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MODE at 3438 Sawmill Crescent 257 homes in a 25 storey tower between Kerr Street and Boundary Road by Wesgroup

River District project has every amenity for work and play

Kathleen Freimond
The Vancouver Sun

There’s a reason Wesgroup Properties’ new residential tower in Vancouver’s River District is called MODE—the 25-storey building’s 9,000 square feet of amenities will include a range of dedicated spaces for everything from work, movie screenings, yoga and gardening to places to fix the squeaky brakes on your bike or shampoo Fido in the dog wash station.

“The name of the building, MODE, represents the story of the amenities. We created a broad offering of amenities in the building so [residents] could switch between different modes of life—dinner-party, exercise or work mode,” explains Brad Jones, Wesgroup’s vice-president of development.

MODE, at 3438 Sawmill Crescent, is part of the second phase of the 130-acre River District master-planned community on land between Kerr Street and Boundary Road in southeast Vancouver.

When completed, the River District will include 250,000 square feet of retail space, 25 acres of green space and approximately 7,000 residences that will be home to more than 15,000 people. The 257 one-, two- and three-bedroom homes range in size from 562 to 1,537 square feet and appeal to a wide range of buyers. Their interior design creates a backdrop to enable people to indulge their own sense of style, says Erin Kenwood, Wesgroup’s vice-president of interior design.

Buyers can choose from two colour schemes—light or dark—both with a grey palette. “The interiors are very timeless and sophisticated and neutral enough for people to add their own personality when they move in with all their possessions,” says Kenwood.

At the sales centre, located at 3302 North Arm Avenue in the River District, a two-bedroom/two-bathroom display suite showcases the light scheme while a one-bedroom/one-bathroom penthouse condo is finished in the dark option.

“In the penthouses there are hardwood floors throughout [except the bathrooms] that give the homes an elevated feel,” adds Kenwood. There are 10 one-, two- and three-bedroom penthouses available ranging in size from 704 to 1,784 square feet.

The kitchen in the dark penthouse display suite features dual-tone cabinetry: flat-panel high-gloss grey doors and drawer fronts on the cabinets against the back wall where the five-burner Jenn-Air gas cooktop is located, while the refrigerator and freezer are integrated behind wood-look laminate panels that are also used on the island and the cabinet tower housing the oven and microwave.

Waterfall edges on the island—in the same quartz as the countertops—add a touch of luxury to the space and the signature black matte Brizo pull-down faucet contributes a contemporary flair. The kitchen island accommodates the double stainless-steel sink, a wine fridge and Jenn-Air dishwasher. The space adjacent to the kitchen is shown as a wine room/bar.

In this display suite the double vanity, frameless glass shower enclosure and LED lighting under the mirror and medicine cabinet give the bathroom a spacious ambience. In-floor heating will warm up the porcelain tile floor during the cooler months.

In the laundry room, a side-by-side washer and dryer are tucked under a countertop that will be useful for folding and sorting laundry.

In a complete contrast to the dark option, the two-bedroom two-bathroom display suite showcases a much lighter colour palette with light laminate floors throughout the entry, kitchen, living and dining space, and carpeting in the bedrooms. In the kitchen, dual-tone cabinetry (light grey high-gloss and wood-look laminate) complements the white with grey veining marble-look quartz countertops and slab backsplash, along with a stylish white matte Brizo pull-down faucet.

The flex space in this suite is set up as an office brightened with fun, colourful art on the wall.

The building, designed by Ciccozzi Architecture, includes modern and industrial details that echo the history of the site—such as the patina on the fins of the podium façade that are reminiscent of weathered beehive-shaped steel burners that were used in the area’s saw mills.

The sales centre at 3302 North Arm Avenue is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. riverdistrict.ca/mode

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

The Commonage at Predator Ridge 100 Mashie Crescent Vernon 58 semi-detached homes by Wesbuild Holdings Ltd

New phase at The Commonage expands Predator Ridge

Michael Bernard
The Vancouver Sun

While segments of the Metro Vancouver real estate market experience a general slowdown in listings and prices, the maturing neighbourhood of Predator Ridge near Vernon has enjoyed a steady sales season this year, say those marketing the residential lots and move-in ready homes in the picturesque golf course resort community.

After all, people haven’t stopped retiring from work and like to continue an active lifestyle of golfing, hiking, tennis and pickle ball, and skiing, they explain. The demographic mainstay of buyers has moved to the Okanagan Valley from the Lower Mainland and Alberta over the last decade, although the marketers say they now are seeing an increasing number of buyers from other Okanagan communities.

