Archive for June, 2014

Green Lights for North Shore Developments in Lynn Valley by Bosa

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Jeremy Shepherd

North Vancouver is poised for more radical change as two major new developments were approved by council in June: Bosa’s Lynn Valley project and the Lower Capilano towers proposed by Pacific Gates Investments.

After years of will they or won’t they intrigue, council’s unanimous vote to redevelop Lynn Valley mall and approve the 377 condominium units and 22 townhouses that comprise Bosa’s project was met with a round of applause.

The old Zellers will be traded for two new 12-storey, 150-foot towers.

The two towers will flank four smaller buildings between five and eight storeys perched on a one-storey commercial podium. That podium – most of which will be used for a grocery store – totals 50,000 square feet of commercial space.

The development will lead to a “new, invigorated Lynn Valley,” according to Coun. Robin Hicks, who emphasized the district’s need of more affordable housing.

“If we don’t provide more average-priced housing – and I won’t say this is cheaper housing – we will become an enclave of the more affluent like most of West Vancouver.”

One-bedroom units would likely start at around $350,000.

Coun. Lisa Muri praised the project as a compromise that will benefit the community but she also questioned its affordability.

“We talk about affordability. I don’t think that will ever happen,” she said. “Many people will be able to live here and many more will not be able to live here, and that is just life.”

The project includes six units of affordable rental housing to be operated by a non-profit society. Each unit is slated to be sold at approximately $150,000 below market value.

Bosa is obliged to provide $4.5 million in district amenities, including $1.6 million in transportation improvements, $500,000 for public art and other money for trail improvements.

Despite conflict over traffic congestion, council also voted to replace the Grouse Inn hotel with 23- and 19-storey towers housing 262 residential units.

Bordered by Curling Road to the north, the Pacific Gate Investments development includes three-storey townhouse units, a restaurant and a four-storey 31,000-square-foot commercial building.

The project also includes three storeys of office space which could be converted to 18 additional residential units.

The project is a stone’s throw from Lions Gate Bridge, which is “heavily used, will not be expanded, and it’s just getting worse,” according to Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn.

“We’re not dealing properly as a collective community regarding roads, bridges, transit, traffic congestion, construction impact … and on the quality of our life.”

The applicant, Pacific Gate Investments, is on the hook for $4.56 million in community amenities.

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

Jade 29 condos in a 4 storey building at Fraser and East 43rd

Thursday, June 26th, 2014


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Cool Tech for the Smart Home

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Susan Boyce

The saying goes that home is where the heart is. But in today’s wired world, it increasingly feels like home is where the technology is. A built-in kitchen island for dumping groceries and perhaps a briefcase now raises eyebrows not as innovation but as a rather quaint antiquity. These days, homebuyers demand multiple-USB charging stations, ever-faster Internet connections and instant access to whole-house home automation they can control from their mobile devices. In short, our homes are getting smarter every day.

Talk to Me

Many “coming soon” advances might still sound like something out of a science fiction best seller. But within a year or two, you might be having conversations with your appliances.

Kitchen heavyweight Miele recently wowed consumers at the London Design Festival with an integrated kitchen panel that provides an instant read-out on your vitals including body/fat ratio, heart rate, cholesterol level and whether you should put that last piece of leftover pizza back because you’ve already maxed out your carbohydrate/protein intake for the day.

One frontrunner designer even suggested holographs of your favourite celebrity chef creating tasty, healthy dishes from ingredients you have on hand will soon be just a touchpad away.

And how about toilets that not only raise and lower the seat automatically, applying everything from deodorizer to air-drying and even checking for pregnancy, diabetes or drug usage via on-the-spot urine analysis which is then displayed on the mirror with audio read-out while you brush your teeth? Mirror, mirror on the wall…

Like many developers, Eric Andreasen, Adera’s vice president of marketing and sales, says he’s also keeping close watch on the next generation of intelligent thermostats, such as NEST technology. Now in the second generation, these products “learn” a homeowner’s habits.

