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Luxury condos sell like hotcakes during Olympics

March 1st, 2010 · 12 Comments

Somehow I don’t think this piece of news, sent out over the news-release wires this morning, is going to make most people feel that great about the Games. Their worst nightmare, actually.

Vancouver real estate developer strikes gold

$46.76 million sold during Olympics: $31.8 million to Olympic visitors
With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games now over, one of their most notable legacies will be a massive boon to Vancouver’s luxury real estate market.

Between the Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 12 and the Closing Ceremonies on Feb. 28, Aspac Developments sold seven suites at its luxury towers at UBC (The Wesbrook) and Coal Harbour (Three Harbour Green) for a total of $46.76 million. Three of those suites, including Three Harbour Green’s $22.3 million-penthouse, were sold to visitors specifically in town for the 2010 Winter Games.

“The Olympics were instrumental in putting our properties, especially our Three Harbour Green tower next to the International Broadcast Centre, on the world stage,” says George Wong, principal of Magnum Projects (Marketers for Aspac). “The weather really showcased Vancouver’s natural beauty and the Games brought an international flair and level of excitement to our city that, coupled with everything else we have to offer, made Vancouver extremely attractive. Add to that the affordability of luxury real estate here, compared to other world cities, and Three Harbour Green’s downtown waterfront location was an irresistible choice for our buyers.”

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  • Dan Cooper

    I often find myself wondering why luxury condos are being built at UBC. Silly of me, I suppose, as the answers are probably simply, “money” and “because they can,” in accordance with President Toope’s recently expressed views of “academic freedom.” As for me though, I can’t see that this kind of construction serves any academic purpose.

    Looking at the article more generally, indeed this is not news that I at least was hoping for. I would like to find a larger condo in my same neighbourhood – which will probably be much less likely if prices skyrocket again, based on a new influx of capital from vacationers and investors.

  • jesse

    The worst nightmare is not that people are buying real estate — there’s more than enough room to build thousands more luxury condos for everyone — but that people start using these anecdotes to continue to justify overpaying for their own properties.

  • Ron

    It is just more proof that Vancouver is a resort city and more removed from the rest of province.

  • “I would like to find a larger condo in my same neighbourhood – which will probably be much less likely if prices skyrocket again, based on a new influx of capital from vacationers and investors.”

    Dan, I don’t know in which neighbourhood you live, but I can say that the price will be influenced by two things…the prices achieved at UBC and elsewhere in the region; and the cost of creating new apartments in your neighbourhood.

    A major factor affecting the latter is the availability and cost of land in the area. The reality is that there are virtually no undeveloped multi-family sites in most westside Vancouver neighbourhoods. There are commercial/residential sites along arterials, but I suspect this is not your first choice.

    The housing is being built at UBC because there is land available…but the high prices for the land and housing are a reflection of the significant demand, primarily from local residents, and limited supply.

    Many developers like myself would love to build more apartments in Kerrisdale or Dunbar or Cambie but there are no sites available. We can try and assemble single family lots and attempt to rezone them, but as we have recently witnessed, this is often very time consuming and expensive, with no guarantee of success. You also make a lot of enemies through the process!

    I will conclude with an anecdote. I was touring the Canadian Mint display with my wife last week when a lady came up to us and said “You don’t know me, but I want you to know my mother recently moved into the apartment you developed at Larch and 41st. She just loves it. I hope you will build another like it.”

    I’d love to. Just find me the land. cheers

  • landlord

    @ Dan Cooper : UBC is carrying through on its long-established plan to create an endowment of $1 Billion. This will permit the university to have some degree of independence from the political winds blowing in Victoria. Governments with budget deficits will be looking to freeze or cut grants to post-sec and everything else (except Health and K-12).
    As for your condo, when property values rise, for whatever reason, you can leverage the increase in your equity. My advice? Cash out when interest rates start to climb later this year and buy a nice little place in Belize or Nicaragua.

  • Priced-out

    @michael geller “the high prices for the land and housing are a reflection of the significant demand, primarily from local residents”

    I’d love to see the numbers you have to back this claim up… the anecdotal evidence around here in UBC points to the complete opposite (speculation / money laundering / “investment” / units barely used)

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    Larch & 41st… sing the praises of Kerrisdale. Terrific site, next to a park, and at the western end of the pedestrian-friendly Kerrisdale shopping street.

