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."
January 30, 2010
Predictions for the Vancouver Real Estate Market for 2010 and 2011 , courtesy of the Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER — The mortgage-rate fuelled bounce-back of British Columbia real estate in 2009 has probably used up most of the market’s growth for 2010 and 2011, according to a new estimate from the B.C. Real Estate Association.
Association chief economist Cameron Muir is forecasting provincewide sales in 2010 to increase only three per cent above a hot 2009’s results to 90,100 sales in 2010, then slip back three per cent to 87,500 units in 2011.
The provincial average price, Muir is forecasting, will advance five per cent to $490,900 in 2010 then eke out just one-per-cent growth to $494,800 in 2011.
Muir characterized his forecast as 2009 ending with a “gold-medal finish, [which] will give way to a silver-medal performance in 2010.”
“Affordability is the biggest factor over the longer term,” Muir added in an interview, “because home prices in markets such as Victoria and Vancouver are trending on record levels, and mortgage rates are likely to edge higher at the end of this year and through 2011.”
“That’s going to increase the carrying cost of housing, and by extension, overall housing demand.”
Home carrying costs, the monthly mortgage payment, taxes and other fees saw a dramatic trim during the downturn that lasted through the last half of 2008 and first part of 2009, but Muir noted that that advantage is rapidly disappearing.
And while B.C.’s economy is creeping towards a recovery with some job and income growth, Muir said the growth is not coming quickly enough to offset the rising unaffordability of housing.
“We’re unlikely to see record sales levels this year and next as a result of that,” Muir said.
However, Muir does expect B.C. home sales in 2010 and 2011 to remain slightly above the 10-year annual average, which is “what we would expect given the economy is just coming out of recession.”
In his forecast, Muir estimates that the markets that roared back the most in 2009 — Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Victoria — will be among those with the most muted results in 2010 and 2011.
After rocketing back 44 per cent in 2009, Muir is projecting Metro Vancouver sales to advance just three per cent to 37,500 units in 2010, then slip back five per cent to 35,500 in 2011.
Muir is forecasting that the Metro Vancouver average price will jump seven per cent in 2010 to $636,000, then edge up just one per cent to $643,000 in 2011.
Victoria, which saw sales rise 24 per cent in 2009, will see sales edge up to 7,850 units in 2010, then fall back six per cent to 7,350 in 2011.
Muir is forecasting that Chilliwack and Kamloops will see stronger surges in 2010 sales with both areas expected to see 17 per cent sales growth in 2010, followed by two per cent growth in 2011.
For Chilliwack, that means 2,650 sales in 2010 and 2,700 in 2011. For Kamloops, that works out to 2,740 2010 sales and 2,800 2011 sales.
The Okanagan Mainline real estate board, which includes Kelowna and Vernon, is forecast to see 14 per cent growth in sales to 6,450 sales in 2010 followed by six per cent growth to 6,850 units in 2011.
The Okanagan is also expected to see stronger price growth with a five per cent rise to $398,000 in 2010 followed by four per cent growth to $415,000 in 2011.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
January 26, 2010
"Micro Lofts" coming to Vancouver Real Estate
What are your thoughts on 270 sq ft places being made available for renters in Vancouver to live in?
Two Vancouver property firms are collaborating on the creation of 30 so-called "micro-lofts" as part of the redevelopment of the historic six-storey Burns Block at 18 West Hastings. At approximately 270 sq. ft. — about the size of two municipal parking spaces — the market rental units will be the smallest in the city.
Photograph by: Handout, Peak Communicators
VANCOUVER -- The city’s smallest rental suites were unveiled Monday at a media event held in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Located in the century-old Burns Block building at 18 West Hastings St., the 270-square-foot so-called “micro-lofts” are expected to fetch an average of $750 a month, and, according to a company press release, attract “students, people in transition and those looking to work and live in the heart of the downtown area.”
The units drew praise from Coun. Raymond Louie, who was among those on hand when artist renderings of the suites were made public for the first time.
Louie called the suites “well-designed,” noting the efficient use of light and space.
“Although they are small, they are quite functional,” he said.
The images released Monday show efficient unit lay-outs, featuring a double-wide pull-down wall bed, integrated folding table, compact appliances, storage, built-in safe and a small “wet” bathroom, similar to what might be found on a boat.
