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Bellevue 2290 Marine Drive, West Vancouver a 16-storey tower with 35 homes by Cressey


Bellevue units will have large outlooks ? and high-end spaces from which to enjoy them

KATHLEEN FREIMOND
The Vancouver Sun

Bellevue 

Project address: 2290 Marine Drive, West Vancouver

Project city: West Vancouver

Developer: Cressey Development Group

Architect: IBI Group Inc.

Interior designer: Insight Design Group

Project size: 35 units

Bedrooms: two and three bedrooms

Unit size: 1,954 – 3,900 square feet

Price: $4 million+

Sales centre: 204 — 1868 Marie Drive, West Vancouver

Sales centre hours: Open daily by appointment; open house Saturdays noon — 5 p.m.

Sales centre phone: 604-912-0105

Website: http://www.bellevuebycressey.com

Occupancy: Summer 2019

If the old adage is true and the three most important home buying considerations are location, location, location, then Bellevue — a planned luxury 16-storey development in West Vancouver — scores on all three counts.

The stunning views of English Bay – and on a clear day, Vancouver Island – check off the first requirement of an enviable site. Work will start this spring on the building, conveniently located a few minutes walk from the popular 1.7-kilometre Centennial Seawalk and the shops and services in Dundarave Village. Fulfilling the third location requirement is the site itself, with two stands of mature trees and extensive landscaping.

“Bellevue will be built on one of the last remaining pre-zoned highrise sites on the western edge of Ambleside,” says Jason Turcotte, vice-president of development at Cressey Development Group. “The homes are spacious, but there are only 35 of them, so it is a boutique offering.” 

The development, bounded by Marine Drive, Bellevue Avenue and 23rd Street, comprises the 16-storey tower and a two-storey amenities building.

Three elevators will serve the building. “One elevator is dedicated entirely to service, for activities like moving in or out and garbage removal. The other two elevators will never be interrupted by building services,” Turcotte says.

Floor plans include several options, from homes with two bedrooms and two and half bathrooms to three bedrooms with three and a half bathrooms They range from 1,954 square feet to 3,900 square feet, with only two or three homes on each level.

In addition to the spacious interiors, the large balconies present as outdoor rooms, Turcotte says. Those outdoor spaces, which connect seamlessly with the main living areas, are fitted with features that make them ideal for entertaining: built-in barbecues, sound systems and heaters.

“All the units have a south, southwest or southeast exposure and the indoor/outdoor flow and the tiled floor will make the balcony feel like an outdoor room,” he adds.

While buyers may be shedding the responsibilities that go along with owning a single-family home, they don’t want to compromise on being able to enjoy the outdoors, Turcotte says.

The development’s architect, Gwyn Vose of IBI Group, says the balconies average 13 by 30 feet (3.9 by nine metres) the entire width of the unit. He describes the site as a trapezoid shape with the residential buildings on the western side to maximize the sea views, while the amenities building, which houses a swimming pool, hot tub, steam and sauna rooms, gym and Pilates studio, overlooks the signature driveway and landscaping.

The building’s large circular driveway will make it easy to pick up or drop off residents and visitors. Bellevue’s porte cochere, a covered entrance to the building, enhances the classic elegance that will be hallmark of the development, Turcotte says.

Buyers have an array of design and finish choices that will make their homes feel customized to their tastes and needs, says Linda Gallo, a senior interior designer with the project’s interior design firm, Insight Design Group.

All kitchens have a high-end Sub Zero and Wolf appliance package, including a 36-inch stainless steel Wolf gas range or cooktop, an integrated Wolf built-in convection steam oven, and side-by-side 24-inch Sub Zero refrigerator and freezer columns.

The decisions begin in the kitchen, where three floor plans accommodate preferences for sink placement. One option has it in the island, while another choice places it in the perimeter quartz countertop.

“The choice on the placement of the sink depends on how people live. Those who entertain a lot and want a large, clear surface to present the food will choose a sink in the perimeter while the person who may enjoy the view while using the sink, will choose to place it in the island,” Gallo says.