“Imagine your home not only knowing precisely when to turn the heat up so it’s at your preferred temperature when you arrive home after work, but knowing you have a late meeting every Thursday and your weekend schedule includes late brunch,” says Andreasen. “I believe features like this are the way of the future.”

It’s a Green, Green World

No question going green is interwoven with advancing technology — if you doubt it, just ask any five-year-old about recycling and water conservation. What started with motion activated lighting and EnergyStar appliances has become a construction philosophy. And savvy multi-family developers like Adera and Cressey are stepping up to the plate in a big way.

Often, though, the greenest features are ones you can’t even see. In North Vancouver, Adera’s seven35 development was the first private residential building in North America to incorporate a system-wide waste-water heat recovery system — just one of the dozens of über-green features that contributed to seven35’s multiple environmental stewardship awards.

Andreasen says the trendsetting system saves owners up to 75 per cent on the cost of preheating their domestic water by recovering heat from wastewater that traditionally goes down the drain — like the shower or laundry — through a complex heat exchange process that requires two, totally separated sets of water lines.

Then there’s air quality, because living in urban environments means paying attention to the quality of your home’s interior health — just one of the reasons Cressey is on the front lines incorporating technology that rises to the challenge. Cadence, Cressey’s newest condominium tower in Richmond, includes occupational grade air filters that cleanse air to 98 per cent purity and integrated, non-electric water filtration systems as standards. There’s also a state-of-the-art heat recovery ventilation system that draws fresh outside air directly into each suite and use a counter-flow heat exchanger between the inbound and outbound airflow to temper incoming air — fresh air, improved climate control and reduced energy consumption.

Digital Tsunami

For Marilyn Sanford of Connected Spaces, a robust, hardwired network connecting discreet, strategically placed wireless interfaces is still a fundamental component of the truly tech-savvy home.

“The demands we make on our homes are increasing exponentially — gaming, high-def television, streaming video. You need bandwidth — lots of it — to accommodate the sheer volume of data that flows through the average home.”

This cabled backbone is the only way to ensure that important connectivity with the myriad smartphone, iPad, or other mobile devices is there when homeowners need it — which is 24/7.

There can also be a social element to all this connectivity. At the Midtown low-rise condo complex in Mount Pleasant, developer PortLiving has added bazinga!, a social network and utility for condo buildings that keeps owners connected with their neighbours, property manager and developer, and helps organize all their  home essentials like warranties and appliance manuals.

Clean, Lean TV Screen

As the trend to larger but ever slimmer TV screens marches inexorably forward, techies are searching for new ways to conceal their viewing surface when not in use. One twist is Bosa Properties’ recently introduced LIDOvision — a mirror installed in the bathrooms of its LIDO development that transforms into a high-def TV/movie/internet screen at the flick of a remote.

Art lovers are also embracing customizable “paintings” to preserve the aesthetic integrity of their homes. “Digital files of classic masterpieces or an image of your choice are converted into giclee prints on art canvas [that covers your TV],” explains Wes Morris from GrayTek. “When you’re ready to watch TV or a movie, a motorized control rolls your art piece up and out of the way.”

Sometimes, of course, the TV is still front and centre. In the downstairs bar/media area of one Shaughnessy mansion, Tavan Homes created a TV screen from two sheets of tempered glass that appear to float above a display wall separating the lounge and bar. Images are viewable on either side and controlled via any mobile device.

Virtual Valet Parking

Still with a ring of pure science fiction, automated car parkades are reputed to have originated in Paris over 40 years ago. In Vancouver, Bosa’s Jameson House is so far the only residential tower to incorporate this cutting edge technology. Owners simply drive into a secure transfer station beside the building elevator, swipe a fob-style control, and an automated system moves their vehicle to the correct level and stall.

Benefits include significantly reduced space requirements (no need for room to open vehicle doors or maneuvering space like ramps) and enhanced security for both vehicle and drivers who no longer need to walk through an empty parkade.

On the downside, the question remains: what happens during a power failure or technological glitch?