Predator Ridge, a resort destination community built by Wesbuild Holdings Ltd., has just launched phase three of its popular mountainside neighbourhood called The Commonage, where it is offering a combined total of 58 single-family home sites and semi-detached homes.

“We’ve sold six or seven lots so far, which is quite good,”says Jay Barre, Wesbuild’s vice-president, marketing, adding that Predator Ridge’s real estate cycle is different than Metro Vancouver’s. “We’re selling to a lot of downsizers.”

Lots range from about 7,000 square feet to more than 12,000.

What has proven particularly popular over the last couple of years is the developer’s semi-detached product, homes which are joined on one wall, but sit on their own freehold lot.

The big attraction is the size of the homes, which measure 1,500 square feet, with a master bedroom, kitchen, den and laundry on the main, and another 950 square feet of unfinished space on the lower Ievel, which buyers can finish themselves or have Wesbuild’s contractor complete for about $30,000.

Prices started around $649,000 in the last phase, but with the new homes situated higher up the hill with better views, Barre expects the prices will start around $750,000.

There have been more local buyers in the last two years, Barre said. “We have become a little more affordable locally, and we are so much more than a golf resort now. We really are a fully functioning community, so a lot of people in Vernon or Coldstream or Kelowna are taking note of that.”

Since Predator Ridge was started in the 2000s, the development has added a host of amenities. It boasts a fitness centre with indoor pool, hotel facilities, two restaurants, a village grocery store with a Starbucks, covered tennis and pickle ball courts, and more than 35 kilometres of hiking and biking trails that serve as Nordic and snowshoe trails in winter. Predator Ridge is within an easy 25-minute drive from Kelowna International Airport and about 20 minutes to Vernon.

Barre described the design of the new phases as “modern ranch” with board and batten, corrugated metal roofs with dramatic high ceilings, ranging up to 30 feet high inside. “We are currently sold out of those, but we are going to be building 10 to 15 more semi-detached as the first construction in phase three. They have proved to be the most popular home model, outselling the single-family homes by a ratio of two to one.”

Also available is the 48.5-kilometre Okanagan Rail Trail, an abandoned stretch of CN railbed that stretches north-south from Kelowna to the north end of Kalamalka Lake. Predator Ridge offers a biker shuttle van to drop off and pick up cyclists.

As with all properties at Predator Ridge, all the yard work front and back is done for homeowners at a monthly cost of about $120, says property specialist Claire Radford. The other standard fee is $75 a month per household, giving homeowners unlimited use of the swimming pool and fitness centre and hiking trails.

A survey conducted a few years ago found that the most popular activity among residents was not golf, but rather hiking, said Radford. However, Wesbuild does offer golfers a $20,000 credit toward the $40,000 cost of a club membership.

Wesbuild has also seen another demographic shift occurring. More and more buyers are choosing Predator Ridge as their principal residence; about 73 per cent of all buyers versus about 40 per cent in the early years, said Radford.

“I think that people see the benefits of living in a community that offers all these amenities. It is all beautifully maintained. It is like living in a big park…It’s a very easy place to settle in from a social point of view. You can be as social as you want at Predator Ridge.”

There are about 1,000 events a year staged at Predator Ridge, with the most recent one being an artisan market where local vendors set up booths around the clubhouse to sell their wares. As well, the community recently covered two tennis courts and four pickle ball courts so that residents can use them all year round.

The Commonage at Predator Ridge

Project address: 100 Mashie Crescent, Vernon

Project scope: A total of 58 home sites and semi-detached homes in Phase 3 of The Commonage, with some overlooking the golf courses and Kalamalka Lake. A well-developed community with a full suite of recreational amenities, including two 18-hole courses, several kilometres of hiking trails, fitness facilities, pickle ball and tennis courts.

Developer: Wesbuild Holdings Ltd.

Prices: from $250,000 to $1.25 million

Sales centre:100 Mashie Crescent

Centre hours: 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. daily

Sales phone: (866) 578-2233

Website: www.predatorridge.com

Occupancy: Immediate for some pre-built homes

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

Canadian house prices will pick up in 2020 say economists

Home prices are set to be flat for the rest of this year

Steve Randall
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

Home prices are set to be flat for the rest of this year before picking up in 2020.

A panel of economists and analysts convened by Reuters says that lower mortgage rates and strong economic conditions will drive prices higher next year.

But homeowners and investors hoping for a new Canadian housing boom appear to be out of luck; the panel expects growth to be a modest 1.8% in 2020.

The strong labour market and population growth will be key factors in next year’s price increases.

“There are views that the factors are in place for continued recovery, but then again it will be a slow recovery, not a sharp snapback,” RBC’s senior economist Robert Hogue told Reuters.

