Archive for April, 2003

Home prices continue to rise

Wednesday, April 30th, 2003

Ashley Ford

Getting your piece of the rock is getting more expensive in Canada.

While it means nothing to B.C. homeowners — where the average price of a home surged to $252,297 last month — the average price of a Canadian home topped the $200,000 mark for the first time, the Canadian Real Estate Assoc. said yesterday.

The average price in March rose to $201,662, an increase of 8.6-per-cent from a year earlier. In the 25 major urban markets, the average price in March rose to a record $215,975, from the previous high of $211,855 set in February.

In B.C. prices rose by 5.3 per cent from a year ago when the average price was $240,297.

But prices don’t deter buyers here and sales on the multiple listing service edged ahead 1.8 per cent in March from a year ago. There were 7,951 sales compared to 7,814 sales.

Apart from B.C., Manitoba, Newfoundland and the Yukon, realtors actually sold less last month. There were 31,184 homes sold in Canada in March, down 2.6 per cent from 32,778 units sold in February.

Even in the powerhouse economy of Alberta sales dipped by 3.8 per cent, while the damage was even more pronounced in Ontario and Quebec, where sales dropped by 7.1 per cent and 18.7 per cent respectively.

“Sales were hemmed in by a continuing shortage of listings in many markets, and by an increase in the amount of time that buyers are taking before making a purchase decision,” the association said. The seasonally adjusted value of all homes traded rose by 0.1 per cent to $6.5 billion in March from February.

© Copyright  2003 The Province


Rooms with a mountain view snapped up

Wednesday, April 30th, 2003


Canadian and a bevy of international buyers have again proven the lure of Whistler. It took less than four hours yesterday to sell all the units in the new, $54-million Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre hotel being developed by Intrawest Corporation of Vancouver.

Buyers from Canada, the U.S., U.K., Hong Kong, Mexico and Venezuela snapped up the 83 available units in the boutique-style hotel.

The first Pan Pacific in Whistler sold out in less than two hours in 1996.

Intrawest’s regional vice-president Paul Woodward said he wasn’t surprised by the buyer interest and this “was likely the last opportunity to own a prominent boutique hotel suite in a central village location.”

Suites in the nine storey complex range from $300,000 to $2.1 million and between 407 and 1,680 square feet.

The attraction of the project left many potential buyers on the sidelines and those seeking multiple units were restricted to buying just one unit.

The project’s larger suites and design features provide more flexible, efficient use of space such as foldaway dining tables and breakfast bars, built-in storage units, spacious bathrooms, and functional kitchen designs.

Suite owners will have access to their suites for 28 days in summer and 28 days in winter, with an optional 20 days throughout the year pending suite availability.

It is scheduled to open in November 2004.

© Copyright  2003 The Province

White Rock rising high with Sussex House

Sunday, April 27th, 2003

Breaking residential ground, Sussex House will offer spectacular new views to the coast community

Ashley Ford

(Luxury highrise condo living is coming to bucolic White Rock.)

Luxury highrise condo living is coming to bucolic White Rock.

The Rykon Group has started construction of Sussex House, a $45-million, four-tower, 150-all-concrete-unit project located on the former Safeway site at 15076 North Bluff Rd.

But the ambitious development, which affords spectacular views of Semiahmoo Bay to the west and south and of Mt. Baker to the east, will have a style and elegance all of its own, says Rod Voth, one of the principals with Rykon.

It is believed to be the biggest residential development yet undertaken in White Rock.

“While we say it is highrise development, it is really ‘White Rock highrise,'” Voth says.

“In actual fact there will be two eight-storey towers and two seven-storey towers, so they are not your usual gigantic towers.”

The development is breaking new residential ground in the border community. It has already garnered its fair share of admirers and, Voth admits, some detractors “who believe White Rock should have no building higher than three storeys.

“But we won the approval from council for the project,” he added.

Its major appeal is unit size. The homes are big by modern condo standards, starting at 1,135 square feet and ranging up to 2,000 square feet for penthouses.

Prices, that range between $250,000 and $600,000, seem positively cheap compared with the price of similar product in Vancouver.

The project’s quality and uniqueness has been enough to tempt Vancouver downtown condo-marketing genius Bob Rennie, of Rennie Marketing Systems Ltd., to step outside his ” downtown patch” for the first time to do the marketing.

