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CMHC designates Vancouver market ‘moderately vulnerable’

by Neil Sharma12 Aug 2019

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has reduced Vancouver’s real estate market to moderately vulnerable from “highly vulnerable,” a designation it carried for three years.

The reduction is largely due to a sales pace that’s nowhere near as fervent as it had been before new mortgage rules were introduced in January 2018. Additionally, CMHC is not as worried anymore about price escalation in the city, reducing its concern from “moderate” to “low.”

According to CMHC, rapid price escalation occurs when there’s sustained speculative activity in the market. The government agency considers overvaluation the result of prices levels that aren’t congruent with local employment and wage gains.

Still, CMHC considers overvaluation to be moderate in Vancouver.

“When they talk about prices and affordability, it’s still very much in their red zone,” said Turcotte. “The reason the designation had to do with the slowing pace of sales and the slight reduction of pricing, but the latter alone wouldn’t have done it. It’s not an overheated marketplace where demand exceeds supply, which drives prices up at unprecedented levels. If we look at prices relative to local incomes, they’re still unaffordable and there’s no question we have to recognize we’re not only a local economy: we have global appeal with growth of high-income immigration. The strong demand here will, from a global interest perspective, keep prices high.”

The sales cycle is also rebounding in the city. July sales figures released by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver show a 23.5% year-over-year increase, for a total of 2,557 sales, outdoing last year’s 2,070. It also marked a 23.1% increase over the 2,077 home sales recorded in June 2019.

And while sales in July were 7.8% below the 10-year average for the month, Turcotte reminds the previous decade has been an aberration.

“The 10-year averaged a number we will always struggle to meet because those were unprecedented 10 years,” he said. “I think the whole dynamic of the marketplace has changed in Vancouver, and what it shows us is that with ‘normal’ buying activity we see prices hold.”

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This will be the first time the city has created a city-wide plan since the 1920s

Naoibh O’Connor Vancouver Courier
July 17, 2019
vancouver The development of the city-wide plan is expected to cost almost $18 million for the years 2019 to 2022 and involve a staff team of 30 to 35. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The City of Vancouver will launch the first step in developing a city-wide plan this fall — the "listening" phase — after council approved on July 16 the budget and process for the multi-year project.

Its development is expected to cost almost $18 million for the years 2019 to 2022 and involve a staff team of 30 to 35. It will be the first time the city has created a city-wide plan since the 1920s.

Goals of the new plan include addressing a wide range of issues, including reconciliation, housing, affordability, the economy, climate change and public amenities. Existing rezoning policies will remain in effect during the process unless council opts to update or change them based on new directions that evolve.

While describing the process as "an unknown journey," Mayor Kennedy Stewart also said, "It's really exciting" and Vancouver is ready for it.

NPA Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung called it a "huge opportunity tp bring people together," while acknowledging there is a lot of uncertainty and divisions in the city.

"A lot of that comes down to when people are dealing with really core issues that affect them fundamentally, like affordability or things that are happening in their neighrbourhood and there is a pace of change, that creates discomfort for people," she said.

"I know people want to get to a place where there is more understanding and certainty in what will be happening in their neighbourhoods. I really, truely hope and believe this is the vehicle to get there."

Green Party Coun. Pete Fry was equally optimistic.

"This is just the beginning of this plan and we are actually embarking on a great journey," he said.

Other councillors, including OneCity's Christine Boyle, said they hope the city-wide plan will help council rebuild trust with residents.

"I'm particularly really excited about the depth of Reconciliation that is embedded in how how we're going about this report, as well as the committment to engaging folks who we know face a lot of sytemic barriers to participation," Boyle added.

But cracks in support for the city-wide plan have already appeared. To launch it, councillors voted on several clauses, one by one, that made up the overall motion. COPE Coun. Jean Swanson voted against several, while NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick voted against all of them.

Swanson said she was "torn" about the city-wide plan. While her party supports it, and she sees value in creating a plan that deals with housing affordability, homelessness, how to get affordable transit, and climate change, she questioned whether a city-wide plan will "get us there." She also questioned the cost.

"What really disturbs me is this plan so far ignores the last part of the council motion to report back on how to prevent renoviction, demoviction and gentrification," she added.

Swanson said she doesn't know what the plan will achieve other than it's "$20 million for this big mystery everyone is so hopeful about."

"I've been burnt by a couple of plans so I'm skeptical about it," she said.

Hardwick, whose election campaign endorsed a city-wide plan, is unhappy about the way it's coming together.

She tried to introduce an amendment, which included points such as:

  • ensuring traditional neighbourhood boundaries are used,
  • putting planning programs like the Broadway Plan on hold and integrating them into the larger city-wide planning process,
  • putting the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program and the Rental 100 program on hold, and
  • specifically including neighbourhood residents association as stakeholders.

There was no seconder, so the amendment failed. Hardwick characterized her reaction was one of "deep disappointment."

"I've been pushing and ran on a city-wide plan. It's been a passion of mine for years and I am deeply afraid that it's headed in the wrong direction and that's a hard thing for me to say having worked as long as have, and as hard as I have, for this," she said before the vote.

"I wish it were otherwise and hope springs eternal. But I think that we have to really be listening to the people and not come in with a prescriptive framework and then shoe-horn people's opinions into it, which is kind of what I've been seeing."

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From B.C.’s capital to the Pacific Rim, rebooted and new real estate projects define a changing Vancouver Island

Frank O'Brien Western Investor
July 17, 2019
nanaimo-aerial-supplied-cbre-victoria Nanaimo's tax incentives and population growth are credited for record-setting building permits this year. Image supplied by CBRE Victoria

Victoria is facing big-city problems – and potential – as an industrial land shortage and white-hot demand for office and retail space characterize B.C.’s capital city, the province’s strongest commercial real estate market outside of the Lower Mainland.

Up island, Nanaimo is setting records for building permits, while giant mothballed projects from Colwood to Comox and Ucluelet are shaking off the dust and putting stakes in the ground.

It is all related to population growth in one of the fastest-growing regions in Canada, with the population of the central Island alone forecast to surpass half a million people within the next 10 years, from 460,000 today, according to BC Statistics. Construction is now the Island’s second-largest employer, said Woody Hayes, former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC, who helped compile a recent check-up on the Island’s economy.

In downtown Victoria, the office vacancy rate began the year at 6.4 per cent, down from 7.2 per cent a year earlier, according to CBRE, and it could drop to below 6 per cent this year, despite the addition of 280,000 square feet of new space in 2018.

“The main drivers for the office market in Greater Victoria remain the technology and government sectors,” said Elyse Norgaard Kituri, chair of the Victoria chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association of BC. “There’s a particular demand from government for Class A office space.”

