, uncertain financing and sluggish sales, the developer halted the project in October. Recently, there's been some buzz about things starting up again after the 2010 Olympics. Until then, it serves as a poignant reminder of the depth of the global financial crisis.

A time to buy?

I asked Ross McCredie about the project when we met for a working lunch late last week. As president and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty Canada, and a 10-year veteran of the industry, he knows full well how tough times have been for anyone buying or selling luxury real estate in Canada. "It was incredible how quickly the market dried up," Mr. McCredie said, shaking his head. "From October of 2008 to the spring of this year, across the country, sales literally stopped."

Since then, however, it's been a different story. "I was surprised at how quickly the market picked up this past spring," he said. "[In Vancouver,] we've sold one home well over $10-million, one at $9.5-million, as well as two in Victoria at $6.8-million and $6.5-million, all in the last six weeks."

Why the dramatic change? Mr. McCredie believes it has everything to do with the psychology of the sellers. "The past year has cut deep into the mindset of many high-net-worth individuals and their families," Mr. McCredie said. "[Many] have decided to dispose of properties they thought they would never sell."

If you're a buyer, this is the kind of mentality you've been waiting for. "In the urban centres, properties over $3-million have a limited number of buyers, and they're taking a great deal more time to sell," Mr. McCredie said. "Often, sellers feel as if they 'missed the market,' and they're panicking somewhat."

If it's a recreational property you're shopping for, the news is equally good.

"Across Canada there are rare opportunities to purchase one-of-a-kind properties at well below assessed values - and often well below replacement cost," Mr. McCredie said. "This is especially true in the recreational markets such as Whistler, waterfront homes in the Okanagan, Muskoka and Mont Tremblant."

Advice for buyers and sellers

Despite his optimism, Mr. McCredie is quick to point out that luxury real estate is far from a "slam dunk," even in this market.

Certainly, great deals are out there, but the rules of real estate still apply: "Location is still the No. 1 driver of value in the upper end of the market," Mr. McCredie said.

At the same time, he points out that buyers are looking for more than just a pretty view.

"The architectural significance of the home is becoming more important. Size has little to do with value, but the actual beauty, quality of construction, and function of a home are key components of establishing a home's value."

Mr. McCredie believes that when it comes to luxury real estate, both buyers and sellers need to think carefully about the investment aspect of their purchase.

"Whenever buying or selling any home - and especially the most expensive home on the block - think about who else would buy it," he said.

As Mr. McCredie points out, building your dream home is all well and good, but your dreams aren't necessarily the same as a potential buyer's.

"People often get carried away building a trophy home for themselves without ever considering the basic fundamentals of real estate," he says.

"As a result, they overbuild for a particular lot or neighbourhood."

As Mr. McCredie candidly explained, such a move is rarely a wise investment decision. "It's a very simple supply-and-demand function," Mr. McCredie said.

"If there are multiple high-net-worth individuals who would want the home, then its value can easily exceed the current market."

As our server brought us the bill, I asked Mr. McCredie where he thinks the luxury market in Canada is headed over the next year.

He reminded me that when it comes to luxury real estate, the market is only one factor in the equation.

"A home's value is always determined by the buyer's ability to believe the home's story," Mr. McCredie said.

"Done poorly, you can sell a home well short of its value. Done well, you can overcome nearly any market."

Thane Stenner is founder of Stenner Investment Partners within GMP Private Client L.P., as well as Managing Director, Private Client. He is also bestselling author of ´True Wealth: an expert guide for high-net-worth individuals (and their advisors). He can be reached at thane.stenner@gmppc.com. The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of GMP Private Client L.P. or its affiliates.

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The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver just released their stats for July 2009 and it reflects what any Realtor in town will be able to tell you; July was an amazingly busy month
 

July stats:

Strong spring market carries into summer months

VANCOUVER, B.C. – August 5, 2009 – The Greater Vancouver housing market gained further momentum in July with record sales levels and a continued strengthening of home prices.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that the number of residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 4,114 in July 2009, becoming the highest volume of sales ever recorded within the REBGV for that month, outpacing the 4,023 sales in July 2003, which is the only other year that July sales exceeded the 4,000 mark.

