One year ago new amendments to B.C.’s Strata Property Act came into effect. The new rules made it easier to cancel or “wind up” a strata corporation by reducing the voting threshold from unanimous approval of all owners to 80% approval. The original requirement for unanimous approval made most wind ups all but impossible since, for example, a single owner in a 100 unit strata building could hold up the whole process even though 99% of the owners were in favour of a wind up.
As a result, the owners of more and more older strata buildings are voting for a wind up. There are a number of reasons to do this:
- Many older strata buildings are in bad condition and require extensive and very expensive repairs which owners do not want to pay for;
- Many older strata buildings were built at a time when densities were lower (fewer units permitted on the building lots). A developer purchasing such lots can build more units now;
- Consequently, many older strata buildings are in prime locations coveted by developers who are prepared to pay owners top dollar to sell their property.
However, winding up a strata corporation is a very complicated, time-consuming legal process requiring input from experienced commercial real estate brokers and lawyers. At Macdonald Commercial we have a team of specialist brokers who work with strata corporations on wind-ups.
Some key points to consider if you are an owner of a strata corporation and considering a wind up:
Meet Michelle Yang, co-owner at Backyard Vineyards in Langley B.C. Michelle shares her story as a new partner in the winery, learning the wine business, and how her REALTOR® was able to guide her through the process.
To meet a professional realtor in your area visit macrealty.com
About Backyard Vineyard:
With a name as true as its location, Backyard Vineyards evokes neighbourhood comforts and a welcoming environment. Top this off with their exceptional wines and well-crafted tasting room for a must-see the next time you take a jaunt through Langley. Backyard Vineyard’s effort of using 100% BC grapes allows them to take their name to heart of loving the landscape of the region and province. Focusing on quality helps their winemaker James Cambridge and the owners express the intricacies of the varietals they carry, as well as the ability to experiment to find their award-winning portfolio.
Visiting this vineyard is a treat, from their large inviting tasting room to their outdoor picnic area there is plenty of space to enjoy a taste and tour. With some grapes grown at this vineyard and others sourced from the Fraser Valley and Okanagan, there is something to please all palates.
Backyard Vineyards – 3033 – 232nd Street, Langley, BC
Claire Wyrostok, owner of popular Vancouver vegetarian restaurant Black Lodge, wonders how long it will be until Vancouver’s hot real estate market pushes her out of business. In the four years that Ms. Wyrostok has been at her current location, on Kingsway just off Fraser Street, many of the buildings in her strip have been sold and property values have more than doubled. Since Ms. Wyrostok’s three-year lease came up for renewal in March, she says the landlord is allowing her to rent only month to month.
“Every day I don’t know if I am going to get a notice with 30 days to get out,” Ms. Wyrostok says. “Our business is done,” she adds. “You develop a business to make it bigger, but we can’t expand, and we can’t sell our business. Our business has no value on paper, because the asset is the lease.”
While the residential real estate market in Vancouver is cooling, sales of commercial properties in the region have skyrocketed. The Re/Max Commercial Investor Report says there was a 94-per-cent increase in the total dollar value of Lower Mainland sales in the first half of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015, to $7.1 billion from $3.7 billion. The number of commercial property sales in the first half of 2016 was 1,464, compared with 1,138 in the same period last year.
And some, including Tony Letvinchuk, managing director for Macdonald Commercial Real Estate Services, believe that the foreign-buyer tax on residential purchases will play a role in driving the market, which is generally perceived as a balanced mix of local and foreign buyers.
“There’s no question that the additional 15-per-cent property purchase tax will motivate foreign entities – being those who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents – to consider purchasing commercial properties located in Greater Vancouver, where such transaction tax does not apply,” he says.
Macdonald Realty is mentioned several times in a Globe and Mail article published this morning on the impact of Asian investors on the Vancouver housing market. See a repost of the full report below including comments from Dan Scarrow, VP of Corporate Strategy for Macdonald Real Estate Group.
This Globe and Mail article lead to a mid-day live TV interview on the Business News Network, featuring Tony Letvinchuk, the managing director of Macdonald Commercial Real Estate Services. Click here to watch the interview.
Vancouver housing data reveal Chinese connection
One of the largest real estate companies in British Columbia says that more than one-third of all the single-family detached homes it sold last year went to people with ties to mainland China.
