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Five hottest British Columbia news stories of 2018

Western Investor's most-read stories, from dual-agency regulation to new and expanded residential real estate taxes

During a year of major real estate policy and regulation change, it comes as no surprise that WesternInvestor.com’s most-viewed B.C. stories gave readers the insight into these new developments, including B.C’s foreign buyer tax, restrictions on assignment sales to prevent ‘shadow flipping’ and ‘ double-ending’. Readers also frequented the sight to get the lowdown on up-and-coming investment destinations.

Here is our annual countdown of our five most-read British Columbia stories published in 2018.

5. Mill town of Powell River becomes low-cost investment destination

Our first story to garner the most views this year focuses on the economic growth of Vancouver Island town Powell River, a los-cost alternative to the mainland with a 80.3 per cent increase in housing sales year-over-year. 

4. Dual agency rules will disrupt housing market, real estate agents claim

Changes to the B.C. Real Estate Services Act that came into effect June 15, 2018 prohibited "double ending" – representing both a buyer and a seller in a real estate transaction. In our story, real estate professionals worried it could slowdown sales – and as the year progressed, they may have had a point. 

3. China's largest online retailer to start selling Canadian real estate

This quick-hit story on Chinese real estate portal Juwai.com and retail site JD.com teaming up to offer Canadian real estate to Asian consumers garnered the third-most views this year, showing us that readers are still drawn to stories on foreign investment in Vancouver property. 

2. Higher-priced house markets nailed by tax hike

Our second-most read story of the year focused on the first effects on the housing market following the B.C. Budget 2018 housing measures announcement. Pricey markets like Vancouver’s west side were the first to fall, seeing prices down 70 per cent in April 2018 versus April 2016. 

1. Canada Revenue Agency recruited to help fight mortgage fraud

Our most-read story of the year covered the CRA’s recruitment to combating mortgage fraud together with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, by allowing lender to have access to an applicant’s tax data. Together with numerous Bank of Canada interest rates this year, it’s no surprise that readers we’re reading and watching to see how new regulations would affect mortgage eligibility in a changing market. 

REMAX forecasts Canadian markets in 2019

According to the REMAX 2019 Housing Market Outlook, the country’s average sale prices will get a 1.7% boost, an indication that the balance has finally returned to Canada.

The report notes that markets throughout the country stabilized this year after the 2017 aberration that saw prices in markets like Toronto’s surge beyond reasonable levels. Stabilization is expected to continue through 2019, a likely consequence of interest rate hikes that are believed will increase as the year goes on.

Thirty-one percent of REMAX survey respondents don’t believe interest rates have hitherto affected their ability to afford a mortgage, but that optimism doesn’t extend beyond December. Another REMAX survey of its brokers and agents revealed 83% expect interest rates to make Canadians’ home purchases cumbersome next year.

The report also expects sale prices in Vancouver to decline 3% in 2019 because obtaining a mortgage in the Metro region is becoming well-nigh impossible.

"The drop in sales in key markets across British Columbia can be partially attributed to Canadians' increasing difficulty in getting an affordable mortgage in the region," says Elton Ash, REMAX of Western Canada’s regional executive vice president. "The situation created by the introduction of the mortgage stress test this year, as well as continually increasing interest rates, means more Canadians will be priced out of the market."

The Greater Toronto Area, on the other hand, is expected to fare better next year as REMAX predicts sale prices will rise 2%, thanks to high demand for homes priced below $1 million. Demand will be weaker for homes above $1.5m, though. According to Christopher Alexander, REMAX’s vice president and regional director for Ontario-Atlantic Region, looming rate hikes might be spurring the restraint.

“People are a little more cautious than they were in the past because interest rates are starting to rise,” he said. “Government said it would be more aggressive with interest rates and people are waiting to see how it will all shake out.”

Alexander added that Toronto remains a popular destination, which should balance out weaknesses in its market.

“It’s not surprising [November sales in the GTA] were down year-over-year, but because Toronto is such a big destination, both domestically and globally, there will be good pockets of the city that balance everything gout.”

by Neil Sharma12 Dec 2018 | www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca

After a relatively sedate 2018, Toronto is heating up again

After exhibiting relatively modest performance for most of 2018 with the advent of stricter mortgage qualification rules, Toronto is seeing a resurgence in market competition once again.

The latest numbers from the city’s real estate professionals’ association indicated that the total number of active for-sale listings in the GTA saw a 9.8% year-over-year decrease in November, down to 16,420 units.