A major addition to the office scene is the Merchant House Capital makeover of the former Times Colonist building on Douglas Street, which is being transformed into 120,000 square feet of office space and about 10,000 square-feet of retail, including a brewpub, as the Victoria Press Building.

The Times Colonist has taken 15,000 square feet in the complex. A private college has also leased space in a landmark project that will complete in a year, said Nathaniel Simpson, leasing agent with CBRE Victoria, Greater Victoria’s vacancy rate for industrial properties is at a 10-year low of 1.7 per cent as the region faces a “critical undersupply” of industrial-zoned land, said a report from Colliers International.

Russ Marshall, senior vice-president with CBRE Victoria, said Greater Victoria is attracting investors and developers from the Lower Mainland searching for higher yields.

In the West Shore community of Colwood, Vancouver-based Onni is well into construction of Colwood Corners, a mixed-use development the company rescued from default five years ago. Scheduled to complete in 2021, the development will include 152,000 square feet of commercial space and, eventually, more than 450 homes.

Onni is also behind the resurrection of a 360-acre mixed-use, residential-heavy waterfront development at Ucluelet on the Island’s West Coast, where Onni purchased the bankrupt Wyndansea project in 2015.

In the Comox Valley, the former Kensington Island Properties development, which shut down nearly a decade ago, has been revised as Union Bay Estates, which could become the largest Island real estate development north of Victoria. Plans call for more than 2,900 homes on the 349-acre site, in a number of phases.

But while land clearing is visible on the property, no infrastructure has been put in place, according to Jennifer Steel, manager of corporate communications for the Comox Valley Regional District, which provided an updated master development agreement for the project two years ago.

The agreement details community amenities that the developer will provide as well as the installation of infrastructure to ensure road, water and sewer servicing are available to the lands.

Attempts to reach the Union Bay developer were unsuccessful.

Nanaimo boom

There is no such ambiguity in Nanaimo, where a record-setting construction pace is well underway in the Island’s second-largest city.

As of the end of June, Nanaimo’s building permit values had already hit $300 million. That is compared to $216 million in all of 2018, according to Arit Manhas, Nanaimo’s economic development officer.

While 75 per cent of the new construction is residential, Manhas noted that three new hotels are also underway, including a $22 million, 172-room Four Points by Sheraton being built next to city’s conference centre.

Other non-residential projects include a $12 million private medical office complex and “skyrocketing” construction at the Nanaimo Airport, led by a $15 million expansion project.

Meanwhile the Port of Nanaimo is starting a $34 million upgrade that will increase marina capacity by over 50 per cent.

Current Nanaimo housing projects total nearly 700 of units. Much of the work is downtown, where the city provides a 10-year property tax exemption for eligible residential and commercial projects.

The number of permits could increase dramatically when development starts on One Terminal Avenue, a high-density, mixed-use, 7.16-acre waterfront site in downtown Nanaimo, now accepting developer bids expected to top $20 million range.

Average home prices in Nanaimo are in the $565,000 range, about half that of Metro Vancouver.

Hayes, who worked with the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia on a 2019 study of the Island’s economy, is not surprised that residential, tourism and service-related projects dominate Island development.

Vancouver Island’s former industries, like forestry, have “imploded” and manufacturing has never been as important as government and the service sector, Hayes noted. “The Island economy is now based on an influx of people from across Canada, including from Metro Vancouver,” he said.

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Canada's largest cohort is getting creative to afford homeownership, while renters have specific expectations, and the industry needs to get on board, says report

Joannah Connolly Glacier Media Real Estate
June 26, 2019

young people apartment sharing home — Daria Shevtsova via Pexels

Today’s Millennials want to get into homeownership, but high prices mean they are having to be creative about how to do so – and developers, housing providers and investors need to get on board, according to a report published June 26.

The Millennial Report – authored by the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) and aimed at developers and investors – says there are a number of ways that Millennials are finding their footing on the property ladder. They also have very specific expectations of their homes and neighbourhoods, according to REIN, which argued that developers need to embrace new trends to cater for this growing homebuyer market.

“Millennials are the largest demographic in Canada, so they influence the economy and culture – including real estate – which means their preferences will impact housing trends for years to come,” wrote report authors Don Campbell, Jennifer Hunt and Rebecca Wissink.

An increasing trend is multi-generational living, where a Millennial will continue living with their parents – even after they have their own partner and young children – and potentially buy into the family home. Basement suites and laneway homes are facilitating this trend, as aging parents move downstairs or out of the main home to allow for the younger generation and their growing family to take over the house. This also has the benefit of allowing the older generation to downsize without moving, and be close to family.

The report said, “It is a coinciding of two significant life-course moments affecting parent and child that has led to an increased in inter-generational living – millennials cannot afford to buy a home, and baby boomers want to age in place. In this scenario, while both generations may sacrifice, they may also both gain.”

Another rising trend identified in the report is for Millennials to treat their homes as part of the sharing economy, meeting monthly mortgage payments by renting out part of their space on platforms such as Airbnb, or getting a roommate. In some cases, co-ownership allows friends to go in on a larger home than they would be able to buy individually or as couples.

“Millennials value real estate as an investment,” said the report, “but the added bonus of sharing their homes works well to address sociability… It also helps them save money, getting them into their ‘forever home’ sooner, and could generate income.”

Despite the compromises needed to get into homeownership, REIN said that Millennials have high expectations when it comes to a home’s finishes and appliances, as well as its location. “Purchasing Millennials won’t have any money left over for renovation,” wrote the authors, “nor are they inclined to spend time on such things.” The report also said that this cohort also wants homes in walkable neighbourhoods close to their workplaces.

Developers need to embrace these new Millennial demands by providing housing that accommodates multi-generational living and space-sharing, said REIN. This could include laneway homes, livable basement suites, main-floor master bedrooms, and condos with lock-off suites or two separated master bedrooms.

It also recommended offering stainless-steel appliances, smart thermostats and USB charging ports in new homes, as well as building amenities such as co-working spaces, bike storage, urban gardens and communal kitchen and dining areas – all in a walkable location near transit.

Meanwhile, Millennials who continue to rent their homes until they can afford to buy also have similar expectations of home finishes and location, said REIN. These requirements make this cohort a great target for the investor who buys a fixer-upper to flip or then rent out, wrote the authors, who recommended updating kitchens, adding stainless-steel appliances and laying hardwood floors to meet Millennials expectations. 

The report also examined which social media platforms developers and investors need to be using in order to attract Millennial buyers and renters, depending on the product and the likely age of the consumer. Facebook was at the top of the list, with Instagram next in line and best for targeting Millennial renters.