In all, the project -- scheduled to be completed in March 2011 -- will see the construction of 30 units in the five-storey building. Units on one floor will come fully furnished.
The building will also feature a rooftop garden, basement gym and its original facade will be maintained.
Developers Reliance Properties and ITC Construction Group are behind the project, which was approved by city council in 2008.
Louie said the approval required council to relax the minimum suite size from 320 sq.ft. to 270 sq.ft.
He said it’s part of the city’s ongoing efforts to boost the number of affordable rental units available, particularly in the downtown core, where the vacancy rate is less than one per cent.
Louie said the project will also help to revitalize the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
Burns Block “is a closed building as it stands now. So, hopefully, this will add further confidence in the area and we will see a lot more warm bodies using the services available,” he said.
In an interview Friday, Jon Stovell of Reliance Properties said the lofts were created in response to the steady public demand for more affordable loft-style apartments in the city’s downtown core.
Reliance purchased the heritage building in 2007. It had been used as a single-room occupancy hotel until it was shut down over safety concerns by fire officials in 2006.
Louie said occupants evicted following the closure were offered alternative social housing.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
January 26, 2010
Cashing in on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics?
Tiffany Markwart works on 'The World Needs Canada' campaign Sunday at the Chapters bookstore in Vancouver.
Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG, The Province
Call it the parallel Olympics, or perhaps the winter gains.
While 2010 Games athletes strive for gold in February, local businesses will be competing every bit as hard in a battle of brands and clash for customers.
Businesses have been planning for years and spending untold millions to position themselves in this high-stakes dash-for-cash.
The Province surveyed the players and interviewed the experts to see who stands to add gold to their coffers, and who could get wiped out.
For real-estate professionals, and anyone interested in buying or selling property in Vancouver, the billion-dollar question is what effect the Games will have on the local market.
Peter Simpson, CEO of Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association, hopes the Games will boost fortunes at a crucial time.
The year 2009 would have been the worst for housing starts since 1962, except for a surge in December, Simpson says.
"[The Games] will focus a lot of people's attention on the region," Simpson says. "With three billion eyes on Greater Vancouver, hopefully people will want to come and visit, and then they'll want to move here and buy homes and open businesses."
No one has more on the line than the City of Vancouver and its taxpayers, who could be on the hook for the $1.2-billion athletes village on southeast False Creek.
The city was forced to take over the project when its developer stumbled during the world credit crisis in 2008.
Condo marketing mogul Bob Rennie said there were no buyers for about 700 athletes village market condos as the credit crisis continued in 2009, so he advised bringing the units back to market following the Games.
On May 15, his team will "invite the city and the world," to the relaunch, and he's confident the strategy is golden.
"There are not many world addresses in our city, but the Olympic Village is an address to be reckoned with," Rennie says.
But Tsur Somerville, a University of B.C. economist, doubts real estate will get an Olympic boost.
In fact, he's studied six Olympic markets -- including Salt Lake City, Calgary, Sydney and Vancouver to date -- and has come to a surprising conclusion.
"We are not seeing any evidence whatsoever of any consistent Olympic effect in house prices in the aggregate," he says.
Somerville says only hotels and tourism will rake in huge Olympic dividends.
Industry experts agree the 2010 Olympics buzz saved tourism in B.C. from dropping into a deep slump in 2009.
Since 2004, when Tourism Vancouver began tracking Olympic tourism-related data, more than 2,000 media members have asked the group for help with coverage.
In all, Games organizers have booked about 15,000 rooms in Vancouver and Whistler for Olympic family.
Charles Gauthier of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association said all hotels "are reporting near total occupancy for the period of [the Games.]"
Likely business winners such as HBC, Chapters/ Indigo, the Pacific Centre and Granville Entertainment have "centre ice" Olympic zone locations and have extended their hours and mounted flexible operational plans, Gauthier said, adding that official Canadian 2010 team sponsor HBC's flagship store has seen store visits quadruple in the run-up to the Games.
Sandi Green, senior marketing director for Cadillac Fairview, operator of the Pacific Centre, said the shopping centre's hours will be extended to 11 p.m., and the centre has ramped up hiring for operations and security, to handle added Games traffic.
Granville Entertainment Group chief financial officer Ron Orr said properties such as Doolin's Irish Pub and The Roxy are expecting to host St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve-like crowds for 18 straight days during the Games.