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

First-Time Home Buyers Driving Surrey Market

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Patrick Blennerhassett

Canada’s 2011 census revealed Surrey was Canada’s third-fastest-growing city, with population growth outpacing Edmonton and Calgary – two cities that are part of a booming oil sector and not hemmed in by geography. The question is, who are the roughly 1,000 people moving to Surrey every month?

One thing’s for sure, they’re moving to the Fraser Valley in record-breaking numbers.

At the end of May, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) posted its highest sales numbers in seven years. In May 2014 there were 1,633 sales through the Multiple Listing Service, 18 per cent more than in May 2013 and 11 per cent more than in April 2014.

The biggest increase has been in single-family detached homes, which make up 60 per cent of sales. FVREB president Ray Werger, who’s been selling real estate in the Fraser Valley for 22 years, said he’s noticed a new trend in Surrey.

“The baby boomer generation [is] either helping their kids get into the market, buying detached homes with basement suites for them or their elderly parents as well.”

Werger noted that though it’s hard to track these numbers on a wide scale because the FVREB can’t ask homebuyers specific financing questions, the demographic sectors eating up properties in Surrey are clear.

Shayna Thow, director of sales for BLVD Marketing Group – which handles marketing for two Surrey developments for Vancouver’s Fairborne Homes Ltd. – said Surrey has become a viable option for first-time homebuyers who can’t afford to buy in Vancouver. While the average price for a single-family detached home in Greater Vancouver has soared to more than $1.36 million, the average price in the Fraser Valley is still under $655,000.

“We are seeing over 50 per cent of our buyers coming into the Surrey market as first-time purchasers who will be living in the home as a primary residence,” said Thow. “The majority are under the age of 35 and are utilizing family members to help aid them with deposits and getting into the market.”

James Stewart, chairman of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association and a business lawyer in Surrey since the ’80s, said the association has seen an influx of company leaders, with their companies in tow, moving south of the Fraser River.

“There are young families that are moving to Surrey because of affordability. But there are also a lot of affluent people moving to Surrey who are business owners, professionals. People who could actually live wherever they want to, but choose to live on the larger, newer, fresher properties in Surrey because Surrey as a community is evolving.”

Werger agreed. He recently sold a home to the senior vice-president of a Prince George specialty wood finishing company who’s moving himself, his wife and his entire operation to Cloverdale.

“I said, ‘Why are you guys bringing the company down here?’ and he said, ‘Most of our customers are offshore, so we don’t need to be up in Prince George. We’re tied into the transportation grid here a lot better.’”

Surrey by the Numbers

300,000: Number of people by which Surrey’s population is projected to rise in the next three decades

1 to 4: Estimated ratio of Surrey residents to Metro Vancouver residents by 2046

25%: Approximate percentage of Surrey’s population that is under the age of 19

10,000: Average annual number of new residents in Surrey

18.7 per cent: Surrey’s portion of Metro Vancouver’s regional population

Source: City of Surrey

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

Guidance on Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

Monday, June 23rd, 2014


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Fraser Valley Set For Strong Household Growth

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Elizabeth Wilson

When you cross the bridge, forget what you know.”

Colin Scott of Fifth Avenue Marketing tells his developer clients to drop their city-slicker attitudes when they come to the Fraser Valley.

Speaking to the Urban Development Institute Fraser Valley chapter June 19, Scott said that even though the Fraser Valley is often lumped in with the Vancouver real estate market, it’s a different beast entirely and needs to be considered on its own.

Stretching south of the river from Delta through Surrey and Langley to Abbotsford, and north of the river from Pitt Meadows to Mission, the Fraser Valley is an economic powerhouse, home to the fastest-growing communities in BC. Surrey itself is a “second city,” a half-million-person urban centre. Even excluding Surrey, the Fraser Valley ranks 10th in size relative to Canada’s census metropolitan areas, according to the event moderator, urban designer Bob Ransford.

And the pace of growth is showing no signs of slowing. Around 8,000 new households came to the Fraser Valley in 2013, according to event panelist Sarena Teakles of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). She said that this steady level of approximately 2 per cent year-over-year growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with an average of 8,780 new households predicted to come into the region every year for the next five years.