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by Steve Randall18 Jun 2019

Tighter mortgage lending restrictions continue to constrain the British Columbia housing market although last month did see a rise from the previous month.

May sales through the MLS of 8,221 units was an increase from April but was still 7% below those of May 2018 according to the British Columbia Real Estate Association.

“BC home sales increased 9% in May compared to April, on a seasonally adjusted basis,” said BCREA Chief Economist Cameron Muir. “However, consumers continue to struggle with the negative shock to affordability that stringent mortgage lending policies have created.”

Inventory gained 23.2% to 41,519 units compared to the same month last year but total active listings were down 2% from April, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This was the first monthly decline since the B20 Stress test was introduced in January 2018.

The average MLS residential price in the province was $707,829, a decline of 4.3% from May 2018. Total sales dollar volume was $5.8 billion, down 11% from the same month last year.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was down 25.1% to $19.8 billion, compared with the same period in 2018. Residential unit sales decreased 20.2% to 28,711 units, while the average MLS residential price was down 6.2% to $688,339.

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by Steve Randall17 Jun 2019

Gender stereotypes hold true for many aspects of running a household according to a new survey.

If women are more interested in the kitchen when viewing a potential new home while men are keen to check what maintenance tasks may be required, that’s because she will typically do most of the cooking (62% said so) while he will take on most of the basic home maintenance (84%).

But the poll from Insights West found that couples are more balanced in their handling of household finances.

Mortgage decisions are more evenly split with about half saying it is a shared decision while 18% of women and 27% of men say they take the lead.

Insurance decisions are mostly a joint decision although 38% of men and 28% of women say they lead this.

For bill-paying only a third say it is handled equally with nearly the same percentage of men (48%) and women (55%) saying they are primarily responsible.

While older generations are most likely to fall into gender stereotypes for household chores, the changing attitudes of younger Canadians has not seen quite the pace that may have been expected.

“When we first hypothesized about the results of this study, we were hoping to disprove pre-existing stereotypes of household chores and decision-making,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “Unfortunately, many of us were dumfounded with the results, feeling that in many ways—the younger generation’s way of splitting household tasks was perhaps not as equitable as we thought it would be.”

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by Steve Randall17 Jun 2019

There was a further increase in home sales nationwide in May, finally returning sales to 10-year average levels for the month.

The Canadian Real Estate Association reported a 1.9% month-over-month increase while actual seasonal activity gained 6.7% year-over-year; the largest annual gain in three years.

Sales only increased in half of local markets in May but were led by gains in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto areas. Year-over-year, around two-thirds of local markets gained but close to half of the overall increase was down to increased sales in the GTA.

"The mortgage stress-test continues to present challenges for home buyers in housing markets where they have plenty of homes to choose from but are forced by the test to save up a bigger down payment," said Gregory Klump, CREA's Chief Economist. "Hopefully the stress-test can be fine tuned to enable home buyers to qualify for mortgage financing sooner without causing prices to shoot up."

Listings down slightly

The number of new homes listed in May was slightly lower than in April with a 1.2% decrease and with the rising sales that took the national sales-to-new listings ratio to 57.4% from 55.7% in April.

Based on a comparison of the sales-to-new listings ratio with the long-term average (53.5%), almost three-quarters of all local markets were in balanced market territory in May 2019.

There were 5.1 months of supply in May, down from 5.3 in April.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) Aggregate Composite MLS® Home Price Index (MLS® HPI) edged down by -0.6% y-o-y in May 2019, the largest decline in almost a decade.

Regional price data

Trends continue to vary widely among the 18 housing markets tracked by the MLS® HPI.

Results remain mixed in British Columbia, with prices down on a y-o-y basis in the GVA (-8.9%), the Fraser Valley (-5.9%) and the Okanagan Valley (-0.7%). Meanwhile, prices edged up 1% in Victoria and climbed 4.7% elsewhere on Vancouver Island.

Among Greater Golden Horseshoe housing markets tracked by the index, MLS® HPI benchmark home prices were up from year-ago levels in Guelph (+5.7%), the Niagara Region (+5.4%), Hamilton-Burlington (+3.4%), Oakville-Milton (+3.4%) and the GTA (+3.1%). By contrast, home prices in Barrie and District held below year-ago levels (-6.1%).

Across the Prairies, supply remains historically elevated relative to sales and home prices remain below year-ago levels. Benchmark prices were down by 4.3% in Calgary, 3.6% in Edmonton, 3.9% in Regina and 1.3% in Saskatoon. The home pricing environment will likely remain weak in these cities until demand and supply return to better balance.

Home prices rose 8% y-o-y in Ottawa (led by a 12.2% increase in townhouse/row unit prices), 6.3% in Greater Montreal(led by a 7.6% increase in apartment unit prices), and 2% in Greater Moncton (led by a 15.9% increase in apartment unit prices).

The MLS® HPI provides the best way to gauge price trends, as averages are strongly distorted by changes in the mix of sales activity from one month to the next.

The actual (not seasonally adjusted) national average price for homes sold in May 2019 was close to $508,000, up 1.8% from the same month in 2018.

The national average price is heavily skewed by sales in the GVA and GTA, two of Canada's most active and expensive housing markets. Excluding these two markets from calculations cuts almost $111,000 from the national average price, trimming it to just under $397,000.

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by Steve Randall17 Jun 2019

Moving home ins more stressful than starting a family or planning a wedding according to a survey of Albertans.

With Canada’s busiest moving day of the year – June 30 – less than two weeks away, the poll from BigSteelBox found that 75% of respondents reported stress associated with a move with women more likely to say that than men (80% vs. 70%).

“While nearly 60% of Albertans report that they are likely to move within the next three years, we’re seeing a lot of stress among residents when it comes to coordinating the actual move,” says Brian Hawkins, Director of Operations at BigSteelBox. “The biggest cause of stress for movers in Alberta tends to be the tight timeline of a move.”

The survey also found that 59% of respondents have recently moved into a house or duplex, compared to condos (27%). Migration within the province also proved to be less popular, with 61% of Albertans reporting that they moved within their current city.

Most Alberta residents move to be closer to work (26%), and downsizing is the second most popular reason to move (14.8%)

More than half of respondents said they plan to move within 1 to 3 years with keeping the cost down their main priority for the move. However, a third said they would rather renovate their current home than move.

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REW (Real Estate Wire)
May 3, 2019

REW has historical data on sales and listings throughout the Lower Mainland. We used this data to not only see what’s selling, but to also find trends relevant to home buyers or sellers.