But, as Somerville notes, for retailers outside pedestrian zones and saddled with strict road closures and parking restrictions, the Games could be less fun.
"For local businesses that won't see any tourist foot traffic -- I think there are a lot of potential losers that will get really hurt by the Olympics," he says. "Maybe they should look at taking that early vacation."
South Granville BIA executive director Sharon Townsend said merchants are hoping to entice adventurous Olympic tourists outside downtown pedestrian zones to shop and dine in "the real Vancouver."
To that end, South Granville and Yaletown merchants have combined on a $250,000 investment to lay about 500 decals of 80 flags from participating Olympic countries along the 35-minute walk between the areas, over Granville Bridge.
Townsend said merchants along Broadway can't afford to shut down, even with parking and traffic restrictions.
A few businesses are trying to reap Olympic profits while not contributing to VANOC.
Lululemon Athletica launched its Cheer Gear clothing line with the cheeky branding of a "Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition."
VANOC was not amused.
© Copyright (c) The Province
January 26, 2010
Avison Young releases their year end report on Vancouver Real Estate
Despite a challenging 2009, Metro Vancouver office market shows underlying strength
Avison Young releases its Metro Vancouver Year-End 2009
Office Market Report:
Region's vacancy rate notches up to 7.8% over past
half year, but pace of increase is slowing
VANCOUVER, Jan. 26/2010 - Following a steep downturn in the first half of 2009, overall economic conditions started to improve towards the end of 2009. Fewer vacant subleases were delivered to the market, deal velocity picked up considerably in the downtown core, some office projects that had been stalled recommenced, and corporate tenants were again examining properties. Institutional owners, primarily of class AAA and A buildings downtown, continued to be relatively well-positioned with vacancy rates at or below expectations. Suburban office markets, however, still face many challenges.
These are some of the key trends noted in Avison Young's Metro Vancouver Year-End 2009 Office Market Report, released today. The semi-annual survey covers vacancy, absorption and new construction trends in the Downtown, Yaletown, Broadway, Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster and North Shore submarkets, which total 45.5 million square feet (msf) in office space.
"The wait-and-see approach prevalent throughout 2009 may continue until after the 2010 Olympics when many leases roll over," comments Avison Young Principal Bill Elliott
. "But overall, the market continues to rank among the tightest in North America
with new speculative construction in check and no major downtown office tower expected to come on stream before 2014. While hesitant decision-making muted overall demand in 2009, Metro Vancouver's fundamentally-strong market continues to display stability, and renewed demand will be a function of core economic recovery and growth."
According to the report, the Metro Vancouver office leasing market witnessed a marked slowdown in leasing activity and a rise in sublease space in 2009 as companies delayed expansion plans and downsized to reduce occupancy costs in light of the global economic downturn. As a result, vacancy rates climbed, rental rates softened, and landlords, particularly in the suburbs, offered larger inducement packages to attract and retain tenants.
However, while vacancy rates continued to creep up in the latter half of 2009, they did so at a slower pace than in the first half. Metro Vancouver's overall vacancy stepped up to 7.8% at year-end 2009 from 7.4% at mid-year 2009 and 5.4% at year-end 2008. Downtown's vacancy rate ticked up to 5.5% from 5.0% at mid-year 2009 and 2.5% at year-end 2008. Suburban vacancy remained relatively unchanged at 9.2% from 9.1% at mid-year 2009, but is up from the 7.7% recorded at year-end 2008. (Note: downtown's "availability" rate is 7.8% if you include space that is being marketed for lease but is not physically vacant.)
"Smaller tenants in the downtown marketplace will continue to have options available to them; however, as we move through 2010, these tenants will begin to see rental rates increase," explains Avison Young broker Glenn Gardner
. "Tenants who are able to address their leases today will be able to achieve better business terms than tenants who address them tomorrow. This is because downtown vacancy will start to trend downward, as there will be no significant new inventory coming to market in the foreseeable future, thus forcing rates to rise."
He adds: "Larger downtown tenants, however, will have limited options as the larger sublease pockets that were previously available have now been absorbed. These tenants will have to begin the process of evaluating their alternatives far in advance of their lease expiration dates in order to facilitate any growth they may have. Tenants will either have to stimulate new construction by taking a significant prelease commitment or look to other marketplaces to accommodate their needs, just as HSBC Bank Canada did by preleasing 100% of Broadway Tech Centre 4 (173,000 sf), which will complete construction in 2012 in East Vancouver."