She added, “The really big areas for growth will be Ridge Meadows [Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows], Langley and Abbotsford. On average we’ll see about 1,050 households going to Ridge Meadows, 1,700 in Langley and 1,200 in Abbotsford, each of the next five years.

“Surrey is not going to see the largest rate of increase, but because it’s the largest sector and the most ethnically diverse, it will see about 2,800 new households.”

She gave home prices as a key reason for that growth.

Any house hunter knows that homes are far more affordable in the Valley. New or resale, house, townhouse or condo, you get more home for less money. For instance, the benchmark price for an average resale house in Greater Vancouver is $966,500, compared with $566,400 in the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board region.

While Greater Vancouver prices have spiralled up, prices in the Valley have remained flat since 2009. Part of the reason is that supply currently outstrips demand. Teakles said that although there were 8,000 new households in 2013, only 5,624 new homes were built in the Valley that year, as unabsorbed homes filled the gap in demand. She told that as households grow over the next five years, housing starts will inevitably rise to the same annual levels as the surplus is rapidly used up.

Another reason for the low prices is that the Fraser Valley has not had the same pressure from investors as Vancouver. People buy homes to live in.

And what they’re buying is townhouses — 60 to 70 per cent of all townhomes sold in the Lower Mainland are sold in the Fraser Valley.

Attached to Townhomes

“We believe that the townhome is the new de facto single family home for this generation,” said Scott. They want fences, they don’t mind side-by-side garages, but they really do not aspire to having a detached home and a large yard. Home ownership between $300,000 and $500,000 for a townhome is acceptable to them, provided that townhome is well appointed and well designed.”

In fact, the popularity of townhomes is affecting condo sales, he said. “About 25 per cent of the standing inventory in Metro Vancouver in condominiums is in Surrey and Langley, and one of the big reasons is that townhouse prices have become so attractive that the hardest thing to market right now is probably a two-bedroom wood frame apartment between 800 and 900 square feet, because I can get a 1200-square-foot townhouse for $249,000 or $269,000.

“We used to see first-time buyers [buying a condo] as a couple, getting married, getting pregnant and moving out with a baby screaming in about one year. Now what they’re doing is they’re buying into that townhome and staying there for seven or eight years.”

High-rise condos are a particularly tough sell in the Fraser Valley, unless they’re close to transit. Only 5 to 15 per cent of Lower Mainland condo sales are in the Valley.

“We always caution our clients not to assume that the buyers want Yaletown in Langley. They don’t,” says Scott.

“The Fraser Valley behaviours and values are a lot more similar to other centres in Canada – Saskatoon, Calgary etc. – than they can be to downtown Vancouver. Especially with the emergence of Vancouver proper as an Asian city more than a multicultural city. Whereas Surrey and the Fraser Valley are more multicultural – probably a more accurate reflection of the face of Canada.

“Prospective home buyers in the Fraser Valley are less impressed with downtown Vancouver than everybody thinks.”

CMHC’s Teakles agrees. “The first thing that comes to mind for me is quality of life,” she said. “I like having the convenience of the big city, but I don’t like to live in it.”

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

No Let-up in Metro Development as Major Land Deals Surge

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Joannah Connolly

Metro Vancouver has seen a surge in the completion of large-scale land purchases by developers over the past six months, according to Colliers International’s Metro Vancouver LandShare Spring Report released June 19.

The authors reported, “Notable developers have been quick to pull the trigger on opportunities in markets where recently introduced community plans have facilitated density increases. In the West End, the acquisition of the 1400 Block of Alberni by Wall Financial was spurred by the added value that was created through the approval of the West End Official Community Plan. In addition, there have been more opportunities to purchase substantial projects in suburban areas fuelled by government and institutional owners capitalizing on strong market conditions.”

The report said that Standard Life sold 12.5 acres surrounding Gilmore Station, while the BC government sold 88 acres at Burke Mountain in Coquitlam, 40 acres at the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way in Burnaby and 15 acres in the Panorama neighbourhood of Surrey.