Macdonald Realty Ltd., which has over 1,000 agents and staff in B.C., said 33.5 per cent of the 531 single family homes sold by its Vancouver offices in 2013 went to people who the company said were a mix of recent immigrants and Canadian citizens.
Those buyers, the company added, tended to spend more money, too, with the average cost of a house sold to these clients topping $2-million, compared to $1.4-million on average overall.
The figures did not include Macdonald’s sales in suburban areas such as Richmond, Burnaby or North Vancouver.
“This is our snapshot of Vancouver,” says Dan Scarrow, vice-president of corporate strategy at Macdonald Realty.
The information is based on reports from the firm’s sales, anecdotes from its agents and Mr. Scarrow’s own experience working with mainland Chinese clients, and it’s a glimpse into the influence of mainland Chinese money on Vancouver’s real estate market, which is considered among the most expensive in North America.
Vancouver has been flooded in recent years by tens of thousands of investor-class immigrants from mainland China, who have seen the west coast city as a stable – and picturesque – place to park their capital in luxury property.
That has helped drive up the average price of a single-family home in Vancouver to around $1.2-million.
Mr. Scarrow, who noted the firm does not query buyers about immigration status, believes that investment flowing from mainland China into Vancouver real estate is a quantifiable phenomenon, but has not personally seen much of the more controversial type of buyer: Those from abroad who buy for investment purposes but never live in the city. “We still see very few pure investors from China who have no connection to Vancouver,” he says.
Getting a handle on foreign buyers is difficult and Macdonald’s survey is far from exact – though one major property developer in Richmond said “that sounds about right.” The federal government does not collect meaningful data on the number of foreign buyers purchasing Canadian real estate, leaving industry participants to debate the impact of foreign capital on the local market. And that debate has gotten heated recently, with some developers accusing others of racism and criticizing those who want to slap curbs on foreign investment. The issue is complicated by the fact that some of Vancouver’s ethnically Chinese-Canadian citizens with ties to Hong Kong view newer immigrants from mainland China with a degree of suspicion, assuming their wealth might have been accumulated in part by proximity to China’s Communist Party, rather than in a free market with the rule of law like Hong Kong.
The lack of hard data has also complicated discussions about the city’s affordability crisis and fuelled a local cottage industry where analysts attempt to decipher the scope of foreign money by looking at things like electricity usage in downtown neighbourhoods where some suspect foreign buyers have bought condos in which they never live.
“People always say there are no stats. Well, here are the stats,” says Mr. Scarrow. “This is actual evidence.”
There have been some reports and statistics about the scale of foreign money in Vancouver real estate before, but few have been conclusive – and none have settled the debate. One Sotheby’s report based on a survey of its agents found that 40 per cent of the luxury properties it sold in Vancouver were to foreign buyers – but not all of them were from China. Many developers trying to downplay fears about Chinese investment cite a statistic showing that only 1 to 3 per cent of Vancouver real estate purchases are “foreign” buyers – but, as is the case with Macdonald’s sales, many more expensive homes are still sold to people based here but who have come, at some point, from mainland China. A 2011 study by Landcor Data showed that 74 per cent of luxury purchases in Richmond and Vancouver’s expensive west side were by buyers with mainland Chinese names.
Mr. Scarrow says his company is “indicative of the overall market,” since his firm has some real estate agents who target overseas Chinese buyers, but is also firmly oriented toward domestic sales, unlike other real estate firms that deliberately target Chinese buyers.
At the same time, Mr. Scarrow and Macdonald are so bullish on the potential for Chinese investment that he is spearheading the company’s efforts to open an office in China. “While there is very little data about foreign investors in Vancouver real estate, our own internal data is enough for us to commit to investing in a representative office in Shanghai,” said Mr. Scarrow, whose mother Lynn Hsu, who came from Taiwan in 1979, is the majority owner and president of Macdonald.
Others remain unconvinced – not about whether there is an influx of Chinese money, but whether the flow of foreign capital will continue unabated.
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who works with wealthy Chinese immigrants, believes Vancouver may see a slowdown in foreign investment. He said some wealthy Chinese buyers might get anxious and sell off second properties because of the current crackdown on corruption in China.
In meetings with top real estate agents earlier this year, Mr. Kurland predicted that luxury residential real estate could drop in value by as much as 25 per cent as foreign investment dips. As evidence, he points to July real estate figures that showed 106 homes for sale on the west side in the $3-million to $3.5-million price bracket, and just nine sales, compared to 73 active listings and seven sales during July of 2013.