Deal velocity increased significantly in the downtown core in the second half of 2009 over the first half, with approximately 20 lease deals completed involving spaces 10,000 sf or larger. There are few vacant and available large blocks of space greater than 25,000 sf.
Vacant sublease space in Metro Vancouver fell by 25% to 709,870 sf at year-end 2009 from 948,872 sf at mid-year 2009, but is still up 37% from 516,627 sf at year-end 2008. The recent drop is the result of fewer vacant subleases being delivered to the market, absorption of existing sublease opportunities, and termination of sublease listings as tenants take back the excess space.
Suggesting improved business confidence, the current vacant sublease offerings also represent only 20% of Metro Vancouver's total vacancy of 3.5 msf. This compares to 28% at mid-year 2009 (which was at that time the highest percentage of sublease vacancy in more than a decade), 21% at year-end 2008 and 14% at mid-year 2008. Most of the current vacant sublease space exists downtown with 307,718 sf, down one-third from 460,158 sf at mid-year 2009 but still up from 188,472 sf at year-end 2008.
While overall absorption of negative 287,650 sf in the second half of 2009 was an improvement over the first half of 2009, it brought annual absorption in 2009 to negative 1.03 msf - the lowest annual net change in occupied office space since 2001. The downtown core accounted for the brunt of the region's negative annual absorption in 2009, with tenants leaving behind 556,876 sf more space than they took up between January 1 and December 31. Most of the net outflow took place in the first half of 2009. All submarkets posted negative annual absorption with the exception of Broadway.
The Broadway Corridor office market closed 2009 with the lowest year-end vacancy rate in the region at 5.2%. "How restrictive the market is really depends on the square footage a tenant is looking for. There are limited options for tenants looking for more than 5,000 sf, and very few alternatives available in class A buildings," notes Avison Young Principal James Lewis
. "Larger tenants looking to renew in 2010-2011 will likely need to look outside the Broadway Corridor for options. If they can be in Burnaby or Richmond
, that's where they will find real value."
He adds: "For tenants requiring less than 5,000 sf in the Broadway market, it's still a very competitive market. Landlords who understand this disconnect - and adjust expectations for smaller units accordingly - have fewer vacancies."
On the construction front, while Metro Vancouver developers delivered 600,000 sf of new supply in 2008 (mostly in the suburbs), construction slowed in 2009 with just over 400,000 sf added to the region's inventory. New construction completions are expected to meet 2008's level again in 2010. Burnaby continues to lead the region in sod-turning activity.
GWL Realty Advisors' sale of 900 Howe to a private buyer in December 2009 represented the only sale of a class A building downtown in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Metro Vancouver's overall office vacancy rate is forecast to nudge up in 2010, encroaching 8%. "The downtown market should remain relatively strong while landlords in suburban submarkets, particularly Burnaby and Richmond, will face oversupply challenges and increased competition for tenants," says Elliott. "Accordingly, landlords are expected to face further downward pressure on rents and continuing upward pressure on inducements. There is not a lot of pent-up demand in most suburban office markets right now."
Overall, the Metro Vancouver market is still quite healthy compared to other Canadian and international markets, according to the report. "After a slight fourth-quarter 2009 uptick, the BC economy is expected to lurch at times during 2010 until employment shows consistent month-to-month improvement. The 2010 Olympics should help spur a recovery in the short term that will lead to long-term benefits," says Elliott.
Founded in 1978, Avison Young is Canada's largest independently-owned commercial real estate services company and the only national, Canadian-owned, principal-managed real estate brokerage firm in the country. Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario and ranked among Canada's leading national commercial real estate organizations, Avison Young is a full-service commercial real estate company comprising more than 500 real estate professionals in 16 offices across Canada and in the U.S. The company provides value-added, client-centric investment sales, leasing, advisory, management and financial services to owners and users of commercial, industrial and multi-residential real estate properties.