Our focus was on which pockets of Greater Vancouver have strong sales.  We looked at data during the most active selling months (Sept - Oct 2018 and Feb - Mar 2019) and analyzed areas with the highest sales-to-active listings ratio, a handy benchmark that compares the buyer demand against the supply and shows us the rate at which properties are selling. If an area has a sales-to-active listings ratio greater than 20%, it typically indicates a seller’s market.

Highest sales pockets in Port Coquitlam, Langley, and North Vancouver

So, what’s selling in today’s market? The bulk of high sales are centered around a few key corridors across Greater Vancouver. The Tri-Cities had zones of high sales-to-active listings ratios (SAR) along the corridor of Port Moody Centre and Central Port Coquitlam, as did New Westminster’s Uptown and Glenbrooke North. 
Most impressive, however, were the results from Surrey and Langley. The corridor of CloverdaleClayton, and Willowbrook across both cities was high in both sales ratios and volume, with Langley’s Willowbrook-Willoughby neighbourhood boasting the highest number of sales amongst zones with high SAR. In general, Langley also offered the best value, with properties sold at an attractively low price per square foot of $359 for detached houses and $387 for townhouses, the lowest averages in the region.

While the City of Vancouver might not offer the biggest bang for your buck in the region, the neighbourhoods of KitsilanoFairview, and Mount Pleasant still had pockets of high SAR. Most eyes seem trained on Mount Pleasant, which had the lion’s share of sales in the city, and multiple zones with an SAR higher than 25%.
But people looking for more affordable waterfront are focusing on North Vancouver. The city’s three neighbourhoods of Lower LonsdaleLynn Valley and Lynnmour were very active, with all three having areas with an SAR of at least 27%, and Lower Lonsdale having the highest sales.

Condominiums and townhouses are the names of the game

If the ‘where’ of today’s market sales is a bit scattered and hazy, the ‘what’ is crystal clear: two-bedroom condos and townhouses. Those high sale zones in North Vancouver and Langley were composed almost entirely of townhouse sales, as were most in Surrey and Langley. In fact, all across Greater Vancouver, the zones of high SAR were made up of mainly condo and townhouse sales.

“Those are the markets that are absolutely the hottest right now, the two-bedroom townhouse,” says realtor Rob Zwick of Stilhavn Real Estate Services.  

The REW data backs up Zwick’s claim, as all of the high-sales zones around Greater Vancouver averaged around two bedrooms and two bathrooms for condominiums and townhouses sold. Vancouver itself hovered closer to an average of one bed and one bath for its condos, and although there were a few three-bedroom options, they were few and far between.

What if you’re in the market for a house?

While there weren’t many detached house sales in the areas with high sales activity, one glaring exception was Langley’s Walnut Grove neighbourhood. Alongside nearby Willowbrook-Willoughby, it had high sales activity zones focused almost entirely on single-family homes, and it boasted the highest SAR of all Greater Vancouver zones at 43%.

The housing market in general, however, still lags behind. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver pegged the SAR in March for detached homes in Greater Vancouver at only 9.4%, with a benchmark price ten percent lower than March of last year.

Fortunately, Zwick believes that the low price reports and low sales ratios across the Greater Vancouver region don’t mean the market is going to get worse. Instead, they’re reflective of a market flooded with poor listings and buyers that are reacting to the negativity around the market.

“There’s a lot of stats telling the public that this market isn’t doing very well,” says Zwick. “It doesn’t give them the confidence to go through with purchases.”

“SAR is not a full indicator of what’s actually going on. If you have a lot of inferior product on the market and buyers not willing to buy, you’re not going have a very good ratio. I find that the quality of listings on the market is poorer than it’s been in a very long time.”

Optimism for buyers and developers on the horizon

That lack of buyer confidence seems to be on the way out. Zwick’s sales this year through March were 50% lower than the year previous, until he had six accepted offers over the span of one weekend.

“That’s a huge indicator for me, that’s where I have some very cautious optimism on the market. I wouldn’t have said that in the Fall or in January or February.”

And buyers aren’t the only ones in the market that are starting to gain in confidence. Mayur Arora, realtor and owner of Oneflatfee.ca, is sensing an increase in condo and townhouse development.

“I’m noticing there is a bit of confidence in the developers,” says Arora. “They were nervous six months ago, but now there’s a bit of renewed interest in them being able to invest.”

Arora thinks that our days of seeing dramatic drops in prices and mortgage availability are limited. Vancouver remains a place where many desire to live, and the B.C. economy is still largely dependent on the real estate market.

“What I’ve forecast going forward is that the market will stabilize where it is right now. I don’t see the prices going down any further.”

With a real estate market prime for stabilization and prices evening out, buyer confidence should be the only thing trending upwards.

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Real estate agent for both parties withheld information from owner about rezoning potential of property now worth $86 million.

Cornelia Naylor Burnaby NOW
May 23, 2019

revs REVS Bowling Centre on Lougheed Highway sits on a piece of land worth more than $86 million. The property was at the centre of a high-stakes real-estate deal "tainted by illegality," according to a B.C. Supreme Court judge. | Cornelia Naylor
A real-estate deal involving a bowling alley sitting on a prime piece of Burnaby development property was “tainted by illegality” and has been deemed unenforceable by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

Big deal

The 4.28-acre property at 5502 Lougheed Hwy., currently the site of REVS Bowling Centre, sits right beside the Holdom SkyTrain station and is worth about $86.6 million, according to the latest assessment.
In October 2011, however, its owners, Brentwood Lanes Canada Ltd., signed an agreement to sell it for just $28.8 million.
bc assessmentThe Brentwood Lanes property is at 5502 Lougheed Hwy., close to the Holdom SkyTrain Station. - BC Assessment
The buyer was a company called Pacific Success Management & Consultants Inc., owned by Xiao Dong Liu, a.k.a. Allen Liu – a businessman who owns two strip malls in Richmond and has been involved in various business enterprises in China, including as president of a real estate company that built a large mixed residential and commercial multi-tower development in Dalian in 2009, according to court documents.
The Brentwood sales contract was eventually made over to another of Liu’s companies, Youyi Group Holdings (Canada) Ltd.
Just before the deal was scheduled to close, however, it fell apart.
Brentwood Lanes announced it wasn’t going to go through with it.
The company argued the contract wasn’t enforceable because of wrongdoing by Liu and a real estate agent, Kevin Hien, who was supposed to have been acting for both parties but who had withheld information from Brentwood Lanes about the development potential of its property.
Liu and Hien said Brentwood Lanes was backing out because of seller’s remorse and launched a lawsuit to force the sale or get damages for breach of contract.