During the same time frame, the volume of new for-sale listings in the region shrank by 26.1%.

“New listings were actually down more than sales on a year-over-year basis in November,” TREB President Garry Bhaura said, as quoted by Bloomberg.

Read more: Toronto apartment inventory having trouble catching up with demand

“This suggests that, in many neighbourhoods, competition between buyers may have increased. Relatively tight market conditions over the past few months have provided the foundation for renewed price growth,” Bhaura added.

Average home sales price last month was $788,345, growing by 3.5% from the same time last year.

Meanwhile, total sales in November stood at at 6,251 completed deals, representing a 14.5% annual decline.

TREB stressed, however, that any year-over-year comparison should take into account that November 2017’s performance is “distorted” due to a large number of buyers rushing to beat the implementation of B-20 in January 2018.

www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca
by Ephraim Vecina07 Dec 2018

Vancouver council approves duplexes in most neighbourhoods

Decision came despite opposition from some residents

City council voted to allow duplexes in most single-family neighbourhoods in Vancouver in a 7-4 decision after a two-day contentious public hearing that ended Sept. 19.

NPA councillors George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball and Melissa De Genova, as well as the Green's Adriane Carr, voted against the proposal, which was considered one of the "quick start" actions in the city's new Making Room program that aims to increase housing diversity in Vancouver.

Council's decision means duplexes will be allowed with or without small lock-off suites. It's an option for new construction only, and it doesn't include an increase in floor area over what's currently permitted. Laneway houses also won't be allowed in conjunction with duplexes. City staff say they don't anticipate land value to escalate thanks to those restrictions.

The rationale for allowing duplexes wasn't based on affordability, although they will be cheaper than single-family homes. It's meant to increase housing options.

Before voting in favour of the proposal, Vision Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said the city needs more options between single-family and higher-density housing forms. He pointed out laneway homes and secondary suites were also controversial, but allowing them has worked out well.

"The big challenge that we have as a council is, in these neighbourhoods, we need to make decisions that are not just for the people who live in the neighbourhoods right now, but as Coun. [Raymond] Louie said, for the people who want to live there and who, hopefully, will be able to live there for many years to come," he said.

Coun. Andrea Reimer said despite complaints there wasn't enough consultation, a great deal took place through the Housing Vancouver strategy, which led to the Making Room program.

Reimer said the duplex proposal isn't a huge step, but it's a matter of justice to give less affluent residents hope that council will use "tiny tools" such as zoning to try and help meet their needs.

Coun. Raymond Louie said "if this is not gentle density, I don't know what this is because there is no extra density."

But De Genova argued consultation wasn't robust enough before she voted against the proposal.

"Zoning needs to be led by Vancouver's 22 neighbourhoods," she said.

Carr said she didn't see any evidence that the zoning change was important or needed.

"The real point is that we need to build affordable homes through different kinds of housing types than the ones that are aimed [at] the upper end of the income scale," she said.

Affleck took aim at Vision Vancouver in his remarks.

"After 10 years of Vision Vancouver leadership, this council has become renowned for lack of public consultation," he said. "If you tear this city apart to achieve these goals, you've not achieved much at all."

Ball said the sense of betrayal some residents feel won't be a good legacy for council, while Hector Bremner, who supported the proposal, questioned how duplexes could be an affront to democracy.

In comments before the vote, senior planner Paula Huber said staff anticipate there will be a shift away from building single-family dwellings to building duplexes. Currently, the city gets about 800 applications for new single-family homes a year. She expects half of that figure might flip to duplexes so there's the potential to produce 800 duplex units.

She estimated new East Side duplexes go for about $1.2 million, while West Side ones go for upwards of $2.5 million.

Duplexes will likely appeal to households earning $150,000 or more, according to Huber, which accounts for about 15.5 per cent of the city's households.

There are currently 283,000 dwelling units in the city, she added, 4,500 of which are duplexes, which translates to 1.6 per cent of the housing stock.

During the first day of the public hearing on Sept. 18, there was mixed reaction about the proposal, while on the second day the bulk of speakers raised objections, including Judy Graves, the city's former advocate for the homeless. Graves said she spent the past two decades moving First Nation families, immigrants, single parents and working class seniors, as well as other individuals, into suites across the city, which she now fears will be torn down in favour of duplexes.

She called for amendments to the proposal that would guarantee that displaced families would be relocated into suites in the same school district and that displaced seniors would also be relocated into their same neighbourhoods because elderly people aren't comfortable with change.