Originally published by The Globe and Mail on Friday, August 22, 2014. Written by IAIN MARLOW.
Don’t take it for granted that you need to know a foreign language to understand where your international buyers are coming from, says Jonathan Cooper, Vice-President of Operations at Macdonald Real Estate Group.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based brokerage does a lot of business with Chinese buyers and investors, and Cooper says Chinese clients often bring a translator along with them, or work through an attorney.
For many reasons, Cooper says, Chinese “have a cultural predisposition toward real estate investment.” Often, a home purchase is just the first of several real estate transactions.
Macdonald Real Estate Group makes a point of introducing Chinese homebuyers to the company’s commercial real estate brokers — often over a meal — a practice that’s led to some significant deals.
This article was originally posted on Inman News, Mar 21, 2014. The video has since been removed.
“Vancouverism” is now synonymous with tower-podium architecture, green space, and breathtaking views. But the much-admired Canadian city’s real secret of success may be its value-based development process.
It’s a measure of the universal appeal of Vancouver that more than 7,200 miles (11,600 km) away, on the other side of the planet, one of the city’s designer-developers was hired to create a fastidious replica of it. The United Arab Emirates’ Dubai Marina, developed by Vancouverite Stanley Kwok and erected in what once was an empty stretch of the Great Arabian Desert, seems to lack only picturesque mountains, a harbor, and coastal British Columbia’s temperate climate. “It’s almost a perfect clone of downtown Vancouver,” urban designer and architectural historian-critic Trevor Boddy has written. “Right down to the handrails on the seawall, the skinny condo towers on townhouse bases, all around a 100 percent artificial, full-scale version of False Creek filled with seawater from the Persian Gulf.”
The Emirates’ commissioning of an ersatz Vancouver may be the biggest homage paid to the city, but others have sung its praises as well. “Modernist, sustainable, and performative—is this the model for the future city?” the Guardian, a British newspaper, once asked. The Seattle Times once called it “a glittery, mini-Manhattan, but cleaner and far more livable.”
In terms of both aesthetics and livability, Vancouver is one of the world’s most widely admired cities—a place where the skyline has been painstakingly designed to preserve striking views of the mountains and harbor, where high-density residential neighborhoods are mixed with green space to create a walking-scale environment in which cars are an afterthought.
But while planners and developers elsewhere seek to copy the salient features of what has come to be known as “Vancouverism,” those involved in the shaping of modern Vancouver caution that there is more to it than just view corridors, slim towers juxtaposed with mid-rise development and bike paths, or the breathtaking natural environment. Instead, they say, the real secret of Vancouver’s success has been its deliberative, values-driven evolutionary process, in which local government planners, developers, and the citizenry have labored over the past few decades to form a consensus vision of what their city should be like—and then come up with creative solutions for achieving it.
“The urban form we’ve developed here is resilient,” says Gordon Price, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University, and a city councillor from 1986 to 2002. “It keeps reinventing itself. What stays the same are the values.”
Defying the Car Culture
If there’s one thing that Vancouver is known for, it’s the view of the mountains and the water. Or rather, the multitude of views, which are protected by regulations compelling architects and builders to work around 27 different view corridors that pass through the city. The necessity of protecting those spaces has resulted in a multitude of carefully spaced towers that tend to have smaller floor plates than those in most North American cities. “Vancouver handles its tall buildings better than most cities,” Australian travel writer Kari Gislason wrote in 2012, adding that “the effect on the eye is that the city always seems to be making its way to the water.”
In addition to the public view corridors, Vancouver goes to lengths to protect private views. Proposed apartment towers, for example, must undergo a complex computer analysis to ensure that they don’t affect the vantage point of residents in nearby buildings. Otherwise, “you could have spent $600,000 on an apartment, only to have someone build a building across from it and block your view and cause you to lose half of your value,” explains Larry Beasley, who was codirector of planning for Vancouver during the 1990s and early 2000s. “The city isn’t going to let that happen.”
Vancouver is so committed to protecting its visual beauty that in 2010, city council not only voted to preserve existing corridors, but also added two more.
“We’ve created a visually interesting city,” Beasley adds. “You’ve got the views of the mountains and the water, but you also can see into the city as well. There are some fascinating views in that direction.”