‘Festival of deceitfulness’

After six-and-a-half years of legal wrangling, culminating in a 77-day trial in 2017 and 2018, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mayer ruled on the case this month – and found few involved in the case were free from the taint of dishonesty and wrongdoing.
“Various judgments have, with undisguised scorn, referred to repeated witness untruthfulness during trials as a ‘festival of mendacity,’ that is, a festival of deceitfulness,” Mayer wrote in his May 10 ruling. “I find that this description is appropriate in this case.”
He singled out Liu and Hien, whose testimonies he described as not credible and inconsistent.
Mayer concluded the two had worked to deceive potential buyers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, lenders and potential joint-venture development partners during the course of the Brentwood Lanes negotiations.

‘Fraudulent document’

On Sept. 6, 2011, for example, Liu and Hien convinced Jeong Lee, president of Brentwood Lanes, to sign a phony $38.8-million purchase agreement for the Brentwood property and then another fake document on Oct. 5, 2011 purporting to terminate it, according to Mayer.
The bogus agreement was for $10 million more than the price actually agreed on and stated the buyers had paid a $10-million deposit, which they had not.
Mayer said the fake agreement was likely designed to induce a potential Chinese investor at the time to contribute more to the purchase of the property by exaggerating the price and the deposit paid by Liu’s company.
“It was not an agreement at all,” Mayer said. “It was a fraudulent document designed to deceive a number of parties, including appraisers, mortgage brokers and potential lenders and joint venture partners and assignees.”

False-deposit scheme

At Liu’s direction, Hien had also urged Lee to enter into a false-deposit scheme designed to make it look like Liu had contributed $8 million more in equity to the deal than he actually had and “mask” from lenders a plan to place second mortgages on other properties owned by Liu and his companies.  
Hien outlined the scheme in a November 2012 email presented in court.
Brentwood Lanes would provide a $4 million payment to Youyi Canada; Youyi would provide a “receipt” for $4 million and then return the $4 million to Brentwood. Using the funds they had just gotten back, Brentwood would pay Youyi another $4 million in exchange for another $4-million receipt, and Youyi would again return the $4 million to Brentwood. Then, after Youyi secured financing to buy the Brentwood property (partly relying on the fictitious extra $8 million in equity), Brentwood Lanes would get $8 million in mortgage security over other properties owned by Allen Liu or his companies.  

Lease-back rates

Mayer further concluded Hien and Liu schemed to mislead lenders into believing the rents on the Brentwood Lanes property would be more lucrative than they really would be.
Brentwood Lanes wanted to lease back the Brentwood property for three years after the sale, and rent reductions negotiated over the course of the deal totalled in the millions of dollars, but they were documented as separately numbered addenda and schedules even when they could easily have been included in the bodies of the purchase and lease agreements.
The lease agreement, for example, was signed on the same day as a schedule amending it.
Mayer concluded the agreements were prepared that way so documents showing lower rents could easily be removed from materials sent to lenders.
“There is evidence that Allen Liu, his employees or agents used the lease documents in this manner,” Mayer said.   

Unlawful purposes

After detailing Liu’s and Hien’s deceptive machinations, Mayer ruled the Brentwood deal was “part of a transaction intended to be used for unlawful purposes or otherwise tainted by illegality.”
He said enforcing the agreement would be “harmful to the integrity of the legal system.”  
Mayer said Lee “may not have been a completely innocent participant” in the intended fraud – given that he signed  the phony $38.8-million purchase agreement – but his participation didn’t legally prevent Brentwood Lanes from using the unlawful-purposes defence to void the deal.
In its counterclaim, Brentwood Lanes also called for damages against Liu for conspiring with Hien to keep Brentwood Lanes in the dark about the value of its property in exchange for Hien getting a bigger share of the commissions and referral fees.
Mayer dismissed that claim, however, saying Brentwood Lanes had failed to prove the conspiracy.

Double agent

But Mayer did find Hien – who was supposed to be representing both parties – had breached his fiduciary duty and contractual obligation as a real estate agent when he gave information about the high-density zoning potential of Brentwood Property to Liu but not to Lee and Brentwood Lanes.
Until 2010, the Brentwood property was eligible for RM5 rezoning, which would have allowed for high-density, multi-family development.
brentwoodREVS Bowling Centre is right next to the Holdom SkyTrain Station on a 4.28-acre piece of land with big development potential. - Cornelia Naylor
In December 2010, however, the city created a new RM5s designation and further increased the allowable density in multi-family zones at its four town centres.
The change nearly doubled the total potential density of the Brentwood property.
Hien was aware of the RM5s potential before the purchase agreement was signed.
He said he discussed it with Lee during their first meeting, but Lee said he was not made aware of it until well after the agreement was signed.  
Mayer concluded Lee’s testimony was the more reliable.
For breaching his fiduciary duty and contractual obligations, Mayer ordered Hien to pay $1 and legal costs.
Mayer stopped short of finding Hien guilty of negligent misrepresentation or of slapping him with aggravating and punitive damages.
“I expect that Kevin Hien’s reputation as a realtor is likely already in tatters as a result of the events leading up to and during this litigation,” Mayer said.
He noted Hien and his associates would be getting no fees or commissions from the sale of the property.
“In my view, that is punishment enough,” Mayer said.
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“We’ll see your avocado toast and raise you a glass of wine,” says one developer

Joannah Connolly Glacier Media Real Estate
May 24, 2019

wine cheers toast— rawpixel.com from Pexels

The trend for quirky new-home buyer incentives is continuing after developer Woodbridge Homes recently offered a year’s worth of avocado toast to buyers of homes at its West Coquitlam development KIRA.

Today, developer Wesgroup is throwing down the gauntlet and telling its competitor, “We’ll see your avocado toast and raise you a glass of wine.”

This new incentive offers buyers a year’s worth of wine if they buy a home at Wesgroup’s MODE development in Vancouver’s River District. The exact offer is a $1,500 gift card for a nearby wine store, equal to roughly one bottle of wine a week for a year with each purchase of a home in the new riverfront development.

Brad Jones, vice-president of development at Wesgroup, told Glacier Media, “Our offer is kind of cheeky, in response to another developer’s incentive of avocado toast. But we did this in addition to what is already a really strong incentive package for MODE, which is a discount of $10,000 off a one-bedroom home, $15,000 off a two-bed, and $20,000 off a three-bedroom home. And we’re already offering great value for a new home in Vancouver.”

It’s not just condo purchases that are being incentivized. On one of its new rental developments, Wesgroup is offering an incentive of similar value to the wine, this time paying for packing and moving costs. Those who rent a two-bedroom home at The Westminster in New West qualify for itsMoving Made Easy incentive, which pays for a full-service move from a reputable local moving company and is valued up to $1,500.