Other critics, meanwhile, outlined many of the same complaints lodged on the first day of the hearing, including the fact that councillors, most of whom aren't running for re-election, were making a decision that they won't be accountable for, that there wasn't nearly enough consultation, that many residents likely didn't even know the proposal was up for consideration since notices weren't sent to individual homes, that character homes will be knocked down, and that it will lead to land speculation by developers, worsening the affordability crisis.

Colleen Hardwick, an NPA candidate in the upcoming election, called the process fundamentally flawed.

"That you would even consider sweeping changes without due process is unconscionable. You need to listen to the people, and you have not."

Hardwick argued if council passed the rezoning it would be like "putting out a fire with gasoline. It will be a feeding frenzy."

Janice Wong said the changes contravened community plans, which undermines residents' faith in the process.

"The public must have meaningful input in the planning of their neighbourhoods," she said.

The city says its Housing Vancouver strategy, which was adopted in 2017, included consultation with more than 10,000 residents over 18 months. That process identified a desire for "missing middle" housing options across Vancouver, which led to the Making Room program, which was adopted in June. The program included the duplex proposal as a "quick start" action.

Four information sessions were held this month about the proposal.

The meetings were advertised in the newspaper, at community centres and libraries, and through a social media campaign. Email notices were also sent to neighbourhood organizations and individuals who had signed up for notifications through the Housing Vancouver process.

Individual notices were not sent to homes. The Vancouver Charter only requires the city to notify the public about rezoning proposals in the newspaper and at city hall.

For site-specific rezonings, the city notifies residents within a certain proximity directly, which goes beyond what's required by the Vancouver Charter. Residents are typically not directly notified for citywide rezoning proposals. That was also the case when laneway housing was introduced in single-family districts in 2009 and when additional density was added to single-family zones to allow secondary suites that same year.

Representatives from Abundant Housing Vancouver, who spoke in favour of the plan at the public hearing, were happy the duplex proposal passed but stressed it was a very small step.

"With all the work that the planning department put in, I would have been very disappointed if it didn't pass," Owen Brady told the Courier. "We've been saying it's a step in the right direction, but it's a very small step. I don't think any of the disaster scenarios are going to come true."

Stuart Smith agreed.

"It's just such a small thing that we are up in arms over the idea of simply allowing two families to share the same square footage that we currently require [single-family] homes to consume. The drama over this is crazy... This isn't any extra density and it was called an atomic bomb. What would you call it if the proposal was for a four-storey apartment? What would that be? Would that be the Death Star?" he said.

"So yes, it's a positive step. It's a positive step simply because it gives more options, more ways to live in Vancouver. Some people want duplexes, some people don't. That's fine. Some people want single-family homes, that's fine. You don't need to tell people how to live. It's one extra choice, so why not? There was a councillor, Geoff Meggs, who once said tiny homes are not the solution. And this is true, tiny homes are not the solution, but homes like that, and laneways, and duplexes, work for some people. We do not need to look for a housing typology that works for every single person in the population. We need to allow lots of different housing types that work for lots of different people."

 

Naoibh O’Connor Vancouver Courier
September 20, 2018
Westerninvestor.com

Commercial sales volumes down – except in multi-family market

Multi-family assets continue to be crowd favourite among investors, while sales in office and industrial properties slow due to limited supply

 

Sales volumes in nearly every commercial real estate sectors have declined in the second quarter of 2018 – though not for a lack of demand, according to a new report. 

The growing disconnect between supply and demand in Canadian real estate has lead to a decrease in sales velocity and an acceleration of lease rates, according to research by the Morguard Corporation

"A drop in transaction volume in the second quarter is very much a function of low product availability rather than a drop in demand," said Keith Reading, director of research at Morguard. "With quality office and industrial space at a premium, apartments are a crowd favourite as investors search for yield."

Office sales have dropped nearly 50 per cent across Canada year-over-year, while industrial volume has plunged 17.8 per cent. Meanwhile, multi-family sales increased 17.5 per cent.

Average sale prices for multi-family properties also increased year-over-year, from $8.5 million in the first half of 2017 to $13 million during the same period of 2018. 

Morguard expects investor sentiment in residential rental properties to remain strong into next term. 

 


 

 Tanya Commisso | Western Investor | July 18, 2018

Unlikely Canadian city attracting foreign buyers

Ottawa is experiencing a rental shortage, and savvy foreign investors are swooping in.