The next step is choosing the design style.

“The West Coast-inspired design has flat-panel cabinet doors, the hood fan is behind an integrated panel and the major Wolf appliances are more streamlined. The classic design option shows more detail, the cabinetry has raised panels and features the more traditional Wolf appliances that people are more used to seeing,” Gallo explains.

As buyers customize their space the next step is choosing the wood palette. Hardwood options include classic American Walnut, a warm Natural Oak or Silver Oak. Quartz is selected for the countertops and the 8-foot-five-inch by four-foot-seven-inch island.

One of the most dramatic design elements in the kitchen is the ceiling-high marble backsplash. The choice of marble – Statuarietto, Calacatta or Bianca Oro – also impacts the use of stone in other rooms, like the single-slab for the statement fireplace in the living room and the bathrooms.

The sales centre at 204 — 1868 Marine Drive in West Vancouver features the warm and creamy tones of the Bianco Oro palette.

Cabinets and drawers in the kitchen feature all the conveniences, like pullout corner-cabinet storage systems, drawer dividers to organize cutlery and flatware and inserts to keep herbs and spice containers easily accessible.

The kitchen ceilings are just shy of nine feet (2.7 metres) and while upper cabinets maximize storage for seldom-used items, a pulldown mechanism to more easily reach the top shelves is also available.

The master ensuite bathroom is standard across all the homes in Bellevue. The ensuite has a separate toilet room, a shower with heated stone bench and rain shower head, and a freestanding tub. The two vanities are separated by a spacious linen cabinet. Elegant faucets are by Dornbrecht while tubs, sinks and toilets have been selected from the Kohler range.

In the powder room, the sink sits on an onyx or quartzite vanity. “Both these stones backlight beautifully and give a nice glow – an ethereal ambience,” says Gallo.

All the walls will be painted with Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace, a clean white that provides a neutral backdrop for the other finishes in the space.

Parking is below grade, and each home has a garage, with ample space for storage, Turcotte says.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



The Real Force Behind Canada’s Housing Boom


Newcomers? dreams of ownership are a big reason for the industry?s rising prices

Garry Marr
The Vancouver Sun

The mayor of Caledon, a town of about 60,000 northwest of Toronto, says government can try all it wants, but the dream of owning a home will persevere.

Allan Thompson should know. His town, like many others that ring around Ontario’s capital, has become a launching site for new communities as people priced out of the core look to the suburbs (or what was once rural) for slightly cheaper housing.

An average new single-family detached home in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was $1,264,604 in 2016, according to the Building Industry and Land Development Association. But housing prices range from an average of $666,220 for a semi-detached home in Durham, northeast of Toronto, to $1.8 million for a detached home just north of the city.

“I remember I had this neighbour who was Portuguese,” said Thompson, who was a Caledon councillor for 11 years before becoming mayor two years ago. “He said to me, ‘For 20 generations back in Portugal, we all lived and rented houses in town. We had our sheep and our goats and our cattle.’ He said to me, ‘I was the first one ever to have a home.’ ”

That dream of homeownership is central to the escalating prices in Canada’s housing market, especially in larger cities such as Toronto where immigrants tend to settle.

Even though worries about socalled foreign buyers inflating prices dominate some discussions about runaway housing prices, the housing boom is more likely being driven by new immigrants looking to get a piece of that Canadian dream. It’s a mentality that says home ownership is a sign you have made it.

Canada has a home ownership rate of about 70 per cent, one of the highest in the world, and immigrants are buying in.

A report from real estate consulting firm Altus Group Ltd. in January found that immigrants — defined as someone whose country of origin is not Canada — are purchasing one out of every two new homes in the GTA.

Matthew Boukall, senior director of residential products and data solutions at Altus Group, said demand could get even stronger as the federal Liberals boost immigration totals from the annual base target of 260,000 that existed from 2011 to 2016.