Ryan Thé, vice-president of development for The Westminster, told Glacier Media, “We wanted to offer something that addresses the practical needs of renters. We know it’s hard to find rental homes with our vacancy rates so low. It’s already stressful enough to find a place, so we wanted to make life that bit easier for renters. It’s been going for about a month and we’ve had quite a lot of uptake on that.”

Making a difference

These attractive offers might seem like luxuries a buyer might otherwise have to give up, or ways to make moving less stressful. But one mortgage broker warned buyers not to be too easily swayed by quirky incentives that may not add up to much.

Alisa Aragon of Bridgestone Financing Pros, powered by Dominion Lending Centres, told Glacier Media, “With new home sales slowing, developers are getting creative with their incentives. But what’s ultimately the most important thing is whether this is the right home for you. A gift card worth $1,200 or so is great, but it won’t make much difference to your monthly costs. Make sure you’re taking into account all the costs, including mortgage payments, strata fees and property taxes, and what you’re getting for those costs.”

But as home-buying continues to be out of reach for many and sales continue to slow, developers such as Woodbridge Homes, Wesgroup and Intergulf are also offering more substantial incentives that could make a real difference to a buyer.

In addition to the year of avocado toast, Woodbridge’s KIRA development also gave buyers a limited-time opportunity to put just a 10 per cent deposit down, instead of the usual 20-25 per cent deposit on presale homes.

Wesgroup is offering those stepped discounts from $10,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of unit, at MODE. And in North Vancouver, developer Intergulf is allowing all buyers to put down 15 per cent deposit on a new home at Hunter at Lynn Creek.

More developments offering low-deposit and other incentives include:

  • Court by Heinrichs Development: 10 per cent deposit and live free for the first six months;
  • Luxia at Yorkson by Isle of Mann: 5-10 per cent deposit and a $5,000 gift card from Urban Barn with a purchase of a home;
  • 27North by Intragulf and Tatla: 10 per cent deposit plus choice of Mount Seymour ski pass and skis for all the family, or free golf for a year, or free mountain bikes for the family, or the cash equivalent.

And these are just a snapshot of the value-added incentives being offered around the region’s housing projects, as developers attempt to lure buyers in a challenging market. Many companies won’t advertise it, but would give back a “decoration allowance” that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars returned to the buyer on completion, while still selling the home at full price on paper. Other developers will negotiate other aspects of a presale home, such as throwing in upgrades or an additional parking stall, or offering a discount to take no parking stall.

An alternative approach

Taking a different approach to getting people into its homes, and as part of its “Locals First” policy, Panatch Group is operating a rent-to-own scheme at its Port Moody development 50 Electronic Avenue. This program allowed 30 eligible households (first-time buyers who live and work in Port Moody), selected by lottery out of hundreds of applicants, to rent a home at less than market value for up to two years. Within this time, the participating households get the option to purchase their unit and will then have their accumulated rent, which has been collated in a trust, paid towards a purchase price that was locked in at the contract date.

Kush Panatch, president of Richmond-based, family-owned Panatch Group, said, “For a lack of a better name, it’s basically taking 30 families or people in Port Moody and providing them with what I call a pathway to homeownership.”

He added, “The housing challenge is very real.”

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A unique rent-to-own plan for a new condo development in Port Moody will allow 30 local buyers to rent their unit for two years, with the money going towards their downpayment

Mario Bartel Tri-City News
February 22, 2019

Kush PanatchKush Panatch, the president of the Panatch Group, checks out one of the model suites of the company's first development project in Port Moody at 50 Electronic Ave. — MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

The developer of a condo project in Port Moody says he’s overwhelmed by the response to a program that will allow 30 prospective owners to roll the rent they’ll pay on their new units for two years towards the unit’s purchase price.

Kush Panatch, president of Richmond-based Panatch Group, which is building the project — 358 residential units in two six-storey buildings — at 50 Electronic Ave., said more than 500 applicants have expressed interest in the rent-to-own program that is available to first-time home buyers who already live or work in Port Moody since it was launched in late January.

Panatch said his family-owned company wanted to make a positive impact in the community for its first Port Moody project, and while refining its proposal for approval by city council, it kept hearing about the frustrations young people in the city are having pulling together enough savings for a down payment in the Lower Mainland’s hyperactive real estate market.

“The housing challenge is very real,” Panatch said, adding while his company’s rent-to-own program isn’t a total fix, it may form part of the solution.

Christian Fracchia, a 24-year-old IT administrator with a Vancouver animation studio, said the rent-to-own program could make his dream of putting down roots in the city where he grew up more realistic. 

Currently renting an apartment with a roommate in Moody Centre, Fracchia said home ownership has been a goal of his for a couple of years, instilled in him by his dad’s teachings about financial responsibility. But even as he manages to save a quarter of his paycheque, he said the goalpost of accumulating a downpayment always seems to be moving further downfield.

He said if he’s selected in the lottery that will be employed to determine the successful 30 applicants for the Electronic Avenue project, he’ll not only be able to build his nest egg while he’s living in his new unit, it’s also a motivator to ramp up his savings strategy for a downpayment even higher.

Panatch said he wanted to keep the program as simple as possible to achieve his goal of giving home ownership opportunities to young people who want to settle in Port Moody. To be eligible, prospective buyers have to already live and work in the city, qualify for a mortgage and they have to commit to living in the unit as their principle residence. If selected, the price for their unit will be locked in and, once construction is completed in 2021, they’ll pay $1,000 a month rent for a one-bedroom unit, or $1,200 for a two-bedroom, for two years. The money will be put into a trust account and then applied towards the purchase price.

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia said rent-to-own plans can be an effective way for prospective homeowners to come up with the cash for a downpayment but it also advises participants in such plans go into them with a full understanding of how they work, the terms of the contract and what’s included in the rent during the rental period.

Panatch said his project's rent-to-own units will be a mix of one- and two-bedrooms, with 12 allocated in the project’s first phase, and 18 in the second phase. He also concedes, with prices starting at $469,900 for a 643-sq. ft. one-bedroom unit and two-bedroom units going for up to $719,900, buyers selected for the rent-to-own program will likely still have to get some help from “the bank of mom and dad,” or have substantial savings already in the bank.

“We see this as a pathway to ownership,” he said.

Port Moody Mayor, Rob Vagramov said giving young people the opportunity to set roots in the city is an important part of making it an inclusive community.

“It takes a village to have a village,” he said. “We have to have a little bit of everybody to have a world.”