“There’s a shortage of inventory in the rental market here, so there’s a need for rental properties,” said Chris Lacharity, a sales representative with Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, which deals in the luxury market. “An astute buyer knows that. There are a lot of foreign buyers who buy for personal use, but there’s a lot of investment, too.”

 

The nation’s capital is situated between Toronto and Montreal—two cities with significant foreign buyer activity—so the presence of non-resident investors shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

“Ottawa is growing faster than it ever has, but there’s still growth potential,” said Lacharity. “It has a ways to go, in terms of growth, but it’s also a capital city, a government city. It has rivers and lakes, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. If you have a family, it’s safe and hasn’t experienced all the issues that come with large metropolises. It’s also close to Montreal and Toronto.”

Montreal has arguably the hottest real estate market in Canada right now. Government initiatives brought in to cool skyrocketing housing prices in Vancouver and Toronto are believed to be responsible for that. But Ottawa is another city in the midst of a renaissance. In addition to an LRT project, it has a thriving tech sector, robust student population, and well-paying government jobs.

It is also very stable—and given investors’ distaste for volatility, that’s perfect.

“Real estate doesn’t just shoot up, it conservatively rises here 3-5% on average,” said Lacharity, adding foreign buyers park money in the city’s real estate. “It’s a pretty safe bet for that.”

Bernadette Deschenes of Your Choice Realty notes overheating in Toronto and Vancouver are catalysts for foreign buyer activity in Canada’s capital city. But the city’s two universities have also impelled foreign buyers into action.

“They buy more student residences, like condos or townhomes,” said Deschenes. “Most of our foreign buyers are buying for their children who are attending university. We have a huge student population in this city. There’s a fair bit of older brownstone that’s near Ottawa U in the Sandy Hill region.”

by Neil Sharma09 May 2018 | www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca

International online retailer selling Canadian houses like shoes

Chinese real estate portal Juwai—which collects staggering quantities of data on Canadian housing—has struck a deal with online retailer JD.com to start selling homes like shoes.

Juwai markets overseas properties to buyers in China’s Mainland and, according to a JD.com statement buyers can view houses listed for sale “like milk, shoes and other household goods.”

In addition to Canadian real estate, home listings from Australia, the U.K. and U.S. will also be advertised on JD.com—all popular markets for Chinese investors.

JD.com, which is often referred to the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, made a special request for Canadian real estate because of how popular of a commodity it’s become among Chinese consumers.

China forbids capital outflow exceeding USD$50,000, but it’s in the midst of loosening such restrictions and retailers like JD.com—China’s second-largest retailer after Alibaba—are champing at the bit.

However, news about the deal between Juwai and JD.com is bound to inflame tensions between domestic and foreign buyers, whom believe responsible for rising unaffordability.

Countries like New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Switzerland and Singapore, to name a few, have taken measures to protect their housing markets from foreign speculators, while Canada has steep foreign buyer taxes in its two most expensive real estate markets.

by Neil Sharma03 Apr 2018 | .www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca

Outlook 2018: commercial real estate's new boom

Soaring demand, price momentum point to record-shattering year ahead for commercial, industrial sector.

 

 

 

The unprecedented momentum in Canada’s leading commercial real estate market will carry it well into 2018 and likely further, Vancouver analysts say.

Vancouver has Canada’s lowest office vacancy rate, and new office towers are pre-selling space at record-shattering prices.

The largest industrial developments in Metro Vancouver’s history are underway as industrial lease rates increase and strata values skyrocket.

Eager hotel developers are waging – and losing – battles for land against “insatiable demand” in the residential rental sector.

 

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Move over, housing; commercial is the new real estate boom.

Office

Vancouver’s downtown office vacancy rate plunged 50% in 2017 to 5%, the lowest since 2013, and it is expected to remain at that level for the next three to four years.

The demand has moved up the launch for new office towers, but the earliest won’t open for at least two years. Strata prices and lease rates are therefore expected to top all-time highs in 2018.

Latest example: a new 30-storey Bosa Development tower sold out 170,000 square feet of Class AAA strata space in less than a week in November at an unprecedented $2,000 per square foot.

The downtown office sector is so strong it has even turned blue-chip conservative pension funds into big-time speculators.

Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan is backing the 33-storey Waterfront Centre 2, and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System is behind a new nine-storey office building and a near-500,000-square-foot tower on Melville Street. All three are being built without pre-leases in place.

The biggest office deal in 2017 involved the Ontario Pension Board and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board together taking a 25% share in half of Cadillac Fairview’s downtown office portfolio, which sold for $1.25 billion.