Rennie says he was initially intrigued by the scope of the project. “But what really interested me was the fact they were going to create large livable homes where people could actually move in their full set of furniture and also have their families over. These are real homes,” he says.

“There is not a huge lot of that sort of product around the Lower Mainland, and I think it will have a huge appeal to not only White Rock and nearby single-family homeowners wanting to scale down, but also many others from around the region who want the traditional home lifestyle without all the work that comes with owning a single family home.

“This is exactly what this project offers without having to sacrifice living space to get it,” Rennie says.

Voth and partners Michael Maschek and Adrian Block secured the one-hectare site, the largest prime housing site in White Rock, late last year knowing it would give them the ability to produce something different.

“There is no doubt this location is spectacular, not just for its views but for the fact that every service one might want is within one block [it sits across from the Semiahmoo shopping centre],” Voth says.

“White Rock is a mix of single-family and condominiums but I think the leaky-condo issue had put the damper on condominium development. We saw it as an opportunity to build upper-end, concrete homes that would provide decent-sized living units at reasonably attractive prices.

“By Vancouver standards they are very cheap.”

The first tower now under construction contains 38 suites, the next two will have 28 each and the fourth will have 60 suites. Voth, whose company has built and developed in Vancouver, Seattle and the Interior, says the whole project will be completed by early 2005.

Although real marketing is just about to start there is strong evidence that buyers are already eager to buy into the larger-space concept.

“We have already sold 10 units and there is a list of people who want to know more,” Voth says.

© Copyright 2003 The Province


Highly lucrative art of flipping is stirring hot condo market

Saturday, April 26th, 2003

Wyng Chow

CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun Realtor Ken Leong has done well on ‘flipping’ condos.

It’s quick and easy money, and perfectly legal.

It’s commonly known as “flipping,” or, in real estate jargon, “assignment of contract.”

In today’s hot condominium market — particularly in downtown Vancouver, where billions of dollars worth of units are currently in various stages of construction — many sharp realtors and savvy investors are cashing in, often reaping huge windfalls.

“It’s making a profit without doing anything,” said realtor Ken Leong, who has flipped half a dozen properties at five downtown projects in the past year or so.

Even after capital gains tax, the net results for successful flippers can be impressive, upwards of $100,000 in some cases involving luxury waterfront homes.

The practice has become so prevalent in the past few years (although few are willing to discuss the sensitive issue on the record), that at least a couple of major developers, most notably Concord Pacific Group Inc., have been prompted to implement no-flipping clauses in their sales contracts.

Polygon Group has always adhered to that policy. Officials for both companies say they don’t want flippers competing with them while they’re trying to market their own product.

“It’s a philosophical idea we’ve adopted,” said Tracie McTavish, sales director for Concord, which is about at the half-way point of its $3-billion redevelopment of the former Expo site on the north shore of False Creek.

“We’re a big site, where we’re building more than a thousand units a year. If we allowed assignments of contracts, we could be competing against ourselves in the secondary market.

“Once a building is completed, more power to the original purchaser if he wants to resell his unit.”

Said Polygon senior vice-president Neil Chrystal: “We don’t want to compete with people reselling their units before we’re [sold out]. We want to see them complete their original purchase.

“We actively market more to end-users than to investors. Once they complete their purchase, we think it’s good if our original home buyers make a profit if they decide to resell.”

Concord imposed its new policy after a significant number of sales contracts were reportedly flipped — many of them originally snapped up by realtors — at the 38-storey West One, the tallest residential tower in Vancouver, located at 1408 North Strathmore Mews, near Pacific Boulevard and Drake Street.

While developers like Polygon and Concord stick to their conviction, most other major downtown developers allow flipping, usually subject only to flippers paying an “administration fee” of, say, $500. These developers, including Bosa Ventures Inc., Concert Properties, Qualex-Landmark, and Amacon-Onni, regard the policy as a marketing tool during project presales.

Colin Bosa, vice-president of Bosa Ventures, said his company’s outlook was that, if a developer is satisfied with the original price he sold his product for, he should not stand in the way of what the purchaser decides to do with his unit.

Last month, Leong, of Re/Max Real Estate Services, flipped a unit he purchased last year at Domus, at Homer and Helmcken streets, for $300,000. He originally paid $243,000 for the 904-square-foot, two-bedroom-and-den unit on the sixth floor of the 135-unit building.

