Vancouver real estate: downtown condo sales rise, suggesting U-turn from pandemic flight to suburbia

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      Buyers appear to be coming back to Downtown Vancouver.

      While many are still willing to drive out to the suburbs in search of homes, purchasers seem to be enamoured again by the charms of downtown living.

      In February 2021, a total of 105 mostly condo properties sold in the area designated as Downtown Vancouver West, which is the urban core.

      The area does not include Coal Harbour, Yaletown, and the West End.

      The 105 sales last month represent the biggest volume for the past one year.

      The COVID-19 pandemic crashed the market for condos in Downtown Vancouver to its lowest point in April 2020, when sales fell to 29 units.

      Based on figures by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) and real-estate information site, downtown sales slowly crept up reaching a high of 82 units by December 2020.

      Per Zealty’s tracking, the 105 sales in February 2021 mark a 52.2 percent increase from January 2021.

      Moreover, 29 out of the 105 sales, or 27.6 percent, sold either at full or above asking prices.

      This ratio represents a 314.3 percent improvement over the rate recorded in January 2021.

      Prices remain competitive in Downtown Vancouver West.

      The median price for mostly condo properties stood at $699,000 in February 2021, down 0.1 percent from the previous month.

      At its lowest point last year in April, the median price was $680,000.

      On a per square foot basis, the price in February 2021 was $1,247, up from $1,030 in April 2020.

      Earlier in March this year, the Straight reported about an anticipated revival of Downtown Vancouver with the arrival of vaccines and the resumption of travel and tourism.

      Top executives of McNeill Lalonde & Associates, a real-estate marketing organization, talked about the subject in an interview over at a Vancouver podcast.

      MLA cofounder Cameron McNeill noted that the downtown market may see price increases between 10 to 20 percent in the next 18 months.

      McNeill and his business partner Ryan Lalonde both noted that Downtown Vancouver is a “very special” place.

      The pandemic has driven many buyers outside the downtown core to find bigger homes and outside spaces.

      Also in March this year, the Straight reported about a projection by Dexter Realty about condos and other strata properties.

      The Vancouver company believes that these properties are going to be the next star of the housing market, and not just in Vancouver but across the Lower Mainland region as well.

      It noted in a report that buyers are “pivoting to condos”.

      Purchasers are “looking towards the easing of pandemic regulations”.

      This, in turn, “will bring vibrancy back to downtowns and foreign students back to Metro Vancouver campuses”.

      “Affordability is part of the equation,” Dexter Realty’s Kevin Skipworth wrote in the report.

      In February 2021, the price of a typical condo in markets served by the REBGV stood at $697,500.

      Compare this to the benchmark price of a townhouse at $839,800, and detached home, $1,621,200.

      The appetite for condos outside Vancouver seems to be growing as well.

      David Hutchinson with Sutton Group West Coast Realty told the Straight about a Port Coquitlam condo that was listed on March 16, 2021.

      Unit 220, a one-bedroom unit at the River Rock Landing condo development at 2368 Marpole Avenue, was priced at $399,900.

      Hutchinson’s client and 17 other buyers placed bids.

      The condo sold for $492,000, or $92,100 over asking. His client, who is a first-time buyer, lost.

      “I asked the realtor how many offers he was anticipating so we could gauge some kind of pricing strategy,” Hutchinson related.

      “We were in the top three, and made it to the top two in back-up offer position, but the other offer removed their conditions,” he continued.

      “Naturally, the buyer is discouraged, as are the other 16 buyers who lost out probably are too,” Hutchinson noted.

      His client, who came to view the property with her mother, asked if she should “take a break for a little while”, which is a “natural reaction after such an emotionally draining experience”.

      “Being a buyer isn't easy in this market,” Hutchinson said.