Tale of two cities

Home prices in Toronto have already picked up and are now predicted to post a 2% gain for 20198 compared to a previous estimate from the panel of 1.3%.

However, prices in Vancouver are now expected to post a sharper decline in 2019 than previously thought; the panel believe a 5.5% decrease compared to the 4% they were predicting in May. There will be a modest rebound in 2020.

Demand for housing is expected to rise – 13 of the 17 on the panel said so with three calling for a hold-steady and 1 expecting a decrease.

Copyright © 2019 Key Media Pty Ltd

One MLS system to serve 22 boards and Associations in Ontario – merger to happen in 2020

One MLS system to serve 22 boards

Sohini Bhattacharya

“We talk about disruptors in the industry, but if you’ve been around in the industry long enough, you realize that the greatest disruptors are our members themselves,” says Bill Duce, executive officer of the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors.

Duce was part of the team that recently co-ordinated an agreement between two regional real estate MLS systems in Ontario. In January, the Ontario Collective (OC) – representing more than 5,000 Realtors and comprising 12 boards and associations – and the Ontario Regional Technology & Information Systems (ORTIS), representing 8,500 regional Realtors and 10 boards, signed a transition agreement to combine their two separate MLS systems into one comprehensive regional one. Technically not a merger, it will allow members of all the boards to access listings across the system.

It is projected to go live in the first quarter of 2020.

“Our members do the same job, they have the same needs, the same wants, the same concerns that are keeping them awake at night,” says Duce, adding that with ORTIS and OC joining hands, their members are better served collectively than they would be individually. “It’s that whole concept of we smarter than me,” he says.

More than a year ago, the groups came to the realization that Realtors and consumers were doing most of their real estate research online and that “the access to data had blown way beyond what anybody thought it would be,” says Kati Strickland, project manager of the OC. After a few initial and minor integrations between the two groups to access each other’s data, the synergies and the overlapping boundaries between the two became clear quickly.

With each of the 22 partner associations having their own history, maintaining a singular vision and managing their expectations has been, so far, the greatest project hurdle for ORTIS and OC.  “It’s like going out with a group of friends and agreeing to have dinner, but then deciding where exactly to eat in order to accommodate everyone’s diet and preferences,” says Duce.

While correcting legacy issues inherited through years of data duplication, directors of ORTIS and OC remain mindful that the transition project “isn’t just about giving our members what they had before but with more data, but also enhancing the quality and amount of services in order to support brokers’ and salespeoples’ ability to be competitive in the current and future real estate landscape,” says Duce.

On the technical side of the operation, the biggest challenges were to ensure that the “database fields and selections captured the diverse needs of all 22 of the associations involved,” says Steve Francis, vice president of information services at ORTIS. One of the goals was mapping to the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) standard to provide users a superior interface with the data from IDX, websites, apps and other marketing technology. Albeit tedious, Francis adds that it was “a necessity, since doing so ensured we future-proofed the system and designed a database that will directly benefit the members and consumers.”

With the transition to an integrated MLS well underway, ORTIS and the OC have launched IntraMatrix, a system that allows Realtors of both groups to access each other’s data. The only drawback is that it’s not one database.

The advantage, says ORTIS chair Brad Johnstone, is that members now have access to all the data that, in the past, they could access only as members of multiple boards. “As an interim measure, it’s very positive. The goal will be when we go live on our new system, that duplication will be removed and Realtors and consumers will have one complete database,” says Johnstone.

Recognizing that Realtors will have a learning curve to adjust to the new and integrated MLS system, Johnstone foresees online and townhall meetings, along with live training sessions for their members, to ensure they have a full understanding of how to work with the changed system.

Allaying fears that some members might have of losing their autonomy, Steve Dickie, chair of the OC says, “In any board you’ll have agents who work in the interior of that geography and from their perspective, that may not affect them very much, but it’s mostly the agents who work on the borderlands of the board who’ve, in the past, been forced to belong in two or three or multiple boards to get at the data. Now they don’t have to do that.”

The integrated MLS system is set to work equally well across all types of properties with greater focus on commercial and waterfront properties. “There are certain boards that are more recreational, more waterfront, commercial or industrial. But by ORTIS and the OC coming together, we’re taking the best of everybody’s input and building a better system,” says Johnstone.