“The Liberal government has announced their immigration targets will increase to 300,000 per year. The fact that half of our new home market is going to new immigrants and we are going to get (more) immigrants to Canada bodes well for the new housing market,” said Boukall, noting Toronto gets about 30 per cent of those immigrants every year.

Sales of existing Canadian homes continue to be hot and set another record in 2016. Numbers released Wednesday from the Canadian Real Estate Association show that sales activity in January 2017 was 1.9 per cent better than a year earlier.

The key problem in some markets is that there is simply not enough homes hitting the market to satisfy demand.

This past week, Douglas Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal, said Toronto was in a housing bubble driven by foreign wealth, coupled with record-high demand and a shortage of detached properties.

Others say the bubble is less likely to pop anytime soon.

“The shortage of homes available for sale has become more severe in some cities, particularly in and around Toronto and in parts of B.C.,” said Gregory Klump, chief economist at the Canadian Real Estate Association. “Unless sales activity drops dramatically, the outlook for home prices remains strong in places that face a continuing supply shortage.”

Royal Bank of Canada economist Robert Hogue said immigration has been a driving force in the Canadian housing market for some time in the major markets where immigration has been the strongest.

Hogue points to a Statistics Canada study released in December that showed how the earning power of immigrants begins to rise over time and, while it didn’t address housing, it’s easy to see how increased income could translate into home ownership.

The median employment income of immigrant tax filers who landed in 2004 was estimated at $16,800 in 2005 (one year after landing). The same cohort’s median income increased to $26,000 in 2009 and $33,000 in 2014.

“It takes time for immigrants to earn the same income as those born in Canada,” Hogue said. “I suspect immigrants buying today are not as much those that came in the last year, but those who got established financially.”

Hogue said it’s unclear to him whether immigrants arriving in Canada today have more wealth and are entering the market more quickly. But the Altus survey found that 19 per cent of people buying new homes in the GTA do not take on a mortgage.

“Lucky them,” Boukall said with a laugh. “Are they foreign investors? If you’re asking me that, we don’t collect that information.”

How much foreign buyers — often really just speculators — have entered the Canadian market is a hot topic for both prospective homebuyers and governments.

The British Columbia government clearly believes that foreign buyers are having an impact on the Vancouver market and slapped a 15-per-cent additional property transfer tax on them in August 2016. Prices there have since slightly declined while sales, already in decline, are off about 40 per cent from a year earlier.

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) surveyed its members in December about foreign transactions and concluded only 4.9 per cent of the market came from that segment.

All of which begs the question of whether foreign buyers are being confused with immigrant buyers.

“People are having the conversation in Toronto and it’s been much more intense in Vancouver,” Hogue said. “Don’t confuse the two. I’d like to comment on Toronto statistics, but other than the survey done by TREB, we don’t have much (data). In B.C., we’ve had data since June and I would say the percentage of buyers from out of the country has not been trivial.”

But Dianne Usher, senior vicepresident of Royal LePage’s highend division Johnson & Daniel, said the real growth in the market has come from immigrants she calls “end users,” those who come to the country and plan to live in their homes.

“I’d say it’s happening in Toronto and Vancouver and then I would say Montreal,” she said, adding more immigrants are coming in with money, or are trying to get it out of their country of origin for good. “Canada as a whole is a safe haven because of the stable government, the education system, the healthcare system. We’re a destination and it’s going to continue.”

She adds immigrant buyers will continue to purchase properties in and around large cities partly because of work and educational opportunities, but also because large urban centres are what many are accustomed to.

The biggest problem might be meeting all the demand, especially if immigration quotas are increased.

Brian Johnston, chief operating officer of Mattamy Homes, which has development projects in Caledon and throughout the GTA, agrees the supply side continues to drive prices. He figures he’s selling more than 50 per cent of his homes to immigrants.

With immigration increasing, he said the solution is for government to create more low-rise housing to accommodate what is a growing segment of the population.

“Coming to Canada, part of the process is buying housing,” Johnston said. “You’ve got people coming from countries like China where they may own the house, but not the land. Owning a house is a very powerful thing for some people.”