    This is street-oriented urbanism at a walkable scale. Good stuff. Can we clone it?

    The shopping street acts as a traffic-calming barrier, protecting the neighbourhoods to the west, and making this section of 41st lighter in traffic than the typical arterial.

    That’s an important fact to keep in mind: there is a direct correlation between the volume of traffic on the street, and the ability of a street to function as a residential site. Urban quality matters, and high-volume streets fail that test.

    How are we going to get more sites like this, Michael? Isn’t the answer to get the City to plan new neighbourhood centers, learning from Kerrisdale, around the “Olympic Miracle” (i.e. Transit)?

    A third fact about this site’s location is that it is 0.5 km (0.33 miles) from the Arubuts rail R.O.W.

    In your opinion, what would be the effect for developing sites like this if the Arbutus corridor were running an “Olympic Line” tram on it?

    Might we use Tram corridors to get a break on the cost of land? Or, are we moving too fast for the “herd”? Would municipal involvement take some of the risk out of it?

  • landlord

    The arbutus r.o.w. should be used for housing, not transit. It already has a bus line and they dodged the Canada Line bullet. Row-housing makes sense, but even single-family residential (with no space wasted on parking, lanes or garages) would be very attractive to home-buyers.

  • Bill Lee

    @Priced-out The same comments have been made about the SFU mountain yuppie slums created by Mr. Geller.

  • Priced out and Bill Lee. I am sure there are units purchased by investors with money from a variety of sources at both SFU and UBC, just like there are in most neighbourhoods around the region…although in these cases, the investor units are generally rented to students. But by far, the majority of the units are owner occupied and the residents enjoy a very high level of satisfaction.

  • Priced-out

    Michael: unfortunately without real data you and I can make completely opposite claims and neither of us can show we’re right.

    Unfortunately, the only people that know for sure one way or another who’s living in these units and whether they’re occupied or not is the University Neighbourhood Association, which contracted out a fairly comprehensive survey of the local residences a couple of years ago. HOwever, they have systematically ignored my requests to see the data (although they promised they would be made public when they distributed the questionnaire). To make it even more interesting, partial (and aggregated) results that they did comment on seemed to suggest that the “local” population in these developments was somewhere between 35% and 60%…

    I live here and, although I can’t say I know for sure, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence for my impressions. For example, the cashiers I spoke with at the new Save On Foods haven’t got all the shifts they expected because there simply aren’t enough customers (yet? I don’t know if this lack of business is temporary or permanent, but other shops away from the campus center have already closed and left… which doesn’t seem to suggest a vibrant and local community).

    So, until we see the numbers, all we have is just our own biased opinions as to what is going on here.

  • @Bill Lee: In the early stages of development at SFU, there were a very large number of suites sold to investors. At the time there were few services up here and it felt a little “vacant”

    To call SFU’s development Univercity at “yuppie Slum” paints an image that doesn’t represent the feelings of the owners here.

    The past three years living here we have all known we were early in the curve, and we are now seeing the value in being here early. The new Nesters Market is now open, we’re seeing some wonderful public art installations popping up, there are outdoor music and cultural events in the summer, micro farmers markets, some affordable and good eateries, great public transit, clean air, miles of walking trails in a pristine forest conservation area – all in an eco density neighbourhood that encourages interaction between residents – hardly a slum.

    There’s a new elementary school opening in September that has a focus on greener living, and will have some wonderful programs:

    “The district hopes to develop partnerships with SFU faculty members, particularly the education faculty, to engage with the elementary’s students, as well as provide space at the school for community programs run by Burnaby’s parks and recreation department”
    (Wanda Chow – Burnaby Newsleader Feb 19 2010)

    Univercity at Simon Fraser University is getting attention around the world and has one many awards ( video: http://tinyurl.com/ylelgf5 ).

    The SFU Community Trust’s President Gordon Harris and his team are doing a great job of moving Mr. Geller’s legacy forward and creating a true sustainable neighbourhood.

    Drop by sometime – I think you’ll change your view.