Editors/Real Estate Reporters:
Click here to view Avison Young's Metro Vancouver Year-End 2009 Office Market Report:
For further info/comment/photos:
- Sherry Quan, National Director of Communications & Media Relations:
(604) 647-5098; cell: (604) 726-0959
- Bill Elliott, Principal, Avison Young: (604) 647-5062
- James Lewis, Principal, Avison Young: (604) 647-5072
- Glenn Gardner, Broker, Avison Young (604) 647-5092
Editors/Reporters can now follow Avison Young on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AvisonYoung
For further information: Media Relations: Sherry Quan, (604) 647-5098 or (604) 726-0959, email: email@example.com
January 25, 2010
New Testimonials speaking to Cory Raven's level of service
If there is one regret I have looking back at my years in real estate, it would be not documenting the thanks and testimonials that I received early on from clients and other Realtors. In fact, it wasn't until quite recently that I have started doing so.
I have always had great feedback from those that I assist in buying and selling their real estate, but to tell you the truth I think I took it for granted a little bit. Not the appreciation of the client, that I will never underestimate....no, I think I failed to realize that not every Realtor has past clients signing their praises and I have now made a conscience effort to document the feedback I get.
With the internet moving from a place for companies and professionals to have online "brochures" to a two way communication and fact exchange source, I think giving everyone their say is more crucial than it has ever been.
So now, if someone is googling "who is the best realtor in vancouver" or "which realtor has the most satisfied clients" or "is Cory Raven held in high regard by his past clients?" who knows, maybe they'll stumble upon my website and give me a chance to introduce myself.
Here are two recent testimonials
"I love my new home. The more I speak to my homeowner friends about their real estate experience, the more I appreciate all that you did, to make this so easy. Being a first time home buyer comes with an overwhelming amount of information, you simplified it for me and had wonderful input and advice. When it comes time to relocate, I cant imagine doing it without you. Thanks Cory"
"this was our first home and we had a lot of questions. Cory Raven continually took all of our worries seriously (even when they came late at night!). he guided us through each step of this complicated process but always ensured we were making our own decisions. he was there with information, advice, calm reassurance and continual validation that buying a home is a roller coaster. ultimately we appreciated all of these things in working with Cory, but we also had fun in all the time we spent with him. if you can have a bit of fun while learning about the legacy of leaky condos, it's a pretty good sign! we'd happily recommend him to our friends and family.
barb & kate
January 23, 2010
Hot Housing Market continued through the end of 2009
What will the real estate market do in 2010? Will Vancouver's prices go up in 2010? Are mortgage interest rates expected to rise in 2010?
Metro Vancouver real estate hot, not yet overheating: Conference Board
By Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun
Sales of existing homes reached a record high for the month of December, according the Canadian Real Estate Association, with annual sales coming in above 2008 levels.
Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER - Metro Vancouver’s real estate market warmed up considerably at the end of 2009, but likely won’t overheat as 2010 progresses, new data released Friday by the Conference Board of Canada suggests.
While Metro Vancouver home sales in December tracked a pace that was nearly three times higher than sales last January, board senior economist Robin Wiebe said new listings also rose keeping the overall market in balance.
“Though [the market] is closing on the top of the balanced range, buyers are provided with a reasonable choice as the go out searching for homes,” Wiebe said in an interview.
However, Wiebe added that “it wouldn’t take much to tip [the market] over into seller’s territory.”
That is one factor that has the Conference Board putting Metro Vancouver on the list of cities it expects will see property prices rise between five and just under seven per cent along with Victoria, the Fraser Valley, Calgary, Regina, Ottawa and Halifax.
Edmonton, Saskatoon and Montreal are among the cities that the Conference Board expects will see price increases over seven per cent, with Winnipeg Toronto and Hamilton among cities that should see price increases between three and five per cent.
The Conference Board is estimating that no Canadian cities will see price decreases in 2010.
Wiebe said that the estimates are not based on a full economic forecast, but does reflect the recent strength of sales and prices in Metro Vancouver compared with longer-term averages for sales and price performance.
“We’ve seen average prices[in December] up 11.9 per cent from a year ago [to $655,234], [and] the pace of price increases is accelerating a little bit.”
The Conference Board’s examination of sales figures took December’s sales and estimated that if home sales continued at the same pace, Metro Vancouver would see 50,016 homes sold over 12 months compared with a 12-month pace of just 18,138 based on December 2008’s results.