On behalf of a client, he also sold a 1,017-square-foot, one-bedroom-and-den unit on the fifth floor at Domus for $317,500, or $34,500 more than the vendor’s original purchase price.

At the luxury Coal Harbour condo project at 1680 Bayshore Dr., Leong said a former client failed to complete her original $303,000 purchase of a 1,030-square-foot, two-bedroom and den unit. The buyer’s aunt stepped up and took over the contract at that price, then flipped the unit a month later for $401,000.

At Alda, on Hamilton near Drake, a buyer who originally paid $300,000 for a 920-square-foot, two bedroom and den, sold the unit for $375,000, Leong said.

“The guy who bought the flip listed it again and sold it for $417,500,” the realtor said.

“For people who made their original purchases last year, assignment profits this year have ranged from 12 to 24 per cent, about 15 per cent on average.”

Given today’s hot condo market, Leong pointed out that flippers face little risk, since developers usually require initial down payments of five to 20 per cent, with the balance due only on project completion, which could be a year or two down the road.

The flipping phenomenon is being driven by the current insatiable appetite for condos, especially downtown, where despite a building boom developers still can’t keep up with demand.

Multiple Listing Service figures show that in March, the number of available new condos in Greater Vancouver dropped 43 per cent to 402 units, down from 709 the previous year.

Meanwhile, the average price of a new unit has risen 20 per cent to $352,100, up from $295,100.

On Vancouver‘s west side, which includes the downtown area, inventory is even tighter and prices much higher.

MLS data shows there were 204 active listings of new condo units last month, a drop of 37 per cent from 324 units in March 2002. The average selling price was $509,300, up 36 per cent, or $134,400, from $374,900 a year ago.

On net profits made through flipping (after real estate commissions and other costs incurred are paid) 50 per cent of the capital gain is taxable.

For flippers who make the practice a full-time endeavor, all net profits are considered to be taxable income.

© Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Shifts Business taxes To Homeowners

Friday, April 25th, 2003

Frances Bula

Saying they wanted to send a positive message to the business community, Vancouver‘s left-leaning city councillors narrowly voted Thursday in favour of shifting a small portion of business taxes to city homeowners.

The tax shift, which will move $2 million of taxes from the city’s business properties to its residential ones, will mean this year’s residential taxes will increase by about one per cent, on top of the 4.67-per-cent general increase council approved earlier this month.

The vote split COPE, with councillors Tim Louis, Ellen Woodsworth, David Cadman and Anne Roberts voting against the shift, while Mayor Larry Campbell and councillors Jim Green, Tim Stevenson, Ray Louie and Fred Bass supported it. Opposition NPA councillors Peter Ladner and Sam Sullivan also supported it. Sullivan and Stevenson indicated they would have supported an even bigger shift.

“I would have preferred [a shift twice as high],” said Stevenson. “Small business is the heart of our economy. What’s crippling them is taxation.”

Bass said the increase will amount to $14 for the average taxpayer.

The opponents didn’t say they were against the shift in principle. Instead, they argued the city has no policy or information about what an ideal tax balance would be, and that home-owners have not had a chance to have their say.

“This is an ad hoc thing,” said Roberts. “I know the business community has been lobbying, but the average resident doesn’t en know we’re considering this.”

Louis said he couldn’t support it because he didn’t have enough information about the impact on taxpayers.

Vancouver began a process of reassessing taxes in the early 1990s after a huge increase in commercial property values in some areas prompted massive protests among business groups, particularly small-business owners.

The council of the day established a property-tax panel and commissioned a study from KPMG on what percentage of city services were used by residents and businesses. The study showed residents used about 71 per cent of the services while their taxes covered only about 40 per cent of the tax bill. Commercial properties paid 55 per cent of the tax bill and used only 29 per cent of the services. (The remainder of the tax bill was covered by other property classes, such as utilities.)

As a result, the formerly dominant NPA councils shifted taxes, one per cent at a time, from the business properties to residential in five of the last nine years, for a total of $16 million shifted over-all until now.

Board of Trade representative Brock Ryan told councillors that besides the inequities identified in the KPMG report, the value of residential property in the city has mushroomed.

Last year, he said, the residential tax base grew by 18 per cent, while the business tax base grew by only two per cent.