© 2019 REM Real Estate Magazine

Canadian Retail Sales – August 23, 2019

Canadian retail sales were unchanged in June


Canadian retail sales were unchanged in June, as stronger sales across most sub-sectors were offset by lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations. Retail sales were down in 4 of 11 sub-sectors in June, representing 48% of sales. Provincially, Saskatchewan reported the largest decline (-2.7%) and Manitoba reported the largest gain (1.3%). In B.C., retail sales declined 0.4% from the previous month to $7.16 billion. Vancouver also reported a 3% decline in sales. Provincial sales were down in most sub-sectors, except at electronics and appliance stores, sporting goods/hobby/book/music stores, and miscellaneous retail stores. On a year-over-year basis, B.C. retail sales were up 1 per cent in June.

Excluding the volatile motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline sub-sectors, June national retail sales increased 1.7%. This is a positive hand-off to the third quarter. Keeping in mind that some of the gains were due to the Toronto Raptors games in the NBA finals (as reported by Statistics Canada), supporting increased sales at clothing and sporting stores


Vacancy taxes prompt sale of luxury condos in Downtown Vancouver

Costs pushing some owners to sell off luxury dwellings in downtown Vancouver

John Mackie
The Province

If you’re in the market for a luxury condo in Downtown Vancouver, you’ve got a lot of choice. There are 15 condos for sale at Trump Tower on 1151 West Georgia St., priced from $1.298 million to $5.88 million.

Across the street at the Living Shangri-La at 1128 West Georgia St. and 1111 Alberni St., there are 17 condos for sale, ranging from $950,000 to $5.788 million.

There are 13 listings in the three-tower Harbour Green development at 1039-1069 West Cordova St. and 277 Thurlow St. in Coal Harbour. All of the listings are over $4 million, six are over $10 million and one has a list price of $38,888,000.

The glut of high-end listings even applies to buildings that aren’t built yet, like 1550 Alberni. The 43-storey structure designed by Japanese “starchitect” Kengo Kuma won’t be completed until 2020, but there are already 12 condos for sale there, from $1.74 million to $5.6 million.

What’s happening? To some degree, non-resident owners are selling their local pied-a-terres because they don’t want to pay vacancy taxes introduced by the city and the province.

“Many of these homes were purchased as second homes or third homes,” said real estate consultant Michael Geller. “People loved having a nice place in Vancouver for when they came here. Then we got the empty-home tax. That’s one per cent, but then the province comes in with the speculation tax, and if the unit is worth more than $3 million, then you have a (school) tax as well.

“Even if they’ve got a lot of money, at a certain point people say this is too much.”

A good example is a 58th-floor condo at Trump Tower that is on the market for $5.88 million. Realtor Wendy Tian said her client is selling because of the vacancy and speculation taxes.

“That’s the reason they want to sell,” said Tian, who works for Luxmore Realty. “My client bought it a couple of years ago. They wanted to use it as a vacation home, but now it’s impossible.”

Layla Yang of Dracco Pacific Realty is selling a 43rd–floor condo at Trump Tower for $3.98 million. She also says the vacancy and speculation taxes are spurring people to sell.

“Some of my clients never wanted to sell,” she said. “They bought it for like a vacation home (that) sometimes they can live in, and all of a sudden they have to pay this kind of an empty tax. They feel like it’s a lot of money … they feel it’s not worth it, so they list their property.”

This has led to a lot of inventory. Real estate sources say two to three per cent of properties are typically for sale in condo buildings. Trump Tower has 290 units, which means there would normally be six to nine units for sale, not 15.

There are 293 units in the two Living Shangri-La buildings, so it would also normally have six to nine units for sale, not 17. The Harbour Green complex has 209 units, so typically four to six condos would be for sale, not 13.

Josh Gordon of Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy isn’t surprised many luxury condos have been put up for sale.

“Both (taxes) are going to hit pretty hard,” said Gordon, an assistant professor at SFU. “If you leave a place empty, you could potentially be subject to three per cent (of the assessed value).”

That could be expensive — a property assessed at $4 million could face a tax bill of $120,000. In theory an owner could avoid the taxes by renting out their place, but Gordon said owners are “loath” to rent luxury condos.

“It’s one thing to rent a run-of-the-mill place, but with these high-end places, it’s hard getting a tenant who can pay you enough,” he said. “And you’re going to be very wary of any damage to a place like that, so that changes the dynamic.

“The other thing is (using a condo as) a long-term store of value. If you have this new policy regime which discourages foreign ownership through the satellite family and foreign-owner component (of the provincial speculation tax), then that changes your calculation.

“A lot of people will be selling, not necessarily because they’re subject to the tax, but because they think the price (of their property) is going to go down.”

Prices have dipped downtown, and some units are taking a long time to sell. A condo on the 67th floor of the Trump Tower recently sold for $2.95 million, but it took over a year to sell, and was reduced over $400,000 from the original sale price of $3.389 million.

Still the seller did well: they bought the condo for $2,038,346 in November 2016.

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.