The authors added: “Areas that were expected to crest such as Metrotown and the Westside of Vancouver have continued their upward pricing trend. A mixture of private equity and foreign investments have led the purchasing, with institutional developers taking a backseat and waiting for prime assets of scale.”

The report says that major transactions have dominated the marketplace, with lower transaction volumes than previous years being offset by higher average deal values.

It stated, “Fewer land transactions took place in 2013 than the past several years. The year closed with 330 transactions compared to 553 in 2012 … However, sites traded at a higher average value than previous years. Despite low overall volumes, high-density site transactions far exceeded 2012 sales as land owners began to cash out.”

Download the full report from here (free registration required).

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

CMHC looks to fill research gaps on housing market

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Tara Perkins

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is going to be releasing more data about the state of the country’s housing market, amid complaints from economists that there is too much we don’t know.

CMHC CEO Evan Siddall says that the Crown corporation is looking to fill some of the research gaps that exist, that it will also be releasing more information about its own portfolio, and that it is considering publishing its own analysis of how healthy Canada’s housing market is.

“We’ve been a little bit internally focused, we’ve been a little bit confined about the information we’ve shared with people,” he says.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce economist Benjamin Tal wrote a highly-publicized report in April called Flying Blind that called the lack of publicly available information about Canada’s housing market “mind-boggling” given how important the market is to the economy.

In recent years economists have been debating just how overvalued Canadian home prices are and whether the market might crash or will achieve a so-called “soft landing” in which price growth gradually peters out. Policy makers have taken dramatic steps to cool the market, including changes to the mortgage insurance rules. But Mr. Tal and others have argued that we do not have all the data we need to properly assess the market, including the share of foreign investors in the condominium market, the distribution of mortgages by credit score, and the average down-payment.

“We are looking at our research offerings and trying to find the biggest gaps and the highest priority areas to focus on,” Mr. Siddall says.

He cited the amount of foreign money in the market as one example, but noted that it’s challenging because foreigners are buying real estate through nominees or Canadian incorporations. CMHC is looking to see whether it could get information through surveys or with the help of banks.

That particular gap is one that has been troubling economists for some time. They fret that foreign investors might have played a larger role than assumed in the market’s escalation, and are more likely to bail in the event of a downturn. In April 2012, former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty acknowledged to The Globe and Mail’s editorial board that he didn’t have a good grasp on the amount of foreign money in the market. “It’s mainly anecdotal, so I don’t have a statistical grasp of it, no,” he said at the time, adding that he had been hearing that a large number of people in emerging economies were paying cash for condos in Toronto and Vancouver.

In addition to the potential research gaps, CMHC might begin publishing its own analysis of just how worried, if at all, we should be about high house prices. The tool it uses internally is called the House Pricing Analysis and Assessment Framework (HPAA). Mr. Siddall says he would ultimately like to see that made public on a regular basis.

The HPAA looks at the factors that appear to have presaged housing crises in the past, including the rate of acceleration in house prices.

At the moment he says “it is not glowing red, we’re not concerned about a bubble.”

© Copyright 2014 The Globe and Mail Inc.

Oil tanks, drug labs among ugly real estate surprises

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Frank O’Brien

A Metro Vancouver residential property purchase can reveal some ugly surprises, from marijuana grow-op and meth lab damage to old oil tanks, aboriginal middens or a heritage designation, all of which can prove costly to the buyer.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver presents the following information on how to unearth surprises before they bite you.

Local government (municipal) website have a range of information. For example:

Richmond provides a road map of designated heritage buildings and homes, and includes photos.

The City of Vancouver confirms if a property has been used as a grow op or illegal drug lab to anyone phoning 604-871-6231. The City does not provide the owner’s name in keeping with privacy legislation. (Note: there is no available universal public registry of homes previously used as grow ops and illegal drug labs, but the RCMP has a national registry which covers municipalities policed by the RCMP.)

