While my partners and bankers were not happy to see this story appear in the Star Vancouver, which resulted from a tweet, the truth is I am getting desperate when it comes to selling this lovely heritage house and two adjacent infill houses in West Vancouver. While the story did not generate a sale, hopefully there will be increased interest in this property outside of West Vancouver, where the locals do not appear to be as interested in buying a restored 100 year old house as people in Shaughnessy, Kitsilano or New Westminster!
VANCOUVER—The charming cottages and suites in a beautifully restored heritage home in West Vancouver’s Ambleside neighbourhood should not be hard to sell.
But eight months after the restoration and infill project was completed, the homes continue to sit empty, and developer Michael Geller has taken to social media to call for buyers and offer realtors a $25,000 bonus to sell the Vinson House Cottages.
Geller and his partners have accepted an offer on one of the units, which is subject to the buyers selling their West Vancouver house. But it’s far below the $2.2 million to $2.7 million price range the developers had originally set, with an expectation they’d make a 15 per cent profit.
Now, Geller said, he’d be happy with a 5 per cent profit.
“I had someone say to me, ‘Michael, you’re sounding desperate,’” said Geller. “I said, ‘I am desperate!’”
Geller, who has worked in the real estate industry for 45 years, said this market is the worst he’s ever seen — and that includes downturns in the early 1980s and the 2008 financial crisis. Jason Soprovich, a realtor who has worked in the West Vancouver market for 26 years, echoed that assessment: “It has truly been the worst downturn I’ve seen in my career.”
From stratospheric highs that peaked in early 2016, Metro Vancouver’s real estate market has slowed, and prices have dropped, in all areas and housing types.
But no neighbourhood has had as hard a fall as West Vancouver, followed closely by Vancouver’s west side. The two tony areas saw many single family homes soar past the $5-million mark, and higher, during the peak of the real estate bubble. Between June 2015 and June 2016, home prices in West Vancouver and Vancouver’s westside rose by 37.8 and 36.4 per cent, respectively, according to statistics released by the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board.
How bad is @WestVanDistrict housing market. Learned today one West Van realtor is now working at Fresh Supermarket. So I'm offering $25,000 bonus to any realtor who can sell any 1 or all 3 remaining homes at http://www.vinsonhousecottages.com
Now, it’s a different story: March numbers show that single-family house prices fell by 17 per cent in West Vancouver, the steepest drop in the region. The drop is even steeper for specific segments of the market: Homes priced in the “high end” (above $5 million) have dropped by between 22 and 30 per cent, Soprovich said, while homes in the “low end” ($1.5 million to $5 million) have dropped by 15 to 22 per cent.
Soprovich and Geller said a series of government taxes aimed at foreign buyers and speculative activity, and tougher bank lending rules brought in by the federal government, are behind the dramatic drop.
Those taxes include B.C.’s foreign buyer tax; a speculation tax aimed at vacant properties and homeowners who don’t pay taxes in B.C.; an increased property tax that applies to homes worth over $3 million; and Vancouver’s empty homes tax.
Soprovich said buyers from Mainland China were a big presence in the West Vancouver market in 2015 and 2016, but tighter capital flow restrictions brought in by the Chinese government, and the decision to introduce the foreign buyer tax and then increase it from 15 to 20 per cent, have basically “put the brakes on foreign investors.”
He said most of the buyers he’s seeing now intend to live in the home as their principal residence, and many of the potential sales involve older owners who want to sell their large home and move into a smaller house or condo in West Vancouver.
But unless sellers are willing to drop their prices — something that’s taken some time for many homeowners to accept — the houses will sit on the market for months, Soprovich said. On the upside, while buyers have been sitting on the sidelines for months, there now seems to be more interest from buyers as prices have dropped.
For realtors, the change in market conditions has been painful. Geller said he’s heard stories of former realtors who have had to take other jobs, while Soprovich said the downturn has meant cutting back on his firm’s marketing budget and working even harder to find business.
“I’ve personally felt it’s been a dramatic change. It’s devastating, to a certain degree,” he said.
“When you’re used to selling 100 homes a year and you’re dropping down to less than 30 or 40, that’s a significant impact.”
Jen St. Denis is a Vancouver-based reporter covering affordability and city hall. Follow her on Twitter: @jenstden