Best of Vancouver: Real estate

Two Georgia Straight staffers offer their thoughts on the local property market

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  • JANET MCDONALD

Best Cambie Street holdout

The King Edward Avenue area of Cambie Street seems to have been under construction since before the 2010 Olympics, and more than a decade later we are still seeing rapid change in the neighbourhood. There are a number of homeowners who are refusing to sell to developers, take the money, and run. One corner-lot owner is saying “no” with style and grace by carving a collection of happy faces into the hedges surrounding the home. It’s worth taking a detour to take a peek on the southeast corner of Cambie and West 27th Avenue.

 

Best indication that suburbia has become as unaffordable as Vancouver

 

Relative to other towns in the Lower Mainland, Mission has the cheapest detached homes. The operative word is relative. Buying a single-family home may soon become mission impossible in this town at the eastern terminus of the West Coast Express. A report by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board shows that the benchmark price of a single-family residence in Mission increased to almost
$1 million ($999,100) in October 2021.

Best illustration that more density doesn’t mean affordable

Vancouver realtor David Hutchinson sold a detached home at 2475 East 2nd Avenue on May 29, 2019, for $1,330,000. The new owner demolished the old home and built a duplex, or two side-by-side homes, on the 49.5-foot lot. In August 2021, the two duplex halves sold for $1,650,000 each, for a combined $3.3 million. That’s 148 percent more than the purchase price of the original home. As Hutchinson observed, “Increased density seems to come with a lack of affordability”.

JANET MCDONALD

Best modern-day Cubism

Across the street from Vancouver’s iconic main library on West Georgia Street is an equally unusual building that has left many downtown residents wondering what the architects were consuming during the conceptual stage. It is so weird that Apple has decided to make it the home of their new local head office. The Deloitte Summit office tower is 24 storeys high, with alternating glass cubes. It required special metal fabrication to support the giant glass structure, which will also have lush green walls peeking out from the abstract geometrics.

Best reminder to be nice with licensing authorities

It doesn’t hurt to be pleasant. Especially with people who grant professional accreditations. A man wanting to renew his broker’s licence with the then–Real Estate Council of B.C. doomed his application because of his behaviour. The regulatory body described it as something that “went beyond mere rudeness”. The person, whose identity was redacted in a decision, called the head of the council at the time, Erin Seeley, the “Worst CEO in History”. Even worse, the guy also claimed in an official communication that Seeley is a friend of disgraced Hollywood producer and convicted sexual offender Harvey Weinstein. Moreover, the applicant called another staff member, the RECBC’s legal counsel, a “piece of shit”.

Best pockets of housing affordability in Vancouver

Adam Major, cofounder and CEO of real-estate information site Zealty.ca, lists neighbourhoods in Vancouver that may be considered as rare pockets of housing affordability. For the West Side of the city, Marpole is the most affordable neighbourhood for condos or apartments, with a median price as of September 2021 set at $653,000. Marpole is the also cheapest area for detached homes on the West Side, where the median price is $2,445,000. As for the East Side, Major said that apartments or condos are most affordable in Hastings-Sunrise, with a median price of $521,500. For detached homes in East Vancouver, Collingwood is the place to go, where the median price is $1,570,000.

Best proof that some kids are luckier than others

Being born to a well-to-do family fetches a lot of advantages. These extend to homebuying in adult life. A CIBC report estimates that Canadian parents gifted more than $10 billion to help their children buy homes during the past year. In Vancouver, the manna from mom and dad in the first quarter of 2021 averaged $180,000 each for first-time homebuyers. The amount is even larger for mover-uppers, or those moving to bigger properties. In the first quarter of 2021, these Vancouver buyers got an average of $340,000 each.

Best method to tear down a house

There’s a way of taking down a house that is Earth-friendly. Unbuilders is a Vancouver-based company specializing in deconstruction and salvage. The company unbuilds homes piece by piece, reclaiming reusable materials, particularly wood. It means that Unbuilders is able to divert about 50 tonnes of material from the landfill on every residential job. In addition, the company works with Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver, a nonprofit that helps people build affordable housing. The way this works is that a homeowner will donate wood reclaimed from their old house to the nonprofit. The wood’s value is appraised by a third party, and Habitat for Humanity issues a tax receipt in return.

Best local end to the Trump era

The all-caps name is still up at the now-closed TRUMP Hotel on West Georgia Street, but there are signs of change in the air. Yellow tape and covered windows adorn the entrance to the former guy’s namesake. No doubt the residents of the luxury apartments would like a rebrand not negatively affecting the first impression of a potential buyer.

Best evidence of a class bias in housing

Manufactured homes nowadays are superior in design and durability compared to the trailers made during the 1960s and 1970s. They are also more affordable than conventional homes. However, governments don’t seem to like them. Al Kemp, executive director of the Manufactured Home Park Owners Alliance of B.C., says it’s a form of “class bias”. As Kemp observed, “You talk to politicians and many in the media and all they can think of is, you know, Trailer Park Boys or trailer trash, that sort of thing.”

Best proof that when it comes to Vancouver real estate, everything sells

Here in Vancouver, people buy and sell not only homes but parking spaces and storage rooms. Even condos in a declared leaky development on East Broadway changed hands, although no financing is available for such properties.

 

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