(This story is sponsored by Mizrahi Developments.)
As anyone lucky enough to live in Vancouver will tell you, there are two things that West Coasters love talking about: the weather and real-estate prices. And so far in 2022, both have provided for some particularly animated conversations.
On the weather front we’ve had six straight months of Arctic cold snaps, surprise snowstorms, torrential downpours, and grey skies that never seem to go away. And on the endlessly fascinating topic of real estate, after two decades of explosive growth and skyrocketing prices, Vancouver is experiencing a rare downturn.
Where that market correction might be cause for concern for developers on the West Coast, Toronto developer and entrepreneur Sam Mizrahi sees things in a different light.
“As a luxury developer, I can say that these market trends don’t change my view of Vancouver as a highly desirable place to build new properties,” Mizrahi says.
There is a good reason for his optimism. Difficult as this might be to fathom, British Columbia’s biggest and most culturally diverse city was an entirely different place 40 years ago. Robson Street—now populated by globally recognized retail outlets and high-end stores—was home to mom-and-pop coffee shops and European delis and tailors.
Years away from gentrification, fantastically funky Commercial Drive and hipster-cool Main Street were still solidly blue-collar, proudly working-class neighbourhoods. And False Creek—which is currently home to endless condo towers, beautiful parks, and a winding seawall—was nothing but industrial lands studded with sawmills, slaughterhouses, and shipbuilders.
Today, Vancouver has bloomed into one of the world’s most desirable, cosmopolitan, and liveable cities—a place famous for its breathtaking scenic beauty, globally recognized restaurants and bars, fabulous shopping, and temperate weather. How desirable is the place locals call Lotusland? Consider this: clocking in at number 16, it’s the top-placing Canadian city on The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index, which ranks the greatest places to live around the world.
And with that recognition comes demand.
In 2021 alone, British Columbia saw its population grow by 100,797 immigrants, the biggest jump since 1961. As Vancouver has taken its place on the world stage, real-estate prices have soared dramatically. A detached home in East Vancouver that would have sold for $320,000 in the late-’90s will today fetch a price north of $2 million. The average price for a condo is $845,000. In a telling statement on where we are today, Vancouver’s housing market has seen 13 consecutive months of record-breaking benchmark home prices.
That has, inevitably, priced some out of the market. So while asking prices remain high, the number of properties that sold this past April was down 34 percent over the month in 2021.
Interestingly, one segment of the city’s real-estate market has bucked that trend. Luxury condo projects continue to be in high demand, which doesn’t surprise Mizrahi.
“The prices of super high-end homes and condos may be fluctuating in Vancouver, but the degree to which they’re actually selling is far more significant,” Mizrahi says. “And we’re seeing that properties with seven- to eight-digit price tags are indeed continuing to sell.”
That Vancouver is currently experiencing something of a market correction isn’t a surprise to Mizrahi. A life-long entrepreneur, he’s learned the importance of thinking about the future. (On that front, Mizrahi this week launched a new app with FinTech exec Jon Fath. Billing it as a super-app “built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs”, Rauva provides a country-by-country compatible, automated, integrated experience for the banking and financial management needs of those in Europe’s Mediterranean region.)
Noting that real estate prices inevitably see downturns after long periods of growth, Mizrahi cites supply chain issues, inflation, and interest-rate hikes as factors in the West Coast’s current blip.
But a quarter century as one of Toronto’s most prominent luxury-property developers has taught Mizrahi that there’s always going to be a demand for high-end properties that place a premium on meticulously detailed design, environmentally focussed building materials, cutting-edge in-suite technologies, and owner-directed layouts.
That complete attention to every stage of the operation has positioned Mizrahi’s latest project—the 80-storey, Norman Foster-designed The One—as a landmark building that’s going to reshape the Toronto skyline.
Looking to the West Coast, Mizrahi suggests that Vancouver is a city where one needs to pay attention to who is best riding out the current market correction.
“Realtors are the lifeblood of the real-estate business,” Mizrahi says. “If they’re flocking to luxury real estate, that’s a pretty good sign of long-term resilience against the broader market trends we’re seeing.”
While fluctuations are always going to be part of the real-estate landscape, what isn’t going to change, he suggests, is Vancouver’s status as one of the most livable cities on the planet. And that has Mizrahi looking forward to a future he couldn’t see as brighter.
You’ve got to have dreams, and those of the proudly Canadian developer’s include helping shape a city that’s evolving in ways that would have amazed anyone walking the grimy industrial shores of False Creek a half century ago.
“I’m really excited about the possibilities offered by Vancouver,” Mizrahi says. “And I look forward to the day when Mizrahi Developments completes a luxury project there.”