There appears to be no lack of tenant demand, particularly from Vancouver’s expanding tech sector.

Tech giant Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) recently pre-leased 150,000 square feet in Oxford Properties’ new office tower on Dunsmuir Street, and tech companies have taken about half of the new downtown space in the past two years.

Morguard, meanwhile, is said to be itching to start a new 25-storey office tower on West Hastings.

Commercial agents say the sales performance of the new Bosa tower has office developers erasing and rewriting their pro forma: it is expected that office lease rates for top space could edge up over $50 per square foot in 2018 for the first time.

 

But some analysts caution that 2017 – when office sales hit a record $1.86 billion in the first half – might have marked an investment peak.

“The re-emergence of longer periods of due diligence and more measured financial analysis may lessen the exuberance, haste and impatience that [has] characterized much of the transactional volume,” noted Avison Young in a September analysis.

Industrial

At 1.7%, Metro Vancouver has Canada’s second-lowest industrial vacancy rate (behind Toronto), but the real news is the sudden spike in the region’s industrial lease rates.

They surged 12% this year from 2016, the highest increase in three decades, to an average of just under $10 per square foot. Vancouver industrial strata prices are hitting $700 per square foot and cresting over $300 in the suburbs.

And, even with a limited supply, demand is on a record pace.

“Usually, in a market with so little available space, you would expect to see a slowdown in leasing activity as tenants opt to renew and stay put as finding space becomes harder,” said CBRE executive vice-president Norm Taylor. “So it’s been a surprise to see that absorption is keeping pace with last year’s record-setting numbers.”

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Taylor and others expect the industrial pace to accelerate into 2018.

“With [Metro] Vancouver’s economy firing on all cylinders and next year’s GDP growth forecast to lead the nation, we will continue to attract top companies,” Taylor said.

Next year will test the appetite as a 170-acre, $350 million industrial park – the largest ever in Metro Vancouver – starts inking leases for its one-million-square-foot Phase 1.

“We aren’t building on speculation,” confirmed Tom Land, CEO and president of Montrose Properties Ltd., of its Richmond Industrial Centre, though he concedes it wouldn’t be much of a gamble in one of Canada’s biggest and tightest industrial zones.

More than three million square feet of competing space is either proposed or under construction in Richmond. As is the case across most of Metro, some is strata and nearly all is speculative.

Retail

The sale of B.C. retail assets achieved record heights when 55 retail transactions valued at $2.7 billion were completed in 2017’s first half. The dollar volume was primarily attributed to the sale of Oakridge Centre for $961.3 million and a 50% interest in Pacific Centre valued at $650 million for a total of $1.61 billion.

Retail deals captured half of the overall dollar volume and commercial real estate sales in the first half, according to Avison Young.

International investments in Shape Properties’ Amazing Brentwood retail development could be a harbinger for 2018 investment action.

“Retail assets remain in extraordinarily high demand in core and suburban markets alike with strong pricing coaxing formerly reluctant vendors [to sell],” Avison Young noted.

Battle for land

It is not uncommon now to see older Metro Vancouver apartment buildings selling for north of $400,000 per suite, and total sales could hit a record level above $745 million in 2018. The region has a near-zero rental vacancy rate and the highest rents in the country.

“It’s an exciting time in Metro Vancouver and the entire province, and I foresee a strong and positive outlook moving into 2018 and beyond,” said James Blair, vice-president, multi-family, JLL Capital Markets. “There is insatiable demand by investors seeking centrally located apartment rentals.”

Demand for residential development sites, however, threatens the expansion of Vancouver’s hotel sector, which leads the nation with a 93.6% occupancy and average daily room rates of $219.

But it is tough to make a new hotel viable when land prices are topping $450 per square foot.

“Hotel development can’t compete head-on with residential; the two are in a war in Vancouver,” Curtis Gallagher, a broker with Cushman & Wakefield Ltd., told Business in Vancouver.

“I don’t think potential stand-alone new [hotel] builds will pencil out,” said Azim Jamal, co-founder and CEO of Pacific Reach Properties Ltd., which bought the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in July in a blockbuster $145 million deal.

The option is to buy older hotels and upgrade them or to squeeze them into mixed-use projects: the most dramatic example being the 202-room Exchange Hotel now being enclosed within the Exchange office tower in downtown Vancouver.

In 2018, in Metro Vancouver, the challenge for all commercial and industrial real estate is finding space in what should continue to be the hottest market in Canada. 

 

business in Vancouver | biv.com