He asked councillors to at least agree to shift taxes by 0.5 per cent if they couldn’t agree to the full one per cent that was the pattern under the NPA.

As well, it was noted that businesses in Vancouver pay taxes at a rate that is five times the residential tax rate, the third-highest ratio in the province.

However, while councillors were anxious to send a pro-business message on the tax issue, they were more ambivalent on a more localized, but highly emotional situation that has developed with the parking garage operated under the new Bentall V tower on Burrard.

Bentall managers say they have have complained for years that the city’s parking corporation, EasyPark, which runs the garage, has performed far below standard. The situation became so bad that city managers agreed to put out a tender for a new contract and recommended a private company, Advanced Parking Systems, be awarded the job. City engineer Dave Rudberg said he believed the business relationship between Bentall and EasyPark was “broken” with no possibility for repair.

Bentall senior vice-president Alan Whitchelo attended the council meeting and he and his staff presented evidence about a higher level of car break-ins at that lot compared with the lot under other Bentall towers, along with problems of people being trapped in elevators and generally poor service.

However, councillors voted against the recommendation, agreeing to allow EasyPark to continue running the parkade for three more months.

Louie said if EasyPark, which is a subsidiary wholly owned by the city, lost the contract, that would mean a loss of money to city taxpayers.

Opposition councillors said they were concerned because it looked as though the COPE council was making a decision on a partisan basis — the move would preserve jobs for members of the union that donated heavily to COPE in the election — and would send a poor signal to business about where its values were.

© Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

Proposal to legalize all illegal suites

Monday, April 14th, 2003


Aggressive Thorpe loses liquor-reform responsibility

Monday, April 14th, 2003


10 signs you may be a workaholic

Sunday, April 13th, 2003


Adera plans midrise concrete apartment block in Kitsilano

Saturday, April 12th, 2003

Homes in the development, called “I”, will be offered for sale early next year

Rod Nutt

Adera’s Howard Steiss says homes are sold faster than the company can build them.

In a departure from its usual construction materials, Adera Development Corp. is planning a concrete mid-rise apartment block in the heart of Kitsilano.

Located at 2137 West 10th Avenue, “I” will contain homes that are scheduled to be offered for sale in early 2004.

Purchase-to-occupancy for concrete condominiums is typically 18 months in Vancouver, but “I” will offer waits of less than six months.

Adera’s commercial division has utilized concrete but “I” will be the first time the company has built concrete homes.

“We are selling homes faster that we can build them,” Adera marketing vice-president Howard Steiss says. “But the demand for homes isn’t tempting Adera to speed up production. We are maintaining the sales path we embarked upon last year.”

Steiss credits customer loyalty for the company’s success.

“We always stood proudly behind what we built,” he says.

Over the last 35 years, Adera has built more than 5,000 new townhomes and apartment residences and in excess of three million square feet of commercial space.

Adera’s most recent projects include:

– Rivers Reach, a 150-condominium development in the Southcove residential community near Steveston, completed just over a year ago.

“It’s fitting that we closed the circle at Southcove since we were the first to build there in 1997 with our Nautica neighbourhood,” says Steiss.

Southcove is a master-planned community linked by lagoons and waterways, fountains, bridges and footpaths. It is also close to the Fraser River.

Riverstone, 65 craftsman-style townhomes at 7128 Stride Ave. in south Burnaby that offers the buyer an opportunity to customize affordably.

The development is a short walk to the Edmonds SkyTrain station, and Metrotown is minutes a way.

– Sundance in South Surrey contains 195 two-, three-, and four-bedroom townhomes costing from $189,900 to $227,900; the final 100 homes will be built-out by year-end.

The $40-million project is located at the corner of 152nd Street and 34th Avenue.

– The Village in Burnaby offers a mix of west coast craftsman-style townhomes and San Francisco row houses.

Ledgestone in Burnaby, with 83 stacked townhomes at 7488 Southwynde, has scheduled its grand opening for April 12.

– Denim at 7179 201st Street, Langley offers two-, three-, and four-bedroom townhomes scheduled for release in July of 2003.

Bridge Business Park at Lougheed and Gilmore offers 330,000 square feet of office and warehouse space.

For more information, log on to the Web site.

© Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

Housing starts to slip everywhere except BC

Wednesday, April 9th, 2003