In Caledon, the mayor doesn’t think the push into his city is going to ebb any time soon.

“From here on in, as we know it, our population is just going to keep compounding,” Thompson said. “A lot of people are coming here from other parts of the world to live, quite a few of them don’t have mortgages. It tells you people are coming here by choice.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



How would Vancouver?s housing bubble burst? Look to China


Douglas Todd
The Vancouver Sun

No question is more on the minds of Metro Vancouver homeowners and renters than how and when the region’s housing bubble could burst.

After stratospheric escalation, a punctured bubble would be disaster for hundreds of thousands of over-mortgaged homeowners. Yet it could bring relief to those desperate to get into housing.

Last summer’s B.C. government 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers and the federal government’s stress test for mortgages have slowed the volume of sales in Metro Vancouver, particularly at the top end.

But, despite suggestions from a few voices in finance and real estate, the city’s bubble is intact: Prices remain at record highs after jumping by 40 to 60 per cent in two years.

Unaffordability continues to be a crisis, especially for the young. No meaningful link exists between the city’s tepid median wages and runaway real estate values.

The conventional wisdom is you can’t be sure you’re in a housing bubble until it bursts. Yet there is little doubt Metro Vancouver is extremely vulnerable to a free fall.

The Swiss Bank USB rates Metro real estate as the most likely to experience a sudden downward correction of 17 large cities, including London and Hong Kong. And the longer the bubble lasts the harder the crash.

China is key to Metro’s housing future

What is most likely to cause the bubble to rupture?

SFU urban studies professor Wu Qiyan, UBC geographer David Ley and others are most closely watching China, the fast-growing powerhouse of 1.4 billion people.

They make a convincing case that no other factor — including interest rates — is as important, as surveys showing 40 to 60 per cent of China’s wealthy individuals want to emigrate and buy housing in another country.

In 2016 China’s rich injected more than $33 billion into U.S., Australian, British and other global housing markets. We don’t know how much they bought in Canada because, as Ley said, this country ranks among the few “in the civilized world” that doesn’t publish foreign investment data.

Yet it’s clear the West Coast of Canada and the U.S. is the most popular destination for China’s elite, according to the Hurun Report. China is now a “fundamental” of Metro’s housing market, says Ley, author of Millionaire Migrants: Trans-Pacific Lifelines.

Even though Metro is small, the Hurun Index shows China’s moneyed class are more attracted to Metro than even large “gateway” cities such as Sydney, London and Singapore.

Metro’s housing market has long been tied to China’s economy. Our real estate prices have gone up and down in tandem with China’s fluctuating economy since the 1990s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

China’s citizens are especially drawn to Metro Vancouver, Ley said, for its clean air, climate, trusted universities, relatively short flight times and existence of a Chinese-speaking community that makes up one fifth of the population.

Given the key role China’s wealth plays in Metro, the question both Wu and Ley ask is: Will the country’s hardline Communist leaders finally succeed in stopping the illicit flight of its capital?

All eyes should be on China’s new edict, which began Jan. 1, say Wu and Ley. Will it be more effective than others? It demands a written pledge that yuan converted into U.S. dollars will not be used to buy property overseas. It also creates a government black list and harsher penalties for violators.

“If China can control the outflow of its currency — and keep it to only $50,000 US per person a year — it would greatly impact the housing market in Metro Vancouver,” said Wu.

“I think this … crackdown will be much more strictly enforced and will be longer lasting,” adds Victor Shih, of the University of California, San Diego, who researches the impact of elite networks in China.

China’s Ministry of Commerce reported this week that Chinese investment in offshore property has fallen sharply since last year. But Chua Han Teng, of Fitch’s BMI Research in Singapore, said “I think the impact (of capital controls) is probably limited.” China’s financial systems are porous and there is still, he said, “a great desire for people to try to bring their money out.”