Panatch said even as a developer, it’s frustrating when the housing he builds is out of reach to people like teachers and firefighters who earn good incomes or forces young people to live far afield from their jobs. 

Nadine Cornelius, a 31-year-old event management professional, said she and her partner have fallen in love with Port Moody since moving to a rental apartment in the city three years ago because Vancouver had become too expensive. They hike the trails around Buntzen Lake, meet friends at Brewers Row and go for walks in Rocky Point Park. 

“It’s like living in a small town but it’s not,” said Cornelius, who has also applied to participate in the rent-to-own program.

Committing to stay in the city makes sense for their lifestyle, she said.

Panatch said being able to help address that desire can benefit the whole community because “people want to maintain their relationships."

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by Steve Randall27 May 2019

New urban enclaves near existing transit links are helping to answer supply issues for Metro Vancouver as housing demand rises.

Avison Young has published a new report called t “Future Forward: The Rise of Urban Enclaves in Metro Vancouver” which highlights how, as land prices have risen and the availability of development sites declined, investor interest has grown exponentially in the redevelopment of typical low-rise shopping centres and the adjacent surface parking lots that form a substantial part of most traditional car-centred regional malls.

These mixed-use communities house thousands of residents and offer extensive experiential-retail opportunities, community amenities and entertainment and hospitality options – all of which will be accessible via existing transit lines.

“These urban enclaves represent the beacons of density called for by city planners, progressive politicians and transit advocates alike,” comments Andrew Petrozzi, Principal and Practice Leader, Research (BC), from Avison Young’s Vancouver office. “These future communities serve as examples of a regional approach to planning that, for decades, was absent from the public discourse and now provides the blueprint for a future that can accommodate not only population growth, but economic and cultural development as well.”

Core markets such as Vancouver and Burnaby were often the first communities where developers/investors acquired malls with an eye to more than retailing, but the pattern has spread across Metro Vancouver and British Columbia.

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Self-storage a target for big companies, real estate investment trusts

Frank O'Brien Western Investor
May 22, 2019

self storage Storing stuff is now a near-billion-dollar annual industry in Canada that is attracting big investors, including real estate investment trusts and pension funds. | Submitted
When self-storage giants StorageVault Canada Inc. and Access Self Storage reached a $55 million agreement May 14 for Toronto-based StorageVault to acquire the “asset and business” of an Access store in B.C., it underlined how the self-storage business is changing.
While the industry is still largely the domain of mom-and-pop operations – the Canadian Self Storage Association estimates that at least 80 per cent of operators are independents that manage no more than one storage facility – large U.S. and Canadian portfolio owners are scaling up by swallowing smaller operators.
In the past fiscal year StorageVault closed on $373 million in acquisitions and it now owns or controls 161 storage locations with six million square feet of rental space across the country.
With 140 Canadian locations, Access is another of the half-dozen major players in self-storage. These include U.S.-based StorageMart, which holds a 4.4 per cent share of the Canadian market; and U-Haul, owned by Amerco, which has about four million square feet of storage space. Edmonton-based Sentinel Storage has a 2.5 per cent slice of the Canadian market, with 24 locations, mostly in B.C. and Alberta.
Smaller operators are being acquired by bigger companies because it is less expensive to buy facilities than to build new ones, due to rising land costs and the uneven development and zoning guidelines in provinces and municipalities, according to IBISWorld, which has released an exhaustive study of Canada’s self-storage industry.
Some companies are buying existing commercial and industrial property and converting it to storage because the profit margins can be higher. Bluebird Self Storage bought the former National Post building in downtown Toronto for $20 million and spent the same amount converting it to high-end storage lockers.
Phoenix-based U-Haul International Inc., which operates more than 1,300 self-storage locations across North America, has converted the former Zellers department store in Kelowna to self-storage. The 110,000-square-foot facility contains more than 1,000 indoor climate-controlled storage units.
Fuelled largely by demand from the residential sector and small business, the number of self-storage operators in Canada has been expanding at 4.8 per cent annually for the past five years to 1,045 operators, IBISWorld found.
The real estate investment characterized by high capitalization rates, relatively low maintenance costs and rising profits has also attracted other large investors, including real estate investment trusts (REITs) and pension funds. Skyline Commercial REIT, for instance, has bought nine cold-storage facilities so far this year, spending $190 million in a buying binge that included facilities in Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
Ivanhoé Cambridge, the real estate arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec pension fund, holds a 50 per cent share in Vancouver-based VersaCold, which specializes in cold storage.
Demand for storage units and decreasing vacancy rates helped industry profit margins, measured as earnings before interest and taxes, reach 10.5 per cent in 2019, up from 9.1 per cent in 2014, IBISWorld reports.
Modern storage is becoming expensive, however, due to demand for climate-controlled space and round-the-clock security, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial agency, which has a self-storage division. Also, increasing competition is forecast to drop revenue growth to 1.7 % annually over the next five years, down from 3.1 per cent this year.
Still, a new self-storage facility can churn an ongoing capitalization rate average of 6.27 per cent to 8.7 per cent, which is higher than most commercial real estate, Cushman & Wakefield estimates.
Residential tenants account for the majority of self-storage clients, making up 63.4 per cent of rentals. Commercial tenants rent 25.2 per cent of storage units, with students and military clients making up the rest of the annual $920.9 million annual industry, according to IBISWorld.
Revenue is rising faster from commercial tenants than from the residential sector, however, due to small-business growth. The average commercial tenant rents a storage unit for 22.7 months, considerably longer than the average residential client’s rental.
Storage rental prices can reach $3.50 per square foot in Vancouver and Toronto, and are also close to residential apartment rates in other major cities, without the hassle of dealing with residential rental regulations. Since rents are calculated monthly, storage facilities can also often earn more money per square foot than traditional commercial space, where rents are annual.
 “Storage lockers are a simple investment – there is often no heat, little maintenance and if you want to make it a luxury unit you put in a light bulb,” quipped Vancouver real estate consultant Ozzie Jurock.
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Charla Huber M’akola Group of Societies Times Colonist
May 21, 2019

0519-huberWhether you are the one looking for a rental home or a landlord seeking a tenant for your rental home, it’s a stressful time, Charla Huber writes.

There is no denying that we are in a housing crisis and that is tough enough, but the fact that people are using this to their advantage to scam others out of their rent money is awful.

Whether you are the one looking for a rental home or a landlord seeking a tenant for your rental home, it’s a stressful time.