West Vancouver provides a list of properties known to have underground storage tanks. Visit: and search Fuel Storage Tank Program. Scroll to More Information and see fuel/ oil tank records Search.

There is a BC Heritage Sites Inventory. Information about its properties comes from local governments. To investigate potential aboriginal history of a site, check the BC Archaeological Site. You can also phone 250-953-3338.

Search the BC Government’s Contaminated Sites Registry, which lists some contaminated sites. It is available through to Products). There is a charge to access the database.

Copyright © Business In Vancouver

Real Estate Boom Projected For Vancouver’s West End

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

A new community plan unlocks value – and development potential – in one of Vancouver’s most storied (and storeyed) neighbourhoods

Margo Harper

Vancouver‘s West End is on the verge of a dramatic real estate revival sparked by density brought on by a recent community plan, according to a real estate industry report to be released Thursday.
According to the Colliers Spring 2014 LandShare Report, which analyzes sales, rezoning and development applications in all municipalities, Metro Vancouver has seen a surge in the completion of larger scale transactions since the beginning of the year after recently introduced community plans spurred land owners to sell. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than Vancouver’s densest urban village. 
“Nothing would have happened without the West End community plan,” says James Lang, the market intelligence manager for Colliers International Realty. “That plan unlocked value and growth potential in the downtown core where land is so scarce.” 
The LandShare Report points to the recent sale of two properties at Alberni and Nicola streets as the first of many anticipated high-value transactions in the West End. Wall Financial Corporation recently purchased 1444 Alberni and 740 Nicola Street for $83.5 million after the community plan relaxed density in the Georgia corridor to maximum heights of 500 feet. The sites currently contain two midrise office complexes and one 20-storey apartment complex built circa 1970. The company has not yet revealed its redevelopment plans.
Lang says these are the first of the big deals for the West End this year, but will not be the last.
“There are other ones in play that I can’t talk about yet,” says Lang. “We are expecting three or four significant sales to close soon. These will be quite large transactions for existing buildings. When the community plan came in, the land value went up. The land is now worth much more than the buildings, so it makes sense to redevelop.”

The LandShare report also points to a revival of rental housing stock for the West End with the city’s Rental 100 plan, formerly known as the STIR (Short Term Incentives for Rental) program.  The program offers bonus density without community amenity contributions, relaxed parking requirements, unit size reductions and an expedited permit process. To date, approximately 3,300 units spread over 34 projects are proposed for Metro Vancouver as developers cash in on incentives, low interest rates and a strong Vancouver rental market.
The Rental 100 program – while a boon for developers – has not been without community controversy. The West End Neighbours Association (WEN) has challenged the program several times in B.C. Supreme Court – most recently on the grounds that it would not provide affordable housing to Vancouver renters. In a recent decision, the B.C. Supreme Court found that the City has wide discretion to define housing affordability, and said further definition is best left to voters at the ballot box. 
In a press release, WEN director Virginia Richards criticized the city rental program which has “virtually unlimited powers to give developers incentives without producing affordable housing.” 
It is still unclear whether the increasingly attractive climate for developers will enhance livability for renters. But Lang says it is evident that changing buyer demographics are a strong driver for development choices. While the West End real estate revival headlines the LandShare report, transit-rich Burnaby was also strong. There, the key sale was Onni Development Corporation’s purchase of 1,500 acres around Gilmore Station for $103,794,000.

“Anything transit oriented, anything close to a station, is going to be a highly coveted opportunity,” says Lang. “Developers are looking for scale, a place where they can build more units. This is a sound development philosophy right now. You just have to look at the demographics. Young buyers are less car dependent, more transit oriented, looking at smaller spaces and want to be close to amenities. Suburban developments are just not making the same strides forward right now as others.” 
Another Colliers report released earlier in the week – the Metro Vancouver 2014 Developer Sentiment Survey – backs up the contention that transit availability is an increasing factor in large commercial deals. Vancouver, Burnaby and North Vancouver ranked as most desirable in the survey while transit challenged Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows were last.

© 2014 Canada Wide Media Limited.