However, calculating the same figure for December’s new listings shows that Metro sellers were on pace to list 73,938 homes for sale over 12 months compared with a pace of 54,306 new listings based on December 2008’s results.
The resulting ratio of sales to new listings of .72, or 72 per cent, Wiebe said, places Metro Vancouver close to the top of the range that the Conference Board considers a market that is balanced between buyers and sellers. That range is between the sales-to-new-listings ratios of 44 per cent and 75 per cent.
January 23, 2010
Canadians too leveraged in regards to mortgages?
How much money do you really need to buy a house?
Based on the average sale price of $320,333 last year, the federal government says you must come up with about $16,000 before you can consider getting a mortgage to buy the rest of that home.
Current rules require mortgage insurance for anyone borrowing more than 80% of the value of their home from financial institutions covered by the Bank Act. Under the rules, consumers must have at least 5% down and cannot amortize their payments over a period of more than 35 years.
Those stipulations came after Ottawa’s supposed crackdown on the housing sector which had allowed zero down mortgages and 40-year amortizations.
Now, with the housing market red-hot again, there is talk about increasing the down payment requirement and shortening the amortization length back to 25 years. Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister, has said he is keeping a close eye on the sector, which has been boosted by interest rates that have new mortgages being offered as low as 2.25%.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the real estate community is fighting against changes that would make it harder to buy a home. This month, the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals (CAAMP) produced a study it says shows an overwhelming percentage of Canadians are shielded from potential interest rate hikes because they opted for fixed-rate products.
But that study also showed a huge portion of those consumers would be in big trouble if they had to come up with a larger down payment. Will Dunning, chief economist for CAAMP, said 65% had down payments that were worth 10% or less of the value of the home being bought.
“Absolutely,” says Mr. Dunning, about whether a change would take some consumers out of the market. “The change in the 40-year amortization just worsened the downturn in the market. In a fragile housing market you don’t want to impose too many restraints.”
Ben Myers, executive vice-president of Urbanation Inc., which tracks Toronto’s condominium market, has little doubt about what would happen if consumers were forced to come up with more cash up front.
“A large percentage of the market is investors and first-time buyers and they are very sensitive to the down payment they need and the amortization because it affects their monthly payment,” says Mr. Myers.
From an industry standpoint, the status quo is easy to defend. The delinquency rate — defined as loans more than 90 days behind — is only 0.45% of the market. That’s well below the 0.70% high reached in the last recession.
Derek Holt, an economist with Bank of Nova Scotia, wonders whether the industry is borrowing customers from tomorrow to fuel today’s market.
“We are overheating at the expense of bringing forward future buyers. The risk here is you wind up a year or two down the round with a demand vacuum,” says Mr. Holt. “Sure, if you tighten the rules you cool demand, but you distribute demand more evenly.”
Basically, people would save a little longer or perhaps buy a little less house.
Taking a more conservative approach to buying is not the worst thing that can happen, says Julie Jaggernath, director of education at the Vancouver-based Credit Counselling Society. More than one person has walked into her agency with credit problems caused by taking on too much house.
“They might buy a home with a smallish down payment but then they furnish it on their credit card,” said Ms. Jaggernath. “It is not unusual to see people spending 60% of their net income on housing costs.”
She suggests looking at your current housing and then doing the math on what your housing costs would be for what you want to buy. “Set the difference aside for six months and see if you can make that budget,” says Ms. Jaggernath.
Her group is anticipating a larger client base when interest rates rise because many consumers are now biting off more mortgage than they can chew.
“Some people want to travel to Mexico three times a year but they can’t. Some people should never buy a home,” says Ms. Jaggernath.
It’s too bad we can’t go on vacation with 5% down and pay for it over the next 35 years. There would be a lot of Canadians lying on a Mexican beach right now.
| 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
| Downtown VW, Vancouver West
| Downtown VW, Vancouver West Real Estate
| 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
| Hamilton, North Vancouver
| 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
| Queensborough, New Westminster Real Estate
| Raven's Real Deal
| Raven's Real Deals
| Real Deal
| Real Estate
| Rennie Marketing
| Sunshine Hills Woods, N. Delta Real Estate
| Surrey Real Estate
| TAC real estate
| Vancouver Bubble?
| Vancouver listings
| Vancouver Real Estate
| Vancouver West
| Vancouver West Real Estate
| West End VW
| 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