It’s likely the latest restrictions will mostly make it difficult for middle- and upper-middle-class Chinese to transfer money out, Ley said.

But the problem for Metro Vancouver is that China’s ultra-wealthy, including its billionaires, have probably already transferred much of their money to secret accounts, with the Panama Papers revealing Hong Kong as the most crucial hub for laundering capital to tax havens.

“The most important factor for Metro housing is whether capital keeps coming out of China,” Ley said.

“China has tried to block it before, but each time it keeps coming. As long as that capital keeps coming, I do not anticipate our bubble bursting.”

Interest rates could be secondary factor

Even though Ley puts great weight on China, he adds that rising interest rates could also play a role in a downturn.

British financial analysts, he said, have noted the country has the “cheapest mortgage rates in 300 years.”

They cannot last. “One day we will get cumulative rate increases,” he said, and they will affect overstretched Canadians as well as offshore investors.

Metro residents are among the most leveraged. The Bank of Canada reports hundreds of thousands of Metro households have indebtedness that exceeds their annual incomes by 150 to 450 per cent.

“It’s especially the people in the newer suburbs of Langley, Surrey and the Tri-Cities who are mortgaged up to the hilt,” Ley said.

Even though Metro Vancouver and Toronto residents have experienced housing bubbles that deflated since the 1980s, Ley believes most remain in denial. They haven’t paid attention to just how bad the subprime mortgage crash of 2008 was for Americans.

Millions of Americans not only lost their jobs, but their homes were foreclosed. Ley thinks their sense of betrayal fuelled the rise of populist President Donald Trump.

Ley is also convinced the outrage Metro residents felt over inflated housing prices was the political reason for Premier Christy Clark breaking out of her usual pro-foreign-investment stance and applying the 15-per-cent tax.

An Angus Reid poll revealed 90 per cent of Metro residents supported the move. That included most of those “profiting” on paper from the bubble, whom Ley said worried for the future for their children and grandchildren.

It appears the 15-per-cent tax may have had some impact on China’s elite.

The Hurun Index reports China’s wealthy now rank Metro Vancouver sixth, instead of third, as the city they most want to emigrate to and buy dwellings in.

Los Angeles and San Francisco remain in first and second. Vancouver has been replaced by Seattle. New York and Boston fill the fourth and fifth spots.

But the 15-per-cent tax apparently did not puncture the bubble. One Metro Vancouver index reported housing prices began nudging up again in January.

Offshore investors, says Ley, recognize the purchase tax is not permanent. They see Clark has already relaxed the rules, making it possible for non-citizens who pay Canadian taxes to not pay it.

That means, for instance, 170,000 foreign students and non-permanent residents, the largest group of which is from China, are again allowed to freely buy luxury or other homes in Metro as proxies for foreigners.

Some speculate the NDP would be tougher than Clark, whose party is politically indebted to the real-estate industry, at restricting offshore capital in order for Metro housing to return to some semblance of affordability.

But neither party has made crystal-clear promises about housing policy. So we won’t really know what will happen until after the May 9 B.C. election.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



Tips for getting the best price


Retain a commercial brokerage when considering liquidation

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata owners have been enticed by an agent to consider selling our entire property and liquidating. At a recent information meeting, the agent brought a proposal from a developer to purchase our entire strata property for about 40 per cent above the current market value of sales per unit.

A small group of owners has started asking questions and challenging who the agent is working for and if we are getting the best offer. For example, how could an agent bring an offer from a developer and then ask us to sign an agreement for sale, where we are paying the agent three per cent of the gross sale? The amount in our situation would be $840,000. 

It doesn’t seem ethical to us that the agent is representing both parties. Some owners have suggested we consider other offers and the agent has advised his client will cancel his interest if we shop around. How do we ensure the owners are getting a fair price? 

Vince M., Vancouver

Dear Vince:

Your owners don’t want a fair price; your owners deserve the best possible price for your property, along with the best terms and conditions for the sale, and the most competitive rates of brokerage fees and administrative costs. 