Landlords own rental properties as investments, and I can understand how welcoming a stranger into the basement suite in your home could feel like a gamble. Even if a rental investment is separate from your home, it would be stressful to ensure the tenants selected are respectful, take care of the home, pay rent on time and are good neighbours. For many homeowners, renting out suites is a necessity to help cover mortgage payments and allow someone to take the step into homeownership.

As a tenant, it’s also stressful in this market. With a low vacancy rate, even finding a place is a challenge, and then it can be a crapshoot finding a good landlord who is fair and respectful.

We’ve all heard horror stories of landlords and we’ve also heard horror stories of bad tenants. It’s these stories that perpetuate the fears of finding a new landlord or a new tenant.

Landlords who have had bad experiences and landlords who want to avoid them have been moving to short-term vacation rentals through sites such as Airbnb to avoid long-term tenants and the problems that can come along with them.

This switch has removed long-term rental homes and suites from the rental market and added to the housing shortage. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned of people in our region who are renting short-term vacation rentals and then posting ads online for the same units as long-term rentals. They pose as potential landlords to garner a damage deposit and first month’s rent from an unsuspecting victim.

I am not sure how people can do this and live with themselves.

The victims of this fraud find out they’ve been scammed on the first day of the month when they show up to move in. It’s awful.

This scam is worrisome because someone can welcome you into the suite and show you around. It’s not as if you haven’t even seen the inside of the suite or are speaking with a landlord who is abroad. That was a common scam a few years ago.

Every situation has an exception to the rules, we’ve been told. That’s also what makes it hard to navigate these waters. We have all been told not to send money to people we don’t know or haven’t met, but I’ve spoken to a landlord who has had tenants pay a damage deposit and rent before moving to the province. It’s just so hard to tell who you can trust and who you can’t.

The media and law enforcement are always releasing information on new scams to help protect the public. I like to think I am up-to-date on these, but this scam made me stop and think that if I were in that position, they could have got me, too.

The current scam has the prospective tenant touring the home and meeting the “landlord” in person. Now, prospective tenants aren’t just worried if the landlord is a good one, they have to worry if the person is the real landlord.

I’ve been reading some tips that include asking to see a landlord’s driver’s licence and to see current hydro bills for the home in question. I know these aren’t foolproof, but it’s better than nothing. Also look on short-term vacation rental websites to see if the suite, condo or home is listed there.

Paying a damage deposit and first month’s rent is a lot of money for anyone, and to lose it to a fraudster would be damaging. It could set someone back significantly.

Scammers are always improving their techniques to keep scamming. The public is told what to do to protect themselves and this also informs the scammers on what they are going to face. Criminals are looking for a way to make a quick buck and, unfortunately, they are getting better and better at it.

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Group of Societies.

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New home sales fell seven per cent last year, on top of a 31 per cent decline in 2017, causing developers to abandon projects

Joannah Connolly Glacier Media Real Estate
May 22, 2019

construction— PIXABAY

With new home sales dropping in tandem with resale residential units, Vancouver developers have been rapidly shelving projects, according to a new report by Altus Group.

Of the 5,600 new housing units proposed to the City of Vancouver in 2016, about half have now been approved. However, approximately 20 per cent are in projects that have since been abandoned, said the report.

That’s much higher than in the City of Toronto, where only two per cent of 2016-proposed housing units have been shelved since then.

altus groupSource: Altus Group

The high abandonment rate of new housing units in Vancouver can be attributed to the region’s slowdown in new home sales. Sales of new condo units fell in by seven per cent year over year in 2018. That’s following a 31 per cent decline in 2017, when sales fell sharply after the boom of 2016.

altus groupSource: Altus Group

Across Canada, new condo sales totalled just over 48,500 units in 2018, down 21 per cent from the almost 62,000 sales in 2017. The Greater Toronto Area accounted for nearly half of all 2018’s new condo sales in the major cities covered by Altus Group’s survey.

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"Vancouver might be expensive, but only for Vancouverites."


MONTREAL  Canada has become one of the world's hottest destinations for wealthy migrants, and one clear reason for it is low housing costs.

Yes, low housing costs.

While Canada's largest housing markets are, overall, some of the least affordable in the world, that's not the case for the world's wealthy, who enjoy house prices here well below what they would pay in many other destinations, research shows.

Canada saw the world's third-largest influx of rich migrants in 2018, according to a report from market research group New World Wealth. Only the United States and Australia saw a larger gain.


Canada added 4,000 "high net worth individuals" (HNWIs) to its population in 2018, meaning people with US$1 million or more in wealth, not including their principal residence.

That comes amid an unprecedented migration of the world's wealthy, primarily from developing countries to wealthier, more stable developed countries.

The largest outflows of rich people came from China, Russia, India and Turkey, in that order, which together lost 31,000 millionaires in 2018. Overall, some 108,000 millionaires switched countries in 2018, up from 95,000 the year before.

Watch: Empty Vancouver mansions make for sweet student crash pads. Story continues below.


Investor visa programs  which allow a wealthy person to settle in a country in exchange for an investment in that country  have become an increasingly popular mechanism for the wealthy to migrate. Canada has a number of these programs.

The report said the top reason for millionaire migration is safety  particularly the safety of women and children.

Millionaires are also leaving their home countries due to "lifestyle" concerns such as climate, pollution, space, nature and scenery. Concerns about the standard of living, taxes, education and oppressive governments also factor into the equation, New World Wealth said.

Those who choose to settle in Canada will pay very affordable housing costs, compared to other hot-spots for millionaires, new research from real estate site Point2 Homes suggests.

In Canada's priciest luxury market, Vancouver, the cost of a luxury condo comes out to $11,605 per square metre, or just one-seventh what it would cost in world-leading Monaco, and less than a third of the cost in Hong Kong.

"The results show that Vancouver might be expensive, but only for Vancouverites. The other cities in our analysis completely eclipsed Canada's most exorbitant market," Point2 Homes said in a blog post.

Luxury Condo Prices in World's Hottest 

Real Estate Markets

Price of an ~185 sqm condo
Average price/sqm near city centre
MonacoHong KongLondonSingaporeNew YorkSan FranciscoParisTokyoGenevaZurichVancouver$14,897,938$13,635,200

The millionaire migration trend is set to intensify in the coming years, according to New World Wealth and other researchers, and the result will be that a larger share of Canada's population will be rich.

study from Credit Suisse last year estimated that Canada's millionaire population is expected to explode by 54 per cent in the five years to 2023, ten times faster than overall population growth.

That estimate was made based on projections of current trends in wealth, and it assumes Canada's housing market will continue to clock healthy price gains.

"One of the assumptions behind the increase in the number of millionaires is that Canadians' housing wealth will continue to rise — no collapse in that market," study co-author Jim Davies told CBC News last year.

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