Since the beginning of the year, the MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 9.2 per cent to $528,821 from $484,211. However, home prices compared to July 2008 levels are down 5 per cent.

“Home sales this summer are seasonally higher than normal, which is due in large part to the price correction that has taken place in the last year and low interest rates,” Scott Russell, REBGV president said. “Although wellpriced listings and lower-to mid-range priced properties remain in the highest demand across Greater Vancouver, recent activity from first-time buyers is beginning to boost demand in the “move-up” segment of the market.”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties declined in Greater Vancouver, down 17.4 per cent to 5,041 in July 2009 compared to July 2008, when 6,104 new units were listed. At 12,482, the total number of property listings on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) declined 5.8 per cent compared to last month and 34 per cent compared to July 2008.

“It is currently taking, on average, 48 days for a home to sell in the region. Today’s market activity differs by area and property type and it’s important to tap into local housing market expertise to understand why some properties are attracting multiple offers, while others are not moving,” Russell said.

July 2009 home sales declined 3.4 per cent compared to June 2009, but are up 89.2 per cent when measured against the 2,174 sales recorded in July 2008.

Sales of detached properties in July increased 95.2 per cent to 1,614 from the 827 detached sales recorded during the same period in 2008. The HPI benchmark price for detached properties declined 5.5 per cent from July 2008 to $711,702. Since the beginning of the year, the benchmark price for detached properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 9.8 per cent.

Sales of apartment properties in July 2009 increased 76.8 per cent to 1,708, compared to 966 sales in July 2008. The benchmark price of an apartment property declined 4.3 per cent from July 2008 to $365,291. Since the beginning of the year, the benchmark price for apartment properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 9.6 per cent.

Attached property sales in July 2009 are up 107.9 per cent to792, compared with the 381 sales in July 2008. The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 4.6 per cent between July 2008 and 2009 to $452,085. Since the beginning of the year, the benchmark price for attached properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 6.8 per cent.

Bright spots in Greater Vancouver in July 2009 compared to July 2008:

DETACHED:   

Burnaby up 121.7 per cent (153 units sold from 69)  

North Vancouver up 53.3 per cent (115 units sold from 75)  

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows up 60 per cent (160 units sold from 100)  

Richmond up 140.2 per cent (221 units sold from 92)  

Vancouver East up 66.4 per cent (208 units sold from 125)  

Port Coquitlam up 236.4 per cent (74 units sold from 22)  

Vancouver West up 104.5 per cent (180 units sold from 88)  

South Delta up 203.1 per cent (97 units sold from 32)  

West Vancouver up 108.1 per cent (77 units sold from 37)  

Sunshine Coast up 60.5 per cent (69 units sold from 43)  

ATTACHED:   

Burnaby up 123.3 per cent (134 units sold from 60)  

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows up 77.7 per cent (64 units sold from 36)  

North Vancouver up 70 per cent (51 units sold from 30)  

Vancouver West up 110 per cent (105 units sold from 50)  

Richmond up 152.1 per cent (179 units sold from 71)  

Vancouver East up 195.8 per cent (71 units sold from 24)  

Port Coquitlam up 117.6 per cent (37 units sold from 17)  

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows up 77.7 per cent (64 units sold from 36)  

Coquitlam up 88.2 per cent (64 units sold from 34)  

APARTMENTS:   

Burnaby up 72.8 per cent (235 units sold from 136)  

North Vancouver up 47.9 per cent (105 units sold from 71)  

Richmond up 85.5 per cent (230 units sold from 124)  

Vancouver East up 64.2 per cent (179 units sold from 109)  

Vancouver West up 94 per cent (584 units sold from 301)  

New Westminster up 70.6 per cent (116 units sold from 68)  

Coquitlam up 62.3 per cent (86 units sold from 53)  

Port Moody/Belcarra up 138.1 per cent (50 units sold from 21)  

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I have just uploaded a copy of this month's Informed Buyer and Seller Newsletter
 
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Here is a copy of my July 2009 Informed Home Buyer Newsletter
 
Enjoy
 
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Bentall 5 building has been sold to a German investment company for $300 million in Vancouver, B.C.
 