The easiest step for any strata corporation that is considering selling is retaining a commercial brokerage to market your property to its best profile and attract as many investors as possible to compete for the price. Don’t expect ridiculous prices as greed tends to cloud everyone’s perspective, but you should be expecting the best price the market is prepared to pay.

The sale price will vary greatly depending on zoning, current land use, future planned zoning changes, increased zoning in community plans, nearby amenities such as transit, waterfront, parks and shopping centres, and the overall potential for future development. The amounts that are offered may also be affected by the number of competitors bidding on the property.  

Your strata council requires the authority of the owners to sign a brokerage agreement and proceed with a marketing program. That can be reached by a simple majority vote of the owners, where the brokerage agreement exposes the strata to the obligation of sale, only if the strata corporation successfully negotiates terms and conditions of an agreement for sale that results in a successful 80-per-cent vote.

For a small investment on legal services to review the brokerage agreement before you sign, the strata has the opportunity to test the waters and find out if there is an interest in the property and the value. If there are credible offers, council can call a general meeting of the owners and find out if the offered value and terms of the sale is sufficient for the owners to consider the vote.

There is no point in holding an 80-per-cent vote if only half of the owners are willing to support a sale. The general meeting to approve the 80-per-cent vote will be time consuming and costly. 

When your strata is ready to go to market, interview several commercial brokerages and find out what they propose for a commission rate, how they will market the property, whether they will be prepared to be your sole broker, and any other conditions that may affect your brokerage agreement.  

The process of selling a strata corporation is rampant with speculation. If you really want to know, consider a formal marketing process and take your property to market.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



Summit at 14058 61st Avenue Surrey 89 townhomes by Hayer Builders Group


Warm and contemporary design showcased at Summit in Surrey

Mary Frances Hill
The Province

Summit

What: 89 townhomes with rooftop patios

Where: 14058 61 Ave., Surrey

Residence sizes and prices: 1,770 — 2,046 square feet; from $639,900

Developer and builder: Hayer Builders Group

Sales centre: 14058 61 Ave., Surrey

Sales centre hours: noon — 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs

The display spaces at Summit, Hayer Builders Group’s community of townhomes in Surrey, show a fine attention to artistry and detail. It’s no surprise, then, that the interior designer is Samantha Muller, principal of Kleen Design, an individual who digs deep into her strong background in painting and sculpture, earned in her studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Muller’s selections in décor, furnishings and storage have created interesting, contemporary spaces that showcase warm, urban design.

“Shape and form are very big to me, and I love how you can keep to a tonal palette by adjusting simple elements like the base of a table, lighting or in the shape of a mirror and millwork,” Muller says.

Muller added interest in the Summit display space, courtesy of such touches as a diamond-shaped bedroom wall mirror, funky black and white geometrically-patterned pillows, and a strategic placement of wide mirrors in the family room, which emphasize ceiling height. Exposed bulbs add to what she calls a “sculptural approach.”

Geometric patterns in furnishings and accents give her liberty to express her own sense of artistry.

“In a way, it’s like you’re adding a sculptural piece of art …you create subtle layers, which [allow you to] slowly peel the layers of the room and not be hit with everything visually at once.”

In another space, she added an oversized diagonal gable across each section of bookshelves. Some of the more arresting details are found in Kleen Design’s incorporation of storage within furniture, such as shelves in-laid in the kitchen island’s side and bench seating in the dining area.

Working with — and transforming — storage into furniture, and vice versa, is a pet passion for Muller, a minimalist at heart.
“I feel at peace when things aren’t cluttered and everything has its place,” she says. That bench seating married with storage offers the room an efficient “visual cleanup”, for instance.

“The banquette also lends gives you additional storage options, whether it’s cabinetry or storage beneath the seating.”

