Home search: Quick thinking wins the race for Yaletown condo owner

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      Bidding wars are the stuff of legends in Vancouver’s housing market.

      These are high-stakes battles pitting several buyers against each other, with sellers laughing all the way to the bank.

      But it’s not always the case that buyers end up paying more than the original asking price.

      Kei Yamakawa made the same offer for a Yaletown condo as the buyer who came before her, but she got the place.

      Both submitted tenders below the listing price of $439,000, and hers was taken because her realtor, Jay McInnes, was on the ball.

      Yamakawa related that although the other buyer’s offer had already been accepted by the seller, McInnes did not give up, eventually learning from the listing agent that the buyer was asking for more time to complete the purchase in order to secure a mortgage.

      By keeping in close contact with the other agent, McInnes also found out that the seller was willing to look at another offer. With a window of opportunity open, he moved fast, prepared the paperwork, and got his client to sign the documents.

      “It was really quick from there,” Yamakawa said in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.

      She said that they matched the other buyer’s bid, which was lower than the asking price, and “That was it.”

      It was her first home purchase, she said, and she moved into her Yaletown condo in November 2017.

      “Honestly, after I saw it, I knew it would be mine,” Yamakawa said, laughing. “It’s true. I told Jay about it, and he said everyone says the same thing, that you know that if you like it.”

      Yamakawa’s condo matched her wish list: in-suite laundry, underground parking, and downtown Vancouver location.

      “I wanted to live as close as possible to downtown because my work is in downtown, and I didn’t like to commute to work,” she said. “Luckily, I found one in downtown and only two blocks away from my work.”

      Yamakawa works at a beauty salon as an eyelash-extension specialist, and the 36-year-old woman has been playing the stock market for some time.

      “I was investing my savings. That’s how I made money. My goal was to buy a house in the future. I was making money here and there,” she said.

      Yamakawa rented at a West End apartment for seven years before she decided to buy.

      “I thought, ‘It is time to make Vancouver as my home,’ ” she said. “I’m originally from Japan.”

      Yamakawa came to Canada as a student, and she first lived in Manitoba while earning a degree in sociology and women’s studies at the University of Winnipeg.

      She moved to Vancouver in 2010 after she became a permanent resident. “First couple of years, I wasn’t sure if I want to live here or if I want to move to Toronto or back to Japan. Then I started to like living in Vancouver,” she said.

      Demand for homes remains high in Vancouver and nearby cities, especially for condos.

      According to a recent report by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the average sales to active listings ratio for properties in January 2018 was 26 percent.

      “Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months,” the REBGV reported.

      The REBGV noted that the sales to active listings ratio in January this year was highest, at 57 percent, for condos, followed by townhouses at almost 33 percent, and detached homes at about 12 percent.

      It’s still largely a seller’s market, and for many buyers, that means they have to get ready to scrap.

      Meantime, Yamakawa is settling in for the long haul, saying: “I like West Coast nature, everything in here, the mountains and oceans. That’s something you cannot get anywhere else.”