Bentall 5 building has been sold to a German investment company for $300 million in Vancouver, B.C.

Photograph by: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - News that the Bentall 5 building in downtown Vancouver had been sold to a German investment firm for $300 million dropped like a bombshell in the city's commercial real estate sector Wednesday morning.

It is the highest price paid for a single building in Metro Vancouver in at least the past decade and the second highest in Canada since the end of 2007.

And buyer Deka Immobilien Investment GmbH came forward with an unsolicited, all-cash bid to entice owner SITQ, the real estate subsidiary of the Quebec pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, into selling.

"For sure it's the largest [sale] in Canada this year," said Tony Quattrin, an executive vice-president in Vancouver for the commercial realtor CB Richard Ellis, Deka Immobilien's broker in the deal.

The Bentall 5 sale ranks as the biggest transaction Metro Vancouver has seen for the decade Paul Richter has been researching the market.

"[The sale] is a bit of a surprise in that you don't see deals anywhere near this [magnitude] generally in this market," said Richter, western Canadian manager for the property research firm RealNet Canada Inc.

He said in an interview that he fielded several e-mails Wednesday morning that included a lot of multiple exclamation points in their punctuation.

"Something coming in at $300 million has caught a lot of people's attention," he said.

The surprise, however, is "tempered a little bit when you think about the property and how high-end it is and how tight the office market is," Richter said. "It's just a gem in the office market."

Located at 550 Burrard downtown, the 33-storey, 583,000-square-foot tower was built by Bentall Properties LP, which is owned in part by SITQ, in two phases. The first opened in 2002, the second in 2007.

The sale comes at the same time tight credit conditions have dampened commercial real estate purchases and the news from U.S. markets is about foreclosures on major assets.

Avtar Bains, senior vice-president at Colliers International, said the fact that Deka Immobilien found an owner in Vancouver willing to sell was the startling part.

"What's somewhat surprising is that it is rare that opportunities like this come up in downtown Vancouver," Bains said in an interview.

Quattrin said the Bentall 5 building is Deka Immobilien's first purchase in Canada. He said the purchase speaks to the confidence the firm has in the Canadian market, which is surviving the recession better than other locations in the world.

"And I think Vancouver's [office-market] fundamentals, regarding its comparatively low vacancy rates, limited new supply [of office construction] and probably better prospects for growth, I think Vancouver becomes a priority."

Quattrin said Deka Immobilien, one of two open-ended property investment funds controlled by the 19-billion euro DekaBank Group, moved quickly when it decided to invest in Vancouver. He said the firm sent an advance team to scout the city last October.

The deal to buy Bentall 5, Quattrin added, was put together over the past 60 days.

Tony Astles, senior vice-president at Bentall Real Estate Services, said Deka Immobilien will retain Bentall as manager of the building.

depenner@vancouversun.com

TOP 5 METRO VANCOUVER OFFICE SALES

1. $300 million: Bentall 5, Vancouver, May 2009.

2. $246 million: Central City, Surrey, August 2007.

3. $209 million: Crestwood Corporate Centre, Richmond, August 2008.

4. $151 million: Telus Tower, Burnaby, May 2006.

5. $140 million: HSBC Building, Vancouver, September 2005.

Source: CB Richard Ellis, Vancouver Sun

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Today's Real Deal is a brand new listing at Concord Pacific's SPECTRUM.  Excellent location close to skytrain, Yaltetown, Chinatown and more.
 
 
 
 
This Real Deal, as with most of them is not my listing.  I scour the entire MLS looking for the best deals for my clients and when I find one that really stands out as good value I share it here on Real Deals.
 