Vancouver’s view corridors are just one of the strictures in what is arguably the most heavily regulated development space in North America. But while there have been periodic complaints that the process has slowed Vancouver’s growth, it doesn’t necessarily stifle creativity. Case in point: architect Arno Matis’s Vertical Forest building, recently approved for construction at the intersection of Main Street and Kingsway in the city’s Mount Pleasant area. The building’s design incorporates six different geometric forms, which not only conform to view corridor regulations but also provide angles that will allow for production of passive solar heating and cooling. The architect and developer, Amir Virani, had to go through an 18-month process that included not only scrutiny by city planners but also meetings with neighborhood residents—who reportedly urged Matis to create an edgier, more innovative design. “One of their key concerns was that we avoid another ‘cookie-cutter tower,’ ” Matis recently told the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper.
The view corridors “are really only one small detail that illustrates the value system we have,” explains Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s chief planner from 2006 to 2012. “We think constantly about our access to nature, how we connect to the mountains and the water. Vancouver used to be described as a setting in search of a city, but over several generations, we’ve been striving to develop a city that’s worthy of the setting.”
As a relatively isolated city that developed later than most other major urban areas on the continent, Vancouver had a chance to learn from everyone else’s mistakes, Lance Berelowitz writes in his 2009 book, Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination. “It was largely bypassed by the worst of North American urban renewal—freeways, elevated and underground pedestrian systems, huge shopping malls, big-box retail, oversized curvilinear dead-end streets in place of the traditional street grid,” he says.
One salient feature of Vancouver, for example, is that—unlike many other major cities—it is not surrounded and bisected by freeways. The city escaped that fate in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when municipal officials of the time—who, like their counterparts elsewhere, feared urban stagnation and decay—proposed a massive urban renewal project that would have obliterated historic neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Gastown to build elevated throughways.
“The citizens rose up and said, ‘No way,’ ” recalls Beasley, who was a college student at the time. “The politicians who were behind it were turned out of office.”
That rebellion—driven by a youthful, idealistic Vancouver counterculture that would later spawn the environmental organization Greenpeace—created a new mandate. Vancouver, founded in the late 1880s as a port and railroad center for the region’s timber and mineral wealth, was still a Victorian-style urban village, and residents wanted it to remain that way, instead of morphing hastily into a typically car-centric modern metropolis.
The rebels got their way: Four decades later, Vancouver is “still this old streetcar city,” explains former city councillor Price. “It still works in the pattern that was laid out in that era. People get around by walking and cycling and taking public transit—enough so that the car doesn’t dominate the way it does in Calgary or Phoenix.”
By the same token, though, Price says it’s a mistake to assume that Vancouver has waged “a war on the car,” as some critics have charged. “There’s a place for cars, but they have to be part of the mix. But people have gotten used to not having them.” He cites the example of one condo complex, where the developer provided two parking spaces per unit—only to discover, after the building was occupied, that a quarter of the spaces went unused.
While municipal officials had to honor residents’ desire to maintain the urban-village lifestyle, the consensus also enabled them to design a city that worked to achieve those goals. In the 1970s, then–planning chief Ray Spaxman favored the sort of urban development he had seen in his native England, and developers packed the city’s West End with apartment buildings. Vancouverites were willing to accept mixed-use neighborhoods with population densities that might have been resisted elsewhere—in part, because the city also offered amenities such as 1,000-acre (405 ha) Stanley Park, which University of British Columbia urban designer and historian Boddy describes as “the largest downtown garden and natural reserve on the continent.”
Much of Vancouver’s downtown development is in a tower-podium style, with a few floors that fill up most of the block, followed by a much narrower tower—an effect that Atlantic Cities writer Nate Berg likened to “a tall candle on a big, flat cake.” It’s often assumed that the style was borrowed from Hong Kong or other similarly high-density Asian cities, but Beasley says that it’s a homegrown style that Vancouver architects began experimenting with as far back as the mid-1950s. It’s an approach, he says, that actually reflects the influence of European urban landscapes, because it creates more street-level activity and gives pedestrians a more interesting milieu. “In Vancouver, we didn’t want pigs in space—towers in a vacant plaza,” Beasley notes. “You had to have housing and shops.”
Another key point in Vancouver’s development came during the late 1980s, after the city hosted Expo ’86, a world’s fair that commemorated the city’s centennial.