In one bedroom, she achieves a blend of contemporary and industrial themes, thanks to the white “brick” wall, the brick being easily installed tile Muller sourced from Julian Tile.
“I’m not always keen on a room that is too feminine or too modern. I’m all about a balance, so if for example in this case, if I have a brick industrial looking wall I may soften things up a bit by florals, patterned prints, or an elegant woven carpet.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



Two Metro Vancouver properties heading for the auction block as part of new sales strategy


Are blind bids going, going, gone?

CHERYL CHAN
The Province

Harcourts Canada, a newcomer to Metro Vancouver’s real estate scene, wants to make housing auctions a common and accepted way of buying and selling homes. 

“It’s just an alternative option we want to make available to people,” said CEO Hayden Duncan.

Harcourts, a New Zealand company which set up its first Canadian office in North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale six months ago, has sold $10 billion worth of real estate around the world through property auctions, said Duncan.

In March, it will launch its first public auction in Canada with two properties on the auction block. 

One is a 1,093-square foot luxury condo overlooking False Creek in downtown Vancouver with a starting bid of $1.5 million; the other, a two-bedroom unit in New Westminster with a starting bid of $400,000. 

With auctions, “you’ll know you have a fair, transparent chance to purchase a property rather than what’s very common in Vancouver where people put bids or offers blind,” said Duncan. 

Housing auctions are rare in British Columbia, but common in New Zealand and Australia, where about half of all property sales are sold through auctions.

The idea, said Duncan, is to “not focus on the price, but focus on what the property has to offer, and let (buyers) determine what they are willing to pay.”

Auctions would bring more transparency to the industry, especially in cases of bidding wars where buyers are left in the dark about the value of the competing bids. In Canada, realtors aren’t allowed to tell clients the amount of a rival bid, only that one is on the table.

Auctions also give buyers time to conduct due diligence, said Duncan. Information and documents about the property are available a few weeks before the auction date. Typically, several open houses are scheduled, allowing people to visit the unit, do their homework, and get their financing in order before the actual auction.

But auctions have a poor track record in B.C. Two auctions last summer — in Victoria and Burnaby — were flops.

One reason could be most people associate housing auctions with distressed properties which are under foreclosure or a short sale. But in Metro Vancouver’s competitive real estate market it’s more realistic to compare property auctions to auctions for art or high-end collectibles, said Duncan.

An auction can only be successful if both sellers and buyers are educated about the process and have all the information they need to feel confident to participate in the process, said Duncan. 

Parties have to preregister with Harcourts and the auctions are subject to an undisclosed reserve price. 

Sellers also retain the right to withdraw from the auction in case a buyer puts in a pre-auction bid that’s too good to turn down. About 60 per cent of Harcourts’ auctions in the U.S. sell before the auction — a sign, says Duncan, of a buoyant market. 

Listing agent Theo Birkner said he has fielded a lot of interest about the two-bedroom unit in New Westminster. An open house will be held on Thursday, with another two scheduled this weekend, and two more next weekend.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the Vancouver marketplace to see an addition to the way homes are sold,” said Birkner. “Lots of people are excited about it after they wrap their minds around it.”

The Harcourts auction will be held March 2 at a downtown Vancouver location. 

Greg Klemke of Macdonald Realty Westmar will be watching how the auctions go.

Klemke, the listing agent for the Burnaby home that went on auction last summer, believes Vancouver was ready for auctions and was baffled by the property’s failure to sell, despite tens of thousands of dollars spent on advertising by Able Auctions, which conducted the auction. It only got one bid, which failed to reach to reserve price.

“Maybe people weren’t ready for it,” he said. “It’s too aggressive. Or progressive.”

Klemke said he’d be open to doing it again, but would do some things differently. He’d require buyers to get pre-registered, hold it indoors instead of out on the lawn, and not allow media, which he speculated could have intimidated buyers, to attend. “We didn’t do it right because we didn’t sell it.”

Duncan, however, is confident Canadians are ready to embrace auctions as a new method of buying and selling property. 

“Consumers are screaming out for transparency and real estate prices that are clear, concise and fair,” he said. “It’s something I think will resonate well with Canadians.”

Time, and the market, will tell. 

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.