EOE.
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Bob Rennie: Priced to Sell


In search of new models of affordable housing

 
In the past year, prices for homes have dropped throughout B.C., and yet what might be considered “affordable housing” is still in desperately short supply. Construction costs are down, as the demand for new homes has subsided, but the cost of land remains high. Indeed, not only do we have a shortage of developable land in Vancouver – and elsewhere in B.C. – but that shortage is compounded by a restrictive zoning and entitlement process.
 
The lowest cost for which you can build a home, excluding land, is well over $325 per square foot; land costs alone add another $50 to $200 per square foot (depending on the city and building you’re living in). Your average Vancouver couple – say, a hospital worker and a police officer – can no longer afford the mortgage on a home in the community in which they work.
 
So who’s to blame for the affordability crisis? Is it the greedy developers? I would argue no. Developers in Vancouver work on very narrow profit margins – 50 per cent smaller than the typical developer south of the border.
 
Is it the condo investor who’s preventing an increase in affordable housing stock? Again, no. Without that investor, there would be no new rental units coming on the market (it doesn’t take two hands to count the number of actual rental buildings built in Vancouver in the past 10 years).
 

As unsatisfying as it is to say, the problem is beyond our control: we remain a desirable place to live, and as long as we keep our borders open there will always be someone willing to pay the price of entry.

That’s not to say there aren’t creative solutions out there. Two projects I’ve worked on in recent years point the way to affordability, each offering smart ways of densifying a community and spreading land costs. At Woodward’s the developer Westbank/Peterson was allowed to build 536 market condominiums and obtained 300,000 square feet of density to be transferred to future development sites. In exchange, they agreed to build 200 non-market social housing units, which will be turned over to the city and managed by the Portland Hotel Society.
 
Similarly, at L’Hermitage at Robson and Richards, the developer Millennium added density by purchasing two building sites next door to the condo development – including the drug-infested Passlin Hotel, which consisted of 47 single-room-occupancy units – tearing them down and replacing them with 47 new single-room accommodations. In return, Millennium was “bonused” enough density by the City of Vancouver to add four floors to the top, where big-ticket condos could be built and sold – and thus make this scenario work for both city and developer.
 

Of course, the examples above are about creating social housing for society’s hardest hit. But for those hospital workers and police officers, living in a single-­room accommodation is not an answer. For them, affordability is a question of innovative financing, with one possible solution being what

I call the “Optional Affordability Program.”
 
 

In this scenario, municipalities allow developers of any site to add 10 per cent or even 20 per cent additional (affordable) suites to current zoning. Let’s say it’s 20 extra condos that are, on average, 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom units, with a land value component of $100,000 each. The municipality would place a charge on title equal to $100,000, allowing those units to sell for $100,000 less – with all subsequent buyers paying market value less the charge on title (plus some specified inflation rate).

The charge on title can be paid off at any time, allowing the condo to then travel with market values. That $100,000 would then be paid back to the city, with the money going (presumably) toward other housing needs.
 
Vancouver will never be a cheap place to live. In fact, it never was. But with some creative thinking about zoning and financing, we can build a sustainable community in which more people, from all walks of life, can afford to live where they work. That should be our priority.
 
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Lowest price (excluding strata hotel units) in Coal Harbour!
 
Excellent studio space at 1239 W Georgia Street "The Venus" in Vancouver's prestigious Coal Harbour.
 
This is not my listing.  My Real Deals are not a way to advertise my own listings, but a service where I scour the MLS looking for the best deals on behalf of my clients.
 
 
 
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Today's Raven's Real Deal
 
Morgan Creek, under $170 per square foot.  Just as a reference, they were pre-selling condos in Abbotsford for double that less than 2 years ago.
 
 
 
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1680 Bayshore Drive (Maybe I am biased because I used to live in the building, but I LOVE Bayshore Drive) offered @ $619,900
 
 
 
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Cory Raven
Telephone:604-220-9399
Cory Raven - Managing Broker
RE/MAX Select Realty
4806 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5V 3R8