As Dutch urban historian John Punter, author of The Vancouver Achievement, has written, the fair gave the city a chance to pump up the local economy with public works projects during a recession, and left the city with some important assets, including SkyTrain, the rapid transit line. Afterward, the Expo site itself—former railroad land on the north shore of False Creek—provided an opportunity to develop a new urban neighborhood, for anyone bold enough to deal with the provincial government’s requirement that they take over the entire parcel. While other prospects balked, designer-developer Kwok, backed by an investor with deep pockets, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, took the deal and then developed a plan that made it through the arduous regulatory gantlet. One of Kwok’s masterstrokes was to cluster dense development around green parks, rather than along the waterfront. The park created a shared amenity, while connecting the buildings to one another.
The new development eventually became home to 30,000 city residents. As Boddy has written, the buildings came onto the market at about the same time that a surge of well-educated, affluent Hong Kong residents was emigrating ahead of incipient mainland rule, and the development became a huge success.
“False Creek North provided a testing ground for a model of densification with amenity concessions to provide the recreation spaces as well as housing,” design critic Brendan Hurley noted in a 2012 article for Spacing Vancouver, a website devoted to the city’s land use. “The development is now the standard by which we look at the impacts of high-density living and developer contributions.”
“Stanley Kwok promoted the idea that you would work with government,” Beasley says. “We came to call it the cooperative planning model.”
The opposition to freeways and development of the Expo site created two game-changing opportunities in Vancouver’s evolution. The city hoped for a third when it won a bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. The games’ Olympic Village, built to house athletes and Olympic officials on Southeast Falls Creek, provided an opportunity to erect a complex that used energy efficiency and sustainability systems such as solar heating and green roofs, with the aim of converting the complex to residential and commercial uses afterward. While the development weathered some financial difficulties, a November 2013 report to the city by accounting firm Ernst & Young reported that 91 percent of its for-sale units had been purchased, and 100 percent of its rental properties had been leased.
Is the Vision Sustainable?
As Vancouver heads further into the 21st century, some question whether the city will be able to sustain the vision that has set it apart from so many others. In a digital technology–driven culture in which people increasingly focus on their devices rather than on their neighbors, it is unclear whether Vancouver residents will continue to accept regulations and limits intended to benefit the common good. Government efforts to build inner-city bike paths and bring some outlying lower-density neighborhoods in line with the city’s high-density model have met with uncharacteristic resistance and protests, according to former planner Beasley. “Over time, I think the dedication of the public to engagement has waned a bit,” he says.
One issue that may provide a test of public commitment to Vancouver’s vision is its plan for future redevelopment of the West End. The recent blueprint published on the city’s website would increase residential density, with the aim of creating more affordable housing in an area that accommodates mostly young renters with families. It also would further encourage residents to walk rather than drive, by widening sidewalks and in some cases narrowing roadways.
Other dilemmas challenge Vancouver’s future as well. While municipal policy has long emphasized accommodating low-income residents, until recently there has not been a similar push to help the middle class, and affordable housing has emerged as a major problem. Toderian worries that as pressure for a quick fix increases, the city may compromise some of the long-held values that have shaped Vancouver’s identity. “If you build too much affordable housing and the buildings get too big, and you don’t use the tools you have to build new public spaces and maintain our heritage, you lose our balanced approach,” he says. “Then Vancouver starts to become something different.”
But Vancouver also has much in its favor. “With climate change on the horizon, Vancouver will benefit,” explains Price. “Rich investors will be looking for safe places to put their money, and this location is a good bet. People keep thinking that there’s a real estate bubble in Vancouver, but somehow, the bubble doesn’t burst.”
That’s why Price, Toderian, and others remain believers in the city. “Regardless of the bumps in the road, Vancouver will continue to be an urban innovator,” Toderian predicts. “It’s in our DNA.”
This article was originally posted on UrbanLand, Feb 14, 2014. Written by Patrick Kiger, a Washington, D.C.–area journalist, blogger, and author.
For more information contact Macdonald Realty at 1-877-278-3888
The Erikson, a twisting tower of luxury residences along False Creek, was designed by Vancouver native Arthur Erikson and was built by Concord Pacific in 2010. It is an example of the tower-podium style of design.
The Marinaside, a waterfront complex of mixed-use towers. (Concord Pacific)
A rendering of Vancouver’s sports and entertainment district, showing the planned False Creek Central development, announced in late 2013. Plans call for eight buildings with more than 1,300 condominiums, and 90,000 square feet (